News from the hill
May 5, 2017 - Garden Lovers Day Trip
The Staunton area provides lots of activities for lovers of green growing things. Here’s an itinerary for all of you with green thumbs or wannabes and enablers. It might be a perfect plan for Mother’s Day or Father's Day.
9:45 am – Depart for Edible Landscaping in Afton. Borrow the picnic kit from the Stuff to Borrow cupboard and leave Thornrose House at Gypsy Hill B&B after breakfast. Stop at Martin’s grocery store and pick up some crusty bread, some fruit and a nice piece of cheese. Drive east towards Waynesboro on I64, get off at exit 99 and drive to Edible Landscaping (about 1 hour from base). Take time to walk through the greenhouses and ask questions.
12:30 pm - Depart for the White Oak Lavender Farm near Harrisonburg. Take the scenic route on Rockfish Road to Weyers Cave and then north on Cross Keys Road to the lavender farm (about 40 minute's drive). Take the tour and browse the shop. Have your picnic at one of the shady tables and finish with a cup of lavendar ice cream.
3:00 pm – Drive to Harrisonburg and spend the rest of the afternoon at the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum and Botanical Gardens (about 15 minute's drive). The wild flowers are wonderful in the spring and don’t miss the labyrinth.
5:00 – Drive back to Thornrose House at Gypsy Hill B&B and rest before dinner at one of our cozy restaurants in town.
If this seems like too much driving you can spread the joy over two days and do Edible Landscaping with lunch at Wild Wolf Brewing one day and the lavender farm and arboretum the next.
February 24, 2017 - We've gone solar
We are now generating some of our own power with panels from Sigora Solar in Waynesboro! They were installed on the roof of the new addition in the back of the house last week. Along with the installation they also do an energy audit and make some improvements inside to make the house more energy efficient. They changed light bulbs, applied weather stripping around the attic and basement doors and blocked off vents from the old air-conditioning system, among other things. I highly reocommend Sigora Solar if you're thinking about installing some panels.
October 31, 2016 - Pumpkin Nut Bread
Happy Halloween! Now that the month of October is drawing to a close I have some time to think about blog entries. People have asked for my pumpkin bread recipe so here it is. The neat thing is this version was pretty much an accident. One day I accidently put in way too much of the powdered cloves. I decided to go ahead and bake it instead of trying to scoop out some of the excess. Comments went from a lukewarm “This is good,” or no comment at all to “This is fantastic! Can I have the recipe?” Now I double all the spices and it’s much more flavorful.
Ingredients 1 Loaf:
- ½ (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup butter
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
Double the spices for added flavor.
Substitute ½ cup whole wheat flour and 2 tablespoons flax seed for equal amounts of white flour.
- Substitute apple sauce for half the butter.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan.
- In a large bowl, mix together butter and sugar.
- Add pumpkin puree, eggs, and water until well blended. Add the nuts.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended being careful not to over mix. Pour the mixture into the pan.
- Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaf is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
October 7, 2016 - haunts of the Queen City Ghost Walk
The Haunts of the Queen City Ghost Walk is conducted Friday and Saturday evenings in October at 7:00 pm. It’s interesting from an historical perspective so whether or not you believe in ghosts it can be fun. Tickets at $10 for adults and $6 for children 6 to 12. Only cash is accepted. The tours are not recommended for children under 6. Meet at the main entrance to the park which is across the street from Thornrose House at Gypsy Hill and a few hundred feet to the right. They like you to be there about 15 minutes ahead of the start time in order to make sure everyone is ready to go right at 7:00. Its a good idea to book ahead because tour sizes are limited. Get more information about this and other ghost tours at http://www.ghostsofstaunton.com/queencityhaunts.html.
Pay close attention to the story about Miss Caroline. She used to appear in Canterbury every once in a while and has even spoken with a guest! That’s how we know her name, as a matter of fact.
September 7, 2016 - farmhouse kitchen and wares
A new restaurant for breakfast and lunch, Farmhouse Kitchen and Wares, has opened in Staunton on the corner of Beverley and Central. The day we went it was so crowded there must have been 8 or 10 people waiting in line to order at one point. Apparently, one of the Staunton Music Festival concerts at Trinity Church was just over and everyone came to try the new lunch place. The sandwiches are very generous in size so consider splitting one. I had the turkey on a homemade baguette. The bread is fantastic. Check it out when you get the chance.
July 19, 2016 - walkable restaurants
People are always asking for restaurant recommendations so I put together a list with a map. Each one has a short description of what they do best. Unfortunately, this information is always changing. Places are always opening and closing and changing their hours. Please let me know if there are any corrections to be made. You can get a PDF file of this list from this link Walkable Restuarants or from the things to do page. Please note that this map and descriptions of restaurants was updated on May 25, 2017.
Good for dinner
1. *Byers Street Bistro - Interesting menu, music some Fridays, large pizza for the price of a small on Tuesdays, serves pub menu late, quieter upstairs
2. The Shack - Menu changes weekly, fixed price menu weekend evenings, great burgers, tends to be salty and rich but delicious, closed Mon. and Tues.
3. *Zynodoa - Farm to table, menu changes daily, well known in foodie circles
4. Newtown Baking – Great pizza, good salads, open Wed. thru Sat. for dinner, breakfast and lunch other days
5. Aioli - Tapas, risotto, excellent paella, great for special occasions, music every first and third Thursday
6. Taste of India - Best Indian in town
7. *Mill Street Grill - Specialize in ribs, super popular, jazz Wednesday nights, not open for lunch
8. *Clocktower - Lots to choose from, pasta dishes are special
9. *Depot Grill - Old warehouse by train station, super popular, large selection of micro brews on tap, open for lunch
10. Shenandoah Pizza - Large selection of micro brews on tap
11. Baja Bean - Mexican specialties
12. Emilio’s - Special occasion Italian, very elegant, upstairs Pompeii Lounge serves light fare late with music
Breakfast and/or lunch only
13. Farmhouse Kitchen and Wares – Homemade bread, generous sandwiches, breakfast any time
14. The Store - Great salads and sandwiches, across from Howard Johnson’s
15. Cranberry’s - Good sandwiches and groceries
16. LUNdCH - Upscale sandwiches, salads and soup
17. The Pampered Palate - Quiche, salads, sandwiches
18. *Queen City Brewing - Music and food truck Fridays but no food other days, you can bring your own carryout
19. Redbeard Brewing Company - You can order food from Depot Grill and have it delivered, music on Sunday evenings
20. Yelping Dog - Light fare and appetizers, selection of local wines and cheeses, closes early
21. Gloria's Pupusaria - Authentic El Salvadorian, closes early
Not Walkable but Noteworthy
21. *Bedlam Brewing – New brewery with wood fired pizza and other food all made from scratch and serves wine too, closed Tuesdays. Ask for a 10% off card.
* Open Mondays
Please note: This information changes often. Please let me know if you notice anything to update.
July 10, 2016 - New Zucchini Bread Recipe
Well, it’s that time of year when we have more produce than we can use. My new zucchini bread recipe calls for more spices and so is more flavorful. I always substitute almond meal, flax seed meal and other grains or seeds for some of the flour. This recipe got a thumbs up from our guests this morning so I decided to share it. I modified this slightly from one I found online. Another thing I like about this one is that you don’t have to peel the zucchini before you grate it so you get these wonderful little green flecks in the finished bread. Since it is from our own garden and we don’t use any pesticides it's clean eating. You can also find a link to a PDF from the breakfast page which is easier to print.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour*
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 eggs, beaten
- ¾ cup butter, melted
- ¾ cups white sugar
- 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 cups grated zucchini (no need to peel)
- 1 cup chopped walnuts or dried cranberries or both
Substitute whole wheat flour, almond meal, chia seeds, flax seed meal or other grains for half to three quarters of a cup of the white flour.*
- Grease two 8 x 4 inch pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl.
- Beat eggs, butter, vanilla, and sugar together in another large bowl. Add zucchini and nuts or dried cranberries and mix well. Add dry ingredients to the egg mixture and stir together gently only until mixed. Pour batter into prepared pans.
- Bake for 40 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool in the refrigerator overnight.
The Staunton Music Festival is coming up
Anne Midgette, Washington Post music critic, wrote about our very own Staunton Music Festival calling it one of her "critic's picks." Articles in recent issues of Preservation Magazine and Travel & Leisure have also included information about SMF. It was named in the "Top 20" list of events by the Southeast Tourism Society. Music events will take place from August 12 through 21. It appears that this year all of the summer concerts will be held at Trinity Episcopal Church so you will have the windows to look at while you listen.
We’re already starting to get inquiries about rooms for the festival. It’s not too soon to make plans.
May 8, 2016 - The Music Feeds Us concert on May 14 at 7:30 pm
The Music Feeds Us concert for this year will take place on Saturday, May 14th in Staunton at the historic Trinity Episcopal Church at 7:30 pm in downtown Staunton. This concert benefits the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. You can make a monetary donation or bring canned food or both. These extraordinary young professional musicians come together once a year for this concert series. The program includes works by Haydn, Schumann and Hamza El Din. It’s a wonderful chance to admire the Tiffany windows and listen to music. For more information check out www.musicfeedsus.org.
May 2, 2016 - I Love Rhubarb!
I love this time of year. There's always something new to pick in the garden and this year the rhubarb is doing really well. We have divided it at least 3 or 4 times since moving here in 2012 and have given away chunks for the gardens of friends.
People are always asking for my recipe for rhubarb bread so here it is. Find a printer friendly version on the breakfast page.
Orange Rhubarb Breakfast Bread
Recipe makes 1 loaf
- ½ cup butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- ½ teaspoon grated orange peel
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour*
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 2/3 cups chopped fresh rhubarb
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
*Substitute 2 tablespoons almond meal and 2 tablespoons flax seed for ¼ cup of the flour
- In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, orange peel and vanilla. Add sour cream. Fold in rhubarb and walnuts. Combine the flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Mix the dry ingredients with the creamed mixture gently a little at a time being careful not to over-mix.
- Transfer to a loaf pan well coated with oil. Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Let sit overnight in the refrigerator before cutting.
March 10, 2016 - The top ten things to do in and around staunton
Poke in the shops along Beverley and the side streets downtown and explore the wharf area. We have several new spots including the Staunton Olive Oil Company, Latitudes Fair Trade Store and a yarn shop. Don’t miss the Smith Center for local art or our three interesting book shops.
Have a quiet dinner at one of our local restaurants. We keep a menu book at Thornrose House so you can get an idea of what is on offer at our favorite places. Zynodoa featuring local ingredients and The Shack which does a legendary burger are two of the most popular.
8. Visit Wineries and Breweries
When we’re out antiquing we like to share a flight at Wild Wolf or Blue Mountain along with our lunch. There are several wineries that have music events during the summer months and are an easy driving distance from Staunton.
7. Hike on Skyline Drive or Blue Ridge Parkway
There are dozens of well-marked trails with convenient parking. We keep maps and books with descriptions of various possibilities so you can choose one that suits your level.
6. Watch a Demo at Sunspots
Our very own glass blowing studio has viewing bleachers so you can sit and watch any day of the week. Their yearly Hot Glass Festival is coming up the weekend of April 23rd when they bring in glass artists from the region to demonstrate their techniques.
5. Take an Historical Walking Tour of Downtown Staunton
You can pick up a map at the Visitor Center on New St. just down the hill from Beverley for a self-guided tour of historic homes and buildings or take a free tour from the Wilson Library on Saturday mornings during the summer months starting in May. There are also several knowledgeable guides in town that will give tailored tours.
4. Take in a Musical Performance
The Heifetz Institute has several events per week while they are in season in July and August. In August the Staunton Music Festival begins with performances for baroque lovers over a two week period. You can listen to music somewhere in Staunton in a restaurant or brewery venue almost any night of the week. Don't forget the bandstand across the street at Gypsy Hill Park which has music 4 nights a week during the summer.
3. Visit the Frontier Culture Museum
If you feel like getting out and doing a little walking you can see the authentic farm houses from Europe and a real blacksmith shop. There’s also an African village and a Native American dwelling. They’re adding new exhibits and some are already open to the public. You can take a shuttle if you get tired.
2. Watch a Shakespeare Play
The Blackfriars Playhouse is known internationally. They schedule several different plays for matinee and evening performances so you can take in more than one play in a weekend. They specialize in Shakespeare, of course, but do other plays too. There are a few seats right on the stage. If you sit there you may become the target of some of Shakespear's humor.
1. Stay at Thornrose House at Gypsy Hill
January 6, 2016 - Pay what you will at the american shakespeare center
Our own American Shakespeare Center has a Pay What You Will policy for the opening of each new play and for the preview performance. For these events there are no advanced ticket sales. You must go a little early and stand in line to enter but the queue isn’t usually terribly long. You pay nothing before the performance and there are no reserved seats. After the play you “donate” what you think is fair with the suggested rate being $25. Here’s the schedule of upcoming Pay What You Will performances for the first few months of 2016. For show times, more about the center, information about each play and other engaging events go to http://www.americanshakespearecenter.com.
Pay What You Will Performances:
Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare – January 14 and 15
Women Beware Women by Thomas Middleton – January 28 and 29
The Sea Voyage by John Fletcher and Phillip Massigner – February 18 and 19
Love for Love by William Congreve – March 9 and 11
September 29, 2015 - a day trip to Skyline drive
A short excursion on Skyline Drive or along the Blue Ridge Parkway is my idea of a perfect fall day outing. Of course, weekends can be crowded in October but weekdays are less so. Here's a day trip itinerary that is fun and easy to plan. You may be particularly inspired if you’ve read Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. It’s a wonderful book, at times hilarious, about his experiences on the Appalachian Trail. You might meet a “through hiker” if you’re lucky. There’s a new movie out based on the book but I haven’t seen it yet.
Day Trip to Skyline Drive
After your filling breakfast at Thornrose House at Gypsy Hill B&B jump in the car with the picnic kit from the "Stuff to Borrow" cupboard. Stop at Newtown Baking for a crusty loaf of bread and Martins for a chunk of cheese and some fruit.
Take I 64 east towards Waynesboro to exit 99 at Afton. Go directly to the entrance of the Shenandoah National Park at Rockfish Gap or stop at the visitor’s center as you are passing by to pick up some literature and speak with the knowledgeable volunteers.
From here you have many choices for hiking which are well-marked on the map you receive at the entrance. If it’s a clear day and you are experienced hikers looking for a bit of a challenge, choose Humpback Rock trail. It’s quite strenuous at times but well worth the effort when you reach to top and can marvel at the spectacular view. If you are less experienced you could choose the Black Rock Summit trail which has less elevation change and takes less than an hour round trip. The view is just as spectacular and there are some interesting geological formations visible from the summit.
After your hike, drive to the Dundo picnic area for your light lunch.
Returning to Afton, head south on highway 151 towards Nellysford stopping at an antique shop or two along the way. Split a flight at Wild Wolf Brewing Company to sample small glasses of their best sellers.
Back at Thornrose House you can relax and freshen up for your dinner at one of our interesting restaurants in Staunton’s historic districts.
June 10, 2015 - FriTtata with Vegetables
Lots of people ask for the frittata with vegetables recipe. After trying several different methods I finally settled upon this technique that seems to work best for me. I've adapted this recipe using several found online by adding more vegetables. I love to see lots of different colors in a dish and this one leaves the possibilities open. This morning I was able to use fresh spinach from the garden in addition to chives and parsley. Find this recipe in PDF form on the Breakfast page.
Frittata with Vegetables
½ cup milk
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
½ cup butternut squash, cubed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 cups mixed fresh vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, red bell pepper and zucchini
Finley chopped parsley and chives
½ cup grated cheddar
Hot sauce (optional)
- 1. Arrange a rack in the upper third of your oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
- 2. In a large bowl, whisk eggs together but do not beat. Mix in milk, salt, pepper, cumin, and chopped parsley and chives. Set aside.
- 3. Keeping the squash separate, divide the other vegetables into two groups: one of those that cook quickly such as spinach and red pepper and one with those that take longer like broccoli.
- 4. Warm oil in a 10-inch non-stick sauté pan over medium heat. Add squash and toss to coat. Cook, tossing occasionally, until squash can be pierced with a fork: about 8 minutes.
- 5. Sprinkle green onions on top of squash and cook, tossing occasionally until the onion becomes translucent. Add broccoli and any other vegetables that take a little longer to cook. Cook and toss for 3 minutes.
- 6. Add remaining vegetables that cook quickly and cook and toss for about 1 minute.
- 7. Pour egg mixture over vegetables. In a minute or two when the egg mixture starts to set, lift the cooked edges carefully with a spatula to let the uncooked egg flow under the cooked edges as you would for an omelet. Continue this process, working around the pan and tilting it as necessary so the runny egg trickles underneath. This process is finished when the top surface is still not completely cooked but does not flow when you tilt the pan.
- 8. Sprinkle cheese over the top.
- 9. Put the pan in the oven and bake 20 minutes until the egg is set and the cheese starts to brown slightly. If your pan has a plastic handle you may want to wrap it with aluminum foil.
- To serve, let it slide out of the pan onto a serving plate. Let it sit for 5 minutes before slicing in wedges.
May 16, 2015 - our garden
Our garden is really taking off thanks to the gentle steady rain we’ve had off and on for the last couple of weeks. Of course, the bad news is the grass has to be cut more often but we can’t complain. John’s trying broccoli and cauliflower for the first time this year. The strawberries he planted last year have what appears to be thousands of blossoms and many berries are already forming. There is even a couple turning red. I may try making strawberry jam.
We also have lots of volunteer tomato plants. If you live nearby and need some tomatoes, drop in a talk to John. We sometimes send guests home with chive or tomato plants. They might take home of bags of produce including cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, zucchini and any one of several varieties of peppers if we have more than we can use ourselves.
Next Blog topic - Traipse
May 16, 2015 - Food Trucks at Gypsy Hill Park
This is our first ever food truck day at Gypsy Hill Park and judging by the number of people there it seems to be a big success right from the start. Some of the businesses include Rocktown Slops, Flavor Savor BBQ, Mashita Mamas Caboose, Cuz & Em Southern Cooking, Seafood Belen’s Thrill of the Grill, Blue Ridge Pizza Co, The Bavarian Chef, Wing It, Elite Donuts, Buckshot’s Barbeque, and Delicious Dishe serving a wide variety of menu items.
The longest line seemed to be at the Farm Fresh Fixins truck with its Appalachian inspired cuisine. I think it’s no coincidence that it appeared to be the healthiest fair. The pizza coming out of the oven at Blue Ridge Pizza Co. looked wonderful. The donuts at Elite Donuts smelled divine.
Food trucks will be parked across from Thornrose House at Gypsy Hill B&B from 12:00 noon to 5:00 pm every third Saturday of the month from May through August. Save the dates: June 20, July 18 and August 15. There are a few picnic tables but guests can borrow a blanket and lawn chairs and set up in the shade by the bandstand if the tables are all taken or bring your selections back to eat on the patio.
April 20, 2015 - Marino's lunch
If you ever happen to be in town on a Tuesday night be sure to check out Marino’s Lunch at 901 North Augusta near the library, several blocks from Thornrose House at Gypsy Hill. When we first arrived in town we assumed the place was only open for lunch (do I have to explain why?). But every Tuesday evening musicians gather for a bluegrass jam session. The regulars know all the words and sing along. You'll see banjos, an accordion player, harmonicas, violins, and even a washboard.
This place has been in the same family since 1927 and they’ve been hosting jam sessions since the early 80’s. Music starts at around 8:00 and goes until 11:00 or so. It may be standing room only so go with that in mind. They serve a selection of micro brews on tap or by the bottle and hard cider in addition to more widely distributed brands. People love their burgers, fries and onion rings too. Anyone is welcome to join the fun so bring your instruments and play along!
April 16, 2015 - The hot Glass fesival
The 13th Annual Virginia Hot Glass Festival will take place on the weekend of April 25th at Sunspots Studios in downtown Staunton. This is a little over one mile from Thornrose House at Gypsy Hill B&B so some guests may choose to walk down if the weather is nice. We attended last year with some friends who were impressed with the festival and Staunton in general. Many local trees are in bloom towards the end of April so the town is dressed for company. Barren Ridge Winery had a tasting table set up and we all loved the Merlot. Our friends bought a bottle for dinner and we discovered you are permitted to bring your own wine to Byer’s Street Bistro and they are happy to serve it for a small corking fee.
You could explore downtown Staunton in the afternoon, take in a play at the Blackfriars and have a late night bite at Byers Street Bistro or the Pompeii Room above Emilio’s.
I never get tired of watching the glass blowing demonstrations. It seems they’re always doing something different. One of these days I’m actually going to blow my own ornament! We still have rooms available as of April 16th so give us a call.
Blog topic next time: Marino’s
March 17, 2015 - broiled grapefruit recipe
John and I attended the Bed and Breakfast Association of Virginia annual conference in Fredericksburg, Virginia in February. We came away with lots of ideas to implement in the coming months. Of course, my favorite topics revolve around food and cooking so I thought I would share a new recipe. It seems everyone was talking about serving broiled grapefruit as a fruit course so I Googled the dish and gave it a try. I’ve served it twice now and guests love it. Our last guests, self-described foodies, asked for the recipe so here it is. I changed it slightly from the original version, cutting the amount of sugar by half and introducing the possibility of substituting coconut oil for butter for vegans or lactose intolerant people. I’m thinking the coconut oil might be even better than butter.
You can also find a link to a PDF with this recipe and others on our Breakfast tab.
- 2 large grapefruit
- 2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted or coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Preheat the broiler.
2. Cut each grapefruit in half.
3. Using a paring knife, cut around each segment to loosen it from the peel. Place the halves upright in a baking dish.
4. In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, butter or coconut oil and cinnamon. Spread the mixture evenly over the grapefruit halves. Put under the broiler about 4 inches from the heating coils and broil until the sugar is bubbly, 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Transfer each grapefruit half to an individual dish and garnish with a mint sprig or berries. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Series, Breakfast
Next blog topic: Virginia Hot Glass Festival April 25th and 26th