Friday, November 14th, 2014 by Sherry Friel
This week in The Beach Report, local mom Sherry Friel shares a preview of the winter excitement for those lucky enough to be in Virginia Beach this holiday season!
Virginia Beach kicks off its most popular seasonal events in November and introduces a new one for December: Ice Skating!
The skating rink at Rudee Loop is new this season!
We are so excited! My 11-year-old son and I are making big plans for the holidays here in Virginia Beach. I got a glimpse of the calendar for the season and realized that it all starts happening this month! Here’s a rundown of the events and activities we plan to participate in:
Ice Skating. The brand new Oceanfront Ice Park at Rudee Loop is slated to kick off the winter season Dec. 1, and we are certainly looking forward to it. Located at Rudee Loop (3rd & Atlantic), the Ice Park will boast 7,200 square feet of ice skating surface. A perfect family plan might include a relaxing drive through the Holiday Lights at the Beach afterward. This night is going to be a special one!
100 miles of lights!
McDonald’s Holiday Lights at the Beach. (presented by Liberty Tax) kicks off Nov. 21 from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs. and 5:30-11 p.m. Fri-Sat. Driving through this popular light show has become an annual holiday tradition for many Virginia Beach families, which features ongoing as well as new displays of light all along the boardwalk. If you’d rather walk through the lights, you can do so Wednesday, Nov. 19 for Ronald McDonald House Charities. Simply bring a donation to the entrance at 2nd Street and enjoy the show by foot before cars are allowed through.
Hunt Club Farm’s Annual Country Christmas. If you’re looking for a very special family night out complete with bonfires, s’mores and hot apple cider, this is the best deal in town. Christmas at Hunt Club Farm is truly a local holiday tradition-one that features 5,000 square feet of animated holiday displays, a full Christmas tree market, and petting farm. Take the kids to see Santa and visit the new Peddler’s Village featuring local vendors with a variety of goods for sale. The fun begins Friday, Nov. 28.
Hunt Club fun!
So what are your plans for the holidays? I hope they include many warm memories and lots of special time with family and friends. I know mine will, and I plan to share my experiences with you in future blogs as we try oceanfront ice skating for the first time, drive through our fabulous boardwalk light show, and take in the warmth and tradition of Hunt Club Farm.
Tis the season to live the life!
Friday, October 31st, 2014 by Sherry Friel
- A.R.E. Health Center
Tomorrow begins a new month – already! We think it’s a perfect time to feature a post about being good to ourselves by taking care of our health. Sherry Friel shares how she did just that this week at the fabulously renovated Edward Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment.
Fall is a Fabulous Time to Focus on Health and Visit Virginia Beach-Home of the Historic A.R.E. Health Center and Spa
The transition from summer to fall almost always gets me thinking and contemplating changes I want to make in my life. Today, I started with one small change to what I drink after the morning coffee has worn off. Instead of my usual caffeinated, carbonated Diet Coke, I opted for a heavy mug of Egyptian licorice tea. The flavor is spicy and sweet, and the warm liquid has a way of lingering in the chest and abdomen in a very soothing and satisfying way. It’s my favorite tea and I rarely indulge the sensations and comfort of this simple pleasure. It’d certainly be a more healthy choice than soda, but without thinking, I routinely pop open the icy pick-me-up first because it’s fast, and somewhere along the way I led myself to believe that unless I am going full throttle every second of the day, I won’t be as productive as I need to be. So while drinking my tea, and allowing the quiet of the morning to influence my thoughts rather than the mountains of tasks before me, I realized that by not slowing down and enjoying the tea more often, I was short-changing the health and quality of my life. As much as I like to pride myself on having the ability to see the big picture of matters, the one area in which I fail miserably and consistently is my health. I am guilty of either eating what is close at hand, or even skipping meals. My choices in drink seem to be soda, soda, and more soda. Water and tea take too much time, I tell myself. The way I rationalize my poor choices is really quite ridiculous. I guess I’m just a normal human being, complete with a mash-up of healthy, unhealthy, and the usual balance of poor and wise decisions.
- This is one amazing porch!
But earlier this week I was pretty proud of a decision I made regarding my health. I paid a visit to the A.R.E. Health Center and Spa, located at 67th Street and Atlantic Avenue in Virginia Beach. The Health Center recently underwent an extensive renovation and while I had been excited to see the changes to a building erected in 1928 from an architectural standpoint, I was also curious as to the health services currently offered there. According to the A.R.E website, when the historic building was first constructed—for the then staggering sum of almost $200,000 (including state-of-the-art hospital equipment), the hospital employed doctors, nurses, osteopaths, and physiotherapists who carried out treatments recommended by Edgar Cayce’s psychic readings. In fact, for many individuals the hospital was seen as their last ray of hope. Although he drew upon the wisdom of every school of medicine, Cayce would come to be called “the father of holistic medicine.” Today the A.R.E Health Center and Spa offers an extensive selection of holistic therapies, including massage, bodywork, and energy work. Additionally, visitors to the health center have access to a number of hydrotherapies, including warm epsom salts baths and steam/fume baths. While any of the therapies offered would have been good choices, I started with a massage, followed by craniosacral therapy. The whole experience was utterly relaxing. I began the morning by wandering through the meditation garden and exploring the grounds of the health center. Walking up the hill to the main building, I glanced back and realized there would be a pleasant view of the ocean and surroundings from the fabulously renovated wrap-around front porch. My overall impression is this is an ideal destination for one to get pleasantly lost in thought and tranquility. The caregivers were fully focused on my comfort and well-being. The healthy effects of my visit continue as I write this, and I intend to return very soon. If you’re looking for a place to unwind and embark on a healthy path, the A.R.E. Health Center & Spa is an excellent starting point.
Thursday, October 2nd, 2014 by Sherry Friel
Procrastination is perhaps the worst of my many shortcomings. If there is a task or chore I don’t want to do, I’ll put it off until the bitter end. In fact, I can recall suddenly believing the oven HAD TO BE CLEANED just days before an important deadline for a job I dreaded. What’s worse is lately I’ve noticed a tendency to procrastinate even when it comes to planning pleasurable activities. While my prevailing motivation in life has always been to live it deliberately and passionately, there are still many missed opportunities because I’ll put them off for, you know, when I have time.
For example, not long ago I missed a long-running exhibition of Marc Sijan’s hyper-realistic sculptures at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art. I had marked my calendar, and was excited about seeing his work well in advance of the exhibition’s opening. Although I intended to go just about every week that summer, I never made it, and regret having missed this sculptor’s exquisite work.
So when I noticed the viewing time had been extended for the Virginia Beach Neptune Festival Sandsculpting Championship through Oct. 5, I was very excited. Excited, because I knew if I missed opening weekend, I’d at least have the next week to see this collection of work by some of the most talented sand sculptors in the world. I’m pretty proud of myself in that not only did I make time to see the works, I did it the very first night of the exhibit! The best part was viewing each of the 22 exquisitely-crafted sand sculptures at sunset, when the sun’s glow beautifully illuminated intricate details impossible to capture with the camera or describe with words. You simply must go there. And don’t procrastinate!
Here are some interesting facts about this signature event of the Virginia Beach Neptune Festival:
*32 of the world’s most talented sculptors compete for the largest prize purse in the country in this internationally-recognized championship. Read their biographies here.
*Each season, the sandsculpting championship gets better. New this year: improved lighting for viewing into the evening hours and expanded walkways offering intimate views of the artwork. I was able to photograph each work as a whole, as well as intricate details I wanted to study after I got home.
*This stunning gallery is located beneath a tent almost as large as a football field, protecting it from wind and rain, and improving accessibility in inclement weather.
*Smooth walkways ensure wheelchair as well as stroller accessibility.
*While the admission is $5 for adults, it’s totally free for kids under 12. Hold on to your ticket stub too because each features a substantial coupon redeemable for lunch at one of four Oceanfront restaurants.
I am so happy to have experienced these sculptures-each possessing such profound, ephemeral beauty. I’d love to return once more before each piece is rendered back into sand and sea, but I know I will not be able to. Noting this impermanence is a bittersweet reminder that although much of the symbolism of these sculptures will stay with me and wash up from time to time, I will never see them again. No one will. It’s certainly a call to embrace the beauty of each new moment. Starting the weekend with these beautiful sculptures was a reminder that I need to stop procrastinating when it comes to rare opportunities such as this. I intend to make the Sand Sculpting Championship a family tradition that takes place regardless of how busy I might be or how much work awaits. There should always be time for beauty such as this.
Photo credits: Sherry Friel
Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 by Sherry Friel
Nathaniel is a big believer in presentation.....not only does the recipe need to TASTE good, it should look good too!
I’m not sure when it all started, but it’s safe to say at this point that my 11-year-old son Nathaniel loves food. I know, most people find great pleasure in enjoying a good meal, but believe me, my son’s love of cuisine goes beyond a few favorite dishes. This is something different. This kid was just 5 years old when, to my amazement, he perfectly cracked an egg into a bowl for a recipe-no shell fragments, just a clean break along the center and an intact egg white and yolk in the bowl. How does he do that? To this day, he still cracks eggs for me because I have yet to prepare a dish without having to fish eggshell remnants from the batter.
Indeed, Nathaniel is passionate about food and obsessed with the spices, herbs and preparation of just about any dish you can imagine. His grocery store lists have included cilantro, red curry powder, chili powder, onion, and more. In the kitchen, he flies from counter to counter, chopping this, blending that, and tasting it all. In advance of planning a dish, he’ll declare he wants to create the most “legendary sandwich ever” or a sauce that is “epic.” It is no exaggeration when I tell friends he’d be just as happy with a new KitchenAid stand mixer or Cuisinart panini press as he would with the latest Apple product.
I’ve learned from him too. Did you know that if you press a divot in the center of a thick burger, it cooks more evenly? And never, ever pierce the burger while it is cooking, because you will lose the juice that makes it extra tasty. Another tip from Nathaniel is to only flip the burger once if you can help it. It’s just better that way. And perfect popcorn? Not a problem. To get his secret mixture of butter and seasonings evenly distributed, he uses a large container with a lid so he can shake it all together. I enjoy his popcorn so much I’m afraid to ask just how much butter is involved.
His specialties, to date, are guacamole dip, hot sandwiches, and breakfast food. He’s still working on the perfect soup, and has recently developed an interest in making spicy sauces, calamari, and soda. He has tried recipes for all of the aforementioned except calamari, but I have a feeling we will be visiting one of Virginia Beach’s many seafood markets in search of fresh squid really soon.
I wish I could say I have been a good influence on his eating habits, but I take absolutely no credit. Perhaps he was inspired by movies such as Ratatouille, or watching his uncle Randy prepare one of his many sumptuous meals in our kitchen. Or it could have been that everywhere in Virginia Beach, and I do mean everywhere, the aromas of a variety of foods waft through the air starting at lunchtime and into the evening. Shopping at Hilltop or strolling the sidewalks of Town Center can certainly be a sensory feast. Many a time Nathaniel has exclaimed how his mouth simply drooled as we inhaled the scent of hickory-smoked air infused with notes of Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Mediterranean, or Mexican cuisine. Just try shopping for office supplies anywhere in the city without stopping somewhere to eat. It’s practically impossible and we have yet to try it all! So it came as no surprise when Virginia Beach’s foodie focus got a nod from Huffington Post’s Andrea Poe. According to the article, the region boasts an abundance of locally-sourced food and a thriving culinary scene. We know, we know!
We are fortunate to live near Hilltop and La Promenade, home to two highly-rated kitchen supply stores. I have no doubt the time we spent exploring these stores played a role in inspiring my son’s interests. We’ve spent many an afternoon perusing kitchen tools, dreaming of new recipes to try, or talking about cooking classes to take. Additionally, we recently found an extensive selection of cookbooks at the Virginia Beach Public Library and that has inspired even more ideas for fun in the kitchen.
One can only imagine where Nathaniel’s interests will be as he matures and enters adulthood, but it’s a pretty sure bet his passion for good food is here to stay. With the start of school, he hasn’t had much time for cooking. Homework takes priority and it’s driving him crazy. Just the other day as he worked through math problems, I chopped the ingredients for the tacos he wanted to make. Ordinarily, he prefers to prepare the ingredients himself, but he reluctantly allowed me back into the kitchen. I was given very specific instructions too: “Chop the lettuce really fine, okay? Just make it lots of little strips” and “You can keep the onions and tomatoes a little chunky. You don’t have to chop those as small.” I felt as if the roles had reversed! For the first time, he was telling me how to prepare a meal. And that is just fine by me. I gratefully hand over the spatula and cutting board. Bon appetite!
Photo credits: Sherry Friel
Friday, September 5th, 2014 by Sherry Friel
This week in The Beach Report we’re treated to the fruits of others getting up with the sun – amazing dawn sunrise shots! Thank you, Sherry & Nathaniel, for the pics and the post. Have a great weekend, everyone!
Good morning sunshine!
And when the morning light comes streaming in, I’ll get up and do it again. Amen.
-Jackson Browne, The Pretender
Okay, I should admit this right off the bat: I like to sleep in. Late. The idea of venturing out to watch the sun rise has never been at the top of my list of fun things to do in Virginia Beach, but somehow, by some divine miracle, I found myself awake before dawn a couple weeks ago. After gazing up at the starry sky and noting the time, I realized if I woke up my 11-year-old son Nathaniel (who also enjoys sleeping in), we’d have just enough time to walk the beach and see the day’s first rays of sunlight. Nathaniel was happily snoozing away when I whispered in his ear, “if we go right now, we can see the sun rise.” And guess what? He rose immediately! After hastily dressing and grabbing my camera and some coffee, we headed out, arriving at the oceanfront beneath a dark and hazy sky. We could still see stars.
After slipping off my sandals, and walking the path to the water, I quickly realized I wasn’t going to be able to juggle both camera and coffee. So I stowed my cup behind a bench and wandered out into the darkness. We were completely alone. Just my son, my camera, and the sky. Within minutes, the sky started lightening up, and a pink/orange haze emerged. Those same colors reflected in the rippling water and waves. And then slowly, ever so slowly, the pink turned more orange and deepened. The clouds took on an other-worldly quality with vibrant colors, layers, depths and surreal dimensions that had me hypnotized. So I started snapping photo after photo after photo. After 1,000 shots (yes, 1,000) I decided it was time to head back home.
As I hesitantly took the path toward home, I looked over my shoulder, hoping for one more glimpse of that luminous sky. But the sun wasn’t finished with its show. It had more beauty to reveal, more magic to share with me, so I heeded its call. I am so happy I did not give up and go home too soon, because what happened next was amazing. The sun, partially obscured by clouds, peeked out and shone like a brilliant orange globe onto the water below.
Some days, when life feels especially chaotic, I pull up my sunset photos and remember how it felt to be powerfully compelled, called, and drawn to the water and sky in a way that suspended every single fear, every single worry, and every single anxious thought. And now I am pleased to have some sun rise portraits to reflect on. I think if I could head to the beach every morning, and meditate on the beauty of this extraordinary gift lapping at my feet over and over and over and refusing to let me go, then perhaps it would be easier to let go of the things that worry me. I continue to believe living the life truly does mean basking in its beauty in a way that inspires inner reflection and a deeper peace. In Virginia Beach, it’s waiting for you every morning. Sometimes you just have to set down the coffee and let the sunlight do it’s magic.
Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014 by Sherry Friel
It has certainly been a fast-paced, fun-filled summer! It’s hard to believe Fall is almost upon us. Where did the time go? Those who live the life in Virginia Beach tend to deny summer is over well into November because the Virginia Beach weather is so mild. With school having officially started, I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on the season and recap a few of its highlights:
The Adventure Park. I cannot rave enough about this newest attraction in Virginia Beach. It’s an aerial park in the forest custom-built for tree-climbing, adventure-seeking adults and children. This unique park features 170 tree platforms, ziplines, and 13 different color-coded aerial trails for novice as well as advanced climbers. It was such a hit with my 11-year-old son Nathaniel that we’ve already made plans to return.
Sublime Relaxation. When I reflect on the moments that gave me the most pleasure over the summer, my mind always goes back to that 86-degree day I spent in a beach chair, finishing up the mystery novel Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. It was the most relaxed I had been in quite some time and I allowed myself to sink heavy in the chair and alternate between reading, sleeping, and enjoying the sights, sounds, and relaxed rhythm at the shoreline.
Surfing. We’ve maintained a hectic pace this summer, and while it wasn’t easy getting up early for swim team practice or martial arts classes, I have to appreciate the muscles and increased strength my son gained through his commitment to these activities. He is now able to keep paddle out and surf right alongside his Dad, and I even witnessed them catching the same wave together! It warms my heart to see them bond this way. When a father and son share a passion, it’s a beautiful thing to watch unfold.
Now that he is officially a pre-teen, (or is he a tween?), it’s obvious Nathaniel will continue seeking greater challenges. Watching him swim with ease, scale tall trees, and surf bigger and bigger waves has been a huge leap of faith for me as a parent. Of course I worry, but I can’t help but feel grateful we live in Virginia Beach, a city that seems to continuously grow and change in ways that excite his spirit and make family life all the more fun. It’s a wonderful place to live the life, a fabulous place to call home.
Photo credits: Sherry Friel
Friday, July 18th, 2014 by Sherry Friel
Local blogger and mom Sherry Friel is definitely in tune with all the latest outdoor fun in Virginia Beach. She and son Nathaniel took on our newest attraction and her post gives us all the details – enjoy this fun read!
Virginia Beach gives “adventure” two snaps, a twist and a ZIP!
We did it ! My 11-year-old son Nathaniel and I spent an afternoon and evening at Virginia Beach’s newest attraction-The Adventure Park. There’s been a great deal written in local newspapers and on the city’s tourism web site about this aerial tree park at Virginia Aquarium. I even wrote a column myself in anticipation of what we were about to experience. But truth be told, the park exceeded any expectations I had by such a long shot that I am hesitant to even attempt to describe the fun we had. You just have to go there. I can say that the park was much larger than I expected. It also was more challenging for the mind, body and spirit than I imagined. In addition, experiencing it when the sun was low in the sky until after sunset made the time even more special. The park is open until 11 p.m during the summer so we timed it just right to enjoy the unique appeal of it at night.
When I say The Adventure Park was larger than I expected, I am not only referring to scale, but the varying levels of difficulty it offers to kids and adults. The 170 tree platforms, ziplines, and 13 different color-coded aerial trails were challenging enough for novice as well as advanced climbers. When I first entered the park, I felt a bit overwhelmed as I tried to take in all the options. Fortunately, the staff does a fantastic job at gauging your level and leading you through the courses accordingly.
To say the Adventure Park is a challenging experience for the mind and body is an understatement. After observing people of all ages for several hours, I now believe it to be a phenomenal growth experience for anyone. I watched my son and his friend, in the course of just three hours, go from being timid and unsure about navigating their way through the trails to wanting to tackle harder courses. Their words as we exited the park, “We will be back.” As a parent I am always searching for ways my son can grow and build confidence. Our climbing adventure was definitely time well spent and we look forward to returning really soon.
Summer is a crazy busy time for active families, and there never seems to be enough time during the day to do everything. When I started planning this special birthday outing for my son, I had to work around not only his summer schedule, but his friend’s plans as well. When I realized the park was open until 11 p.m., I was so relieved. Yes, I thought, we will be able to proceed with any plans we had during the day and do the Adventure Park too. But I worried that the kids wouldn’t be able to see the trails very well in the dark. I also was concerned they would be too tired. Of course I worried needlessly. They were able to work through the trails just fine at around 7 p.m., and after it got dark, the entire forest is beautifully illuminated with twinkling lights strung through the trees. It took on a truly magical quality after dark, and only enhanced what was already a wonderful experience. We stayed until 10 p.m. and practically had to drag them out. The boys were just getting started!
I wholeheartedly recommend The Adventure Park for active, outdoors-loving kids and adults. In fact, when a 20-something neighbor asked my advice on an interesting place to take his girlfriend, I told him about this amazing aerial park. After they went, he was excited to tell me it was PERFECT and they had the best time! Do I foresee an Adventure Park wedding theme in their future? Why not!? I can’t think of a more exciting way to start Living the Life together!
Photo credits: Sherry Friel