Sherry Friel
Sherry Friel
A Natural Photographer
Sherry Friel graduated from Old Dominion University with a Master of Arts in English and has since spent time as a community news reporter and photographer, a seventh grade English teacher, and most recently worked in healthcare writing and marketing. She continues to work part-time on healthcare-related projects, but her greater efforts today are dedicated to her family and the volunteer work she does in her son’s elementary school library. Sherry is a Hampton Roads native and has lived in Virginia Beach for 17 of those years. She fell in love with Virginia Beach while she was an intern in the city’s public information office, where she worked on a variety of projects that gave her an intimate view of the city’s natural beauty. Sherry enjoys walking the neighborhoods, trails and parks of Virginia Beach along with her husband and eight-year-old son, and capturing points of beauty along the way. Sherry truly “lives the beach life” through her love of nature photography. She and her son share that passion and together have photographed everything from the glorious Spanish moss at First Landing State Park to breathtaking sunsets at Great Neck Park and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Author Entries


For the Love of Adventure

Monday, February 9th, 2015 by Sherry Friel

Sherry Friel adds to our series on things we LOVE about Virginia Beach with her post about the adrenaline rush of new adventures in Virginia Beach!

Fearless

female pilot

Eleanor Friel, the authors's mother-in-law, fearlessly flew airplanes in WWII as part of the civil air patrol

I haven’t always had as many fears as I do now. In fact, for a brief window of time in my early twenties, I was pretty fearless. I was living on my own in an apartment, and in the process of relishing that sweet independence, I’d daydream about what I wanted do next. It should be something exciting, I’d tell myself. Something I never imagined myself doing.  Keep in mind that in those early days I had no television, no Internet, no computer, and very few distractions outside the fantastic life I was dreaming of having. So when a GRAND IDEA hit me with a force I could not ignore, I picked up the phone and called my Dad. “I want to take lessons and learn how to fly airplanes, I excitedly told him. It’ll be fun!” I will not delve into the boring details of what he advised, but let’s just say he talked me out of it. I am a cautious person by nature, and at the time, the reasons he gave for not taking flying lessons made sense. Truthfully, I was having trouble just keeping my car repaired and I had no health insurance. My work was writing copy for the local newspaper, which enabled me to pay the rent, but not much more. Clearly, there were other priorities that needed my focus. But I can’t help imagining what my life would be like if I acted on such impulses rather than always taking the safer route. What if my Dad had said, “Wow, that sounds like a great idea. Hey, I’ll join you and we can learn together!” Would my more cautious nature have kicked in and said, “Nah, I think I’ll pass. Maybe one day.” Or would I have pursued it? I’m thinking with my father’s endorsement, I would have moved forward. In hindsight, I believe I was at such a crossroads in life that seeing that particular dream to fruition would have inspired me to find the courage to do other things with less trepidation and apprehension. I’d always have that accomplishment, you know? I could have been my own cheerleader with the mantra, “hey, I’ve flown airplanes; I can do anything!”

iflynat2

Adrenaline Junkie Nathaniel Friel readies himself............

Since then, I’ve met many people along the way who just do not seem to have boundaries such as mine. They are afraid of nothing. Rollercoasters?Let’s go! Airplanes? Why not? They are the typical adrenaline junkies you hear about surfing enormous swells at Waimea Bay or Pipeline. They live for adventure, speed and excitement. But I hate to generalize. For every adrenaline junkie who fits the stereotype I’ve just described, there are the people like me who, with a little extra encouragement, can conquer fears and do some pretty exciting things outside of their comfort zone. It also can be inspiring to surround yourself with adventurous friends and family. For example, my 11-year-old son Nathaniel seems to have a constant need for adrenaline-inducing activities. So it’s a good thing he’s growing up in Virginia Beach, where each season offers something new. It’s been quite a fun year for him. From climbing trees at The Adventure Park, the city’s first aerial trail park suspended from trees, to ice skating at Rudee Inlet, he is getting the childhood every adrenaline junkie should have. And just when I thought we had tried it all, a new attraction popped up recently that we couldn’t resist: INDOOR SKYDIVING at iFly on Pacific Avenue. The experience was a huge success and the perfect wintertime activity. The wind tunnel is the real deal, and offers authentic skydiving experiences for first-time flyers as young as 3 years old, as well as seasoned adult skydivers. The look on my son’s face as he rose in the air with his arms outstretched was pure bliss. But I have to ask, what’s next for him? I know he’s fearless, but what will next summer bring? I may just have to ask my Dad to talk some sense into my son. Something tells me Nathaniel won’t be as quick to listen to cautionary wisdom as I was. Nope. Not this one. For him the sky’s the limit! As it should be.

...and he's sky-diving!

...and he's sky-diving!

Adrenaline-pumping adventures abound in Virginia Beach – we even have a Life the Life Adventure series which can be customized for your group.

Book yours today!


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Options for winter fun in Virginia Beach continue to grow

Monday, December 22nd, 2014 by Sherry Friel

Editor’s note;  Oh, yes! It’s beginning to feel a lot like ________! You fill in the blank; I pick”brrrrr!” Whatever your choice, there’s no doubt it’s the perfect time to  bundle up and go out to enjoy some very unique holiday experiences at the Virginia Beach oceanfront.

Today is the first day of winter break so we thought we’d combine two awesome posts by local mom and blogger Sherry Friel as she gives a first hand account of two of these exciting Oceanfront adventures, along with some of her awesome photos.

Readers, your mission, if you should choose to accept it (and why wouldn’t you??!!):
Read on and then go have some fun – and DON’T forget to share your pics with us on Facebook!!

Perfect Family Night Out! Visit Holiday Lights at the Beach for an Extra Special Treat!

LTL

So there I was, half my body hanging out of my husband’s moon roof, taking in the McDonald’s Holiday Lights at the Beach as we inched along the Virginia Beach Boardwalk in our car. I’m sure it was a sight to behold-me excitedly focusing my camera and capturing each of the fabulous displays, with my patient husband at the wheel pausing just long enough for me to photograph my favorites.

Driving through this popular light show has become an annual holiday tradition for my family, and we’ve found it really gets us excited about the seasonal events ahead. For example, we were able to preview the new Oceanfront Ice Park at Rudee Loop (3rd & Atlantic) in anticipation of our upcoming family ice-skating adventure. While I had initially planned to ice skate and view the boardwalk lights in the same evening, I realized we might need more time for ice skating so we are planning that for another day. (See later in this post for more on this!)

The is the only time we find these creatures entertaining!

The is the only time we find these creatures entertaining!

Recently, we started the light show at 5:30 p.m. and completed it just in time for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. Presented by Liberty Tax, the drive-through light show continues nightly through Jan. 3. Here are a few important things to remember before hitting the road:

Hours

5:30 to 10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs. and 5:30-11 p.m. Fri-Sat.

What to bring

Admission is cash only. Cost is $15 per car Monday-Sunday, $25 for Limousines, $45 for motor coaches, and $25 for mini buses. On Military Mondays presented by Liberty Tax Service, admission is $7 with military identification. Military Mondays kick off Dec. 1.

Radio setting

Don’t forget to set your radio dial to 103.5 for a musical program designed for your listening pleasure as you move through the displays. While I didn’t hear the music with my head sticking out of the moon roof, my husband and son have informed me that it is wonderful. They were humming holiday tunes for hours after we exited the light exhibits.

What you’ll see

This show truly has something to please every family member. My son’s favorite display was the “Surfing Santa,” while my husband and I loved the elaborate depiction of the “12 Days of Christmas.” I don’t want to spoil any surprises, so just be prepared for a fantastic light show at the water’s edge featuring everything from dinosaurs to a special sighting of Santa Claus and his reindeer! Some of the displays are between 20 and 30-feet high, and one of the show’s gems is a 40-feet-tall Christmas tree on the beach.

Rules of the Boardwalk

lights1I’m not so sure how appropriate it was for me to stick my head out of the moon roof to get photographs, but my questionable behavior did enable me to get some nice ones! It was cold though, and I wouldn’t advise it. My hands, face, and ears took an hour or more to completely thaw out. Visitors to the boardwalk are asked to definitely stay in their cars and keep moving…no stopping. This explains why my husband wouldn’t pause for too long for me to get pictures. He was following the rules! It’s also a good idea to turn off your headlights during the show, but please remember to turn them on before entering the roadway. Also watch the space between you and the car in front of you.  Just take your time and enjoy the ride.

A few tips to make it extra nice

lights4In hindsight, I wish we had packed a few goodies to enjoy while driving though the show. Some hot cocoa or apple cider in our thermos bottles would have been a wonderful warm treat to enjoy along the way.

Holiday Lights at the Beach is a fantastic way to entertain family and visiting guests during the holiday season. It’s been named in the Southeast Tourism Society’s Top 20 November Events and the American Bus Association’s “Top 100 Events in North America for 2011.” Each year, the display gets larger and changes so it’s never the same show twice. Just one more way to live the life in beautiful Virginia Beach!

Unique Virginia Beach Ice Park = Fun for the Whole Family!

Perfect Family Night Out! Visit Holiday Lights at the Beach for an Extra Special Weekend
So there I was, half my body hanging out of my husband’s moon roof, taking in the McDonald’s Holiday Lights at the Beach as we inched along the Virginia Beach Boardwalk in our car. I’m sure it was a sight to behold-me excitedly focusing my camera and capturing each of the fabulous displays, with my patient husband at the wheel pausing just long enough for me to photograph my favorites.
Driving through this popular light show has become an annual holiday tradition for my family, and we’ve found it really gets us excited about the seasonal events ahead. For example, we were able to preview the new Oceanfront Ice Park at Rudee Loop (3rd & Atlantic) in anticipation of our upcoming family ice-skating adventure. While I had initially planned to ice skate and view the boardwalk lights in the same evening, I realized we might need more time for ice skating so we are planning that for another day. Last night we started the light show at 5:30 p.m. and completed it just in time for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.
Presented by Liberty Tax, the drive-through light show continues nightly through Jan. 3. Here are a few important things to remember before hitting the road:
Hours
5:30 to 10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs. and 5:30-11 p.m. Fri-Sat.
What to bring
Admission is cash only. Cost is $15 per car Monday-Sunday, $25 for Limousines, $45 for motor coaches, and $25 for mini buses. On Military Mondays presented by Liberty Tax Service, admission is $7 with military identification. Military Mondays kick off Dec. 1.
Radio setting
Don’t forget to set your radio dial to 103.5 for a musical program designed for your listening pleasure as you move through the displays. While I didn’t hear the music with my head sticking out of the moon roof, my husband and son have informed me that it is wonderful. They were humming holiday tunes for hours after we exited the light exhibits.
What you’ll see
This show truly has something to please every family member. My son’s favorite display was the “Surfing Santa,” while my husband and I loved the elaborate depiction of the “12 Days of Christmas.” I don’t want to spoil any surprises, so just be prepared for a fantastic light show at the water’s edge featuring everything from dinosaurs to a special sighting of Santa Claus and his reindeer! Some of the displays are between 20 and 30-feet high, and one of the show’s gems is a 40-feet-tall Christmas tree on the beach.
Rules of the Boardwalk
I’m not so sure how appropriate it was for me to stick my head out of the moon roof to get photographs, but my questionable behavior did enable me to get some nice ones! It was cold though, and I wouldn’t advise it. My hands, face, and ears took an hour or more to completely thaw out. Visitors to the boardwalk are asked to definitely stay in their cars and keep moving…no stopping. This explains why my husband wouldn’t pause for too long for me to get pictures. He was following the rules! It’s also a good idea to turn off your headlights during the show, but please remember to turn them on before entering the roadway. Also watch the space between you and the car in front of you.  Just take your time and enjoy the ride.
A few tips to make it extra nice
In hindsight, I wish we had packed a few goodies to enjoy while driving though the show. Some hot cocoa or apple cider in our thermos bottles would have been a wonderful warm treat to enjoy along the way.
Holiday Lights at the Beach is a fantastic way to entertain family and visiting guests during the holiday season. It’s been named in the Southeast Tourism Society’s Top 20 November Events and the American Bus Association’s “Top 100 Events in North America for 2011.” Each year, the display gets larger and changes so it’s never the same show twice. Just one more way to live the life in beautiful Virginia Beach!

Sarah & Nathaniel, friends since preschool, enjoying an afternoon on the ice
Sarah & Nathaniel, friends since preschool, enjoying the ice

Looking for one of the happiest destinations for families in Virginia Beach? Then your holiday plans absolutely must include a visit to the Oceanfront Ice Park at Rudee Loop.

My husband and I headed out there Saturday with our 11-year-old son, Nathaniel. We did not know what to expect, as when we visited McDonald’s Holiday Lights at the Beach last week the ice park had not opened yet.

Beth Kulas with daughters Sara and Sophia Schreiber enjoying a day at the Ice Park
Beth Kulas with daughters Sara and Sophia Schreiber enjoying a day at the Ice Park

So we made a plan to meet my friend Beth and her two daughters Sarah and Sophia for an absolutely fun family outing. Having grown up in Massachusetts, Beth is no stranger to ice skating and took to it immediately. My surfer son, on the other hand, found it difficult to stay balanced at first. He took many spills in the beginning, but within an hour he was gliding past me as if he had been skating his whole life. I think I can safely say he now has added a new, fun activity to his growing list of outdoor sports. And in Virginia Beach!

Sarah & Nathaniel having a ball on the ice!
Sarah & Nathaniel quickly got the hang of it!

I still can’t believe I am sitting here writing about our ice skating adventure with my windows open and 72-degree temperatures outside. Where else in the world can you enjoy the beach by day along with outdoor ice skating at night? It’s definitely a unique corner of the city tailored to families and built for pure fun. Here are just a few things I learned about this special park during our first trip (of course we will be heading back again and again):

Admission

Admission is $12 per person, and $45 for families of five. Time at the park is unlimited, so if you want to skate all day and into the evening, you can! Skate rental is included in the admission price.

Fun for non-skaters

Not everyone feels comfortable on the ice, but spectators are certainly not disappointed. As an observer, I got to enjoy a warm fire, hot cocoa, and take as many fun photos as I wanted. Photographers will appreciate some of the best morning light conditions ever. I was able to get crisp action shots of the kids-something that is often difficult in direct sunlight. I believe the magic was a combination of sunlight and blue skies reflecting off of the slick ice. Plus, if you are not skating, you do not need to pay admission. There is absolutely no charge for parents who just want to watch their kids skate.

Lessons

Want to skate but unsure of your ability? For just $35 per hour, private lessons are available upon request from the Tidewater Figure Skating Club. I think I may need to look into this before I go next time. While it was completely thrilling watching my son ice skate with his friends, something about seeing Beth hand-in-hand with her daughter Sarah made me want to experience it with my son too. When I mentioned to him that I may try to skate next time, he was excited. “Mom, that would be even more fun!” he said.

A joyful Sarah Schreiber enjoys the ice Sarah’s face = joy!

Private parties

I was delighted to see the option to book the entire rink for up to 50 people during available non-public hours. The possibilities are endless. Can you imagine attending your company’s holiday office party at the skating rink rather than a typical hotel ballroom? Rental of the rink is just $125 per hour. Often we have family coming in town for the weekend and I cannot think of a more unique way to entertain everyone than scheduling a private gathering at the ice park.

Be sure to check the varying hours the park will be open, as they have scheduled special operating times when schools are on vacation. I was delighted to see that not only is the park open Christmas Eve until 5 p.m., but also Christmas Day until 11 p.m. In addition, the park opens New Year’s Eve until 12:30 a.m. as well as New Year’s Day from noon to 11 p.m.

What a cool way to ring in the New Year! Hope to see you on the ice soon.


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The Beach Report – November 28, 2014

Friday, November 28th, 2014 by Sherry Friel

Today is the  perfect day to feature Sherry Friel’s post ” Treasure Hunting in Virginia Beach” ~ we’d love to see your finds.; SHARE them them with us on Facebook!

VictrolaI close my eyes and visualize myself delicately placing the Victrola needle on my favorite record, listening hypnotically to warped yet crisp sounds coming from the intricately etched vinyl. Yes. I am there. It’s 1921 and….Kerchunck,  Kerchunk, Kerchunk!…“Mom, how does this thing work? Where is the space bar? How do I get it to print?” My brief moment of nostalgia for a layer of life I’ve never truly experienced is interrupted by Nathaniel, my 11-year-old son. He’s just discovered a manual typewriter in one of the shops of Decoration Station, a Virginia Beach antique mall situated at the corner oftypewriter Diamond Springs Rd. and Wesleyan Blvd. I am marveling over a gorgeous Victrola talking machine (or record player as most people would refer to it). Thankfully, the kind owners of the store showed him how to wind in a piece of paper and type. Voila! “Wow, that’s cool,” he said. “We need to get one of those!”

I soon learned Decoration Station is one of many destinations for treasure hunters in Virginia Beach. This particular mall features a large selection of 19th and early 20th century furniture, porcelains, crystal, linens, collectibles, jewelry and home décor. I was especially drawn to the number of vintage books throughout the space, and my son was delighted to discover and purchase a pristine copy of Julia Child’s book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

chandelierJeanie Fuertes, the owner of Decoration Station Mall, gave me what I consider a gift-a wonderful brochure and map detailing close to 20 different stores specializing in antiques, consignments, and specialties. Titled, “2014-2015 Treasure Hunting in Virginia Beach,” the brochure can be easily found at the Virginia Beach Visitor Center at 2100 Parks Avenue near the oceanfront.

I cannot wait to visit the other stores in this wonderful compilation. Already, my son and I did some serious shopping this past weekend and brought home treasures we will cherish for a long time. My favorite purchase of the day was an Andrea Sadek porcelain magnolia, which I will display as a nod to one of my ancestors, Minnie Magnolia. I recently discovered Minnie while researching my family tree, and I believe she may be the inspiration for my passionate love of all things floral.

MMMy next hunt will be for a near-perfect vintage manual typewriter. Unlike the circa 1921 Victrola I was admiring, the typewriter truly represents a layer of life I am well acquainted with. I learned on a manual typewriter as a teenager and was happy for this recent reminder of just how beautiful they are. No touch screen, no internet connection, nothing but kerchunk, kerchunk, kerchunk and ding! Time to get shopping. The holidays will soon be upon us and I have a feeling if Santa shops in Virginia Beach he will find everything he needs!

xmas stockingPhoto credits: Sherry Friel


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The Beach Report – November 14, 2014

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!

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!

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!

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!


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The Beach Report – October 31, 2014

Friday, October 31st, 2014 by Sherry Friel
A.R.E. Health Center
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.

eclogoheader

This is one amazing porch!
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.


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Extended! See the Virginia Beach Neptune Festival Sand Sculpture Exhibit Through Oct. 5

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014 by Sherry Friel

sand2Procrastination 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.sand face

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.

Nat and sand 1

*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.natskipsand

Photo credits:  Sherry Friel


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At 11 years old, this budding Virginia Beach chef aims to create ‘legendary’ sandwiches, savory soups, and ‘epic’ sauces

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!

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.

cooking2His 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!cooking1

Photo credits: Sherry Friel


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