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.

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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.


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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The Beach Report – September 5, 2014

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

blue sunsetOkay, 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 sunset

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.


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Our summer was fabulous!

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014 by Sherry Friel

Nat back to schoolIt 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.laughter

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.

surf buds

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

Catch patio

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