Wednesday, September 28, 2011

#519 Americana JVP

Hello USA!

When our family returns to the US after 3 years in Germany, we must focus the Johnston Visitor Plan (JVP) on all things Americana!

Spudnuts.  Though the original recipe might be traced back to Germany, we now claim these potato-based delicacies as an American tradition and, in particular, as a Charlottesville tradition. Any time is Spudnuts time.

Montpelier.  The home of the 4th US president and award-winning barbecue?  Now that's Americana!  The recently restored home of James and Dolley Madison is just about 30 miles NE of Charlottesville.  And nearby Gordonsville offers hickory smoked goodness at the Barbecue Exchange.

College football.  That's an American tradition for sure.  The UVA Cavaliers took on the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles.  Having attended the UVA marching band open rehearsal on Friday night, we knew the band would perform Danny Elfman's Batman theme song on Saturday afternoon.  Next week, look out U-Idaho!

Sonic Drive-In.  Didn't Americans invent the drive-in?  Not only is Sonic Drive-In an American tradition, it is a family tradition.  Carhops have been serving up burgers and those unparallelled Sonic drinks since before I was born.  (That's a long time.)  A drive over the mountain to Waynesboro is well worth the trip!

Humpback Rocks Visitor Center and Mountain Farm.  Having the right guide who knows how to bake bread over an open fire and illustrate life on an 1890's mountain farm makes all the difference.  Thanks, Allison!

Swannanoa.  Though this 1912 Italianate villa needs some work to restore it to its former glory, the extraordinary genius of American stained glass artist Louis Comfort Tiffany is still on display as soon as you enter.

Blue Mountain Brewery.  Brewing may not be an American invention, but those folks at Blue Mountain certainly have perfected it.  The mountain view from the front patio is not bad either.

Sunday Night Football.  The Colts vs Steelers game didn't end the way we wanted, but our Pittsburgh friends are happy.

Luray Caverns.  Pluto's chasm, the Stalacpipe organ (the world's largest musical instrument), and Dream Lake are just a few of our highlights inside Luray Caverns.  Plus, pets are welcome!

Moneyball.  Of all the terrific films about America's pastime, I think I like this one starring the Springfield-Missouri native the best.

We're proud to be the first stop on the "Hello USA" tour!

Yours in Americana,

Sunday, September 18, 2011

#518 Saint and Nation and Maps

Kelly keeps telling me he has a cool job in the Scholars' Lab.  

He's always been inquisitive, so he's energized by working with scholars from so many different disciplines who use Geographic Information Systems.  And he likes to make maps.

A few months ago, he came home with stories of his search for 17th-century political boundaries of Spain.  He'd been consulting with Erin Rowe on her forthcoming book tracking the "Spanish devotion to the cult of saints".
Now Saint and Nation is published and shelved at Alderman Library.  Four maps are bound inside. They clearly show, among other things, Spanish political boundaries from the 17th century.

Yours in agreeing Kelly has a cool job,

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

#517 Plein Air Dining

Sometimes, many wonderful things happen all at once. 

Last weekend - so filled with friends and weddings and gorgeous summer weather and outdoor dining - was one of those times. 

Outdoor dining?  Now, I'm not saying that this was the best part, but we savored every meal from Thursday to Sunday - outside.  We Johnstons don't excel in the kitchen, so mixing out-of-town company with the perfect summer weather yielded Thursday night dinner at Petit Pois, Friday lunch at Basil, Friday dinner under a tent in Orange, Saturday lunch at Eppie's, Saturday dinner outside the UVA observatory, and Sunday brunch at The Nook.

I don't want to be accused of placing the emphasis on the wrong thing here, but really.  Does it get any better than this?  Perhaps we need to modify the Johnston Visitor Plan to focus more on plein air dining, because Charlottesville is really, really good at it.  Much love to Margaret, our friend and weekend dining companion, for joining in the fun.

Yours in enjoying a delightful and delicious weekend,

Sunday, September 11, 2011

#516 Wedding Geometry

Saturday, 9-10-11, was a day for weddings, both geometric.

The afternoon outdoor wedding made fine use of spirally arranged chairs.
To start the service, each member of the wedding party walked single file into the spiral's opening, circumambulating toward the center and the waiting officiant, passing every guest along the way.  
As the service began, we all served as ring bearers.  The person seated at the spiral opening produced the wedding rings tied to a decorative pillow and passed them to his right.  This blessing of the rings passed through the hands of each guest until delivery at the spiral's center.

The evening wedding made fine use of spheres.
Under a hemispherical observatory dome, the bride and groom wed. Hemispherical wedding cakes arranged in sequence away from a central sun cake mimicked our solar system.
We all took turns watching a full round moon through a five-ton telescope.
Yours in appreciating our creative geometric newlywed friends,

Thursday, September 01, 2011

#515 Moshe Safdie - Wow!

Sometimes a building just makes me say Wow!

A few days ago I watched Charlie Rose interview architect Moshe Safdie.  I was shocked to learn how many Wow! Safdie buildings we've recently encountered in our travels without knowing their common architect. 

Singapore: Marina Bay Sands

National Mall: Unites States Institute of Peace

 Arkansas: Crystal Bridges Museum of Art

Kansas City: Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

Montreal: Habitat '67
all images:

Architecture, it's my one weakness.  And maps.

Yours in enjoying the Wow! and the maps,