Today is Wednesday, June 26, 2019


Fred's Views

During April my wife and I and another couple spent a week in Virginia. On the trip down we encountered snow flurries about one third of the way down. Fortunately, with a short exception on I-90 near Erie, the roads were clear. A week later, we again encountered snow, even passing through a forested region that was straight out of a Christmas card.

In Virginia the weather was, perhaps, slightly warmer than at home, but definitely cooler than the previous year. We had a few wet days, but we also had a few nice, sun-warmed days as well.

We stayed at a Massanutten resort, a time-share owned by my wife and her two sisters. Here we were within an hour or less of several attractions: the Shenandowan National Forest and Skyline Drive, Jefferson's Monticello, the Luray and many other caverns, and the wine-making area of Virginia. Wine making (and grape growing) are relative newcomers to Virginia, which is somewhat surprising in that several hundred miles to the North we have had grapes and wineries for many years. But in Virginia they grow the European varieties - albeit grafted onto sturdier North American stock.

We visited two wineries, Barbourville and Horton. The impressive Barbourville Winery was founded in the 1970's by a famous Italian wine-making family on the site of the Barbourville estate. The ruins of the mansion which was destroyed by fire can still be seen from the winery's main building. We were provided with the opportunity to taste many of the wines as we toured the winery. I have to admit that drinking wine is a relatively new experience for me and one, quite frankly, that I can take or leave. I personally was not impressed by the Barbourville wines, but then I usually prefer a wine cooler to wine. For reasons I cannot entirely identify, all of us preferred the Horton winery. Despite its impressive old-style building, Horton's somehow seemed less stuffy, more friendly and down to earth. Here we could sample over 40 different wines, provided we could work our way through some of the guests who seemed to have planted themselves in front of the bar. I shied away from the dry wines which, in general, remind me of vinegar and are just about as tasty. The sweet wines are somewhat more enjoyable for my most unlearned pallet. However, Horton's also had a number of fruit wines including strawberry, cherry, blueberry and several others. These I found were very tasty and enjoyable.

At both wineries we were given a glass and allowed to keep it, thus adding to our growing wine glass collection. (Word of warning: The tasting and the wine glass were all part of our bus tour we had taken from the resort. While other visitors are most welcome, they have to pay a charge for the glass (if they wish to keep it) and also for the tasting.) Both wineries also had very nice small gift shops and were more than pleased to sell you bottles of whatever wines you preferred.

As part of our stay, we engaged in other activities offered at the resort including soap and candle making. The soap making session was less interesting. First of all, it seemed to be aimed primarily at children. We made glycerine soap by placing chunks of colored soap and/or embedding plastic or rubber animals or other objects in the soap mold. Then, the instructor would pour hot, liquid soap into the mold. We were allowed to make two bars, which we then left overnight to cool. The whole project took about half an hour, although it was slotted for an hour and a half.

The candle making was a much more enjoyable experience, eventually. Because of the popularity of the candle making, an additional class had been set up that was not advertised in the resort flyers. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the instructor about the class. About twenty of us showed up - but no instructor. Finally, resort staff tracked down the instructor and gave us the opportunity to return for the class later in the day or get a refund. We elected to return. That afternoon, the instructor apologized to us for the mix-up and allowed us to make a couple of extra votive candles as compensation. Unfortunately, only a few of the group returned, so it was a small class.

The size of the class did not deter our instructor who, between sets of instructions, regaled us with the story of his life. I'm sure if he ever decides to give up candle making, he could make a living as a stand up comedian - and home-spun philosopher. He told us about a trip to Disney World he had planned for his family. On the day allotted for the trip, he packed the car and admonished his kids to behave themselves as they drove off. As kids will, they were soon arguing and fighting in the back seat. He warned them to be quiet or he would turn the car around and call off the trip. Like most parents' threats, this was ignored by the children. Suddenly, he stopped the car, turned around and headed back. Despite their pleas to be good, he drove back home and unloaded the car. He told the kids that his wife was going back to work on the morrow and that they would have to call their grandma and tell her why they would not be visiting on this trip as planned.

Grandma was distraught with disappointment, and the kids pleaded with Dad to take the trip. Finally, he agreed to take them the next week, as long as they behaved themselves. The next week they packed the car again and set off. This time, the kids behaved themselves perfectly, as they did on all future trips. To this day he claims that his kids do not know that the trip was always planned for the following week, that his suitcases on the first trip were empty, and that his mother had given the performance of her life when the kids had called.

As with the soap, we filled our choice of three pillar candles or three pyramid-shaped candles with coloured wax of our choosing. Then he poured in hot melted wax with our choice of scent. The candles were placed in a freezer to solidify while we repeated the steps with small votive candles. We left with sore stomachs from laughing with seven candles each, and the satisfying feeling that we had received more than our money's worth.

Our unit has a deck or balcony that faces into the golf course which is sandwiched between wooded hills. We learned last year that we could entice the wild life with peanuts and apples. Peanuts both in and out of the shell were regularly placed on the bannister and we watched our visitors, squirrels, blue jays, titmouses(?), fat cardinals and other birds, came by to enjoy the hand-outs. This year, unfortunately, the deer did not show up to take advantage of the apples - although someone, a ground hog, perhaps, did. We found the deer in other areas of the resort. Our picture of the day for this month features scenes from our Virginia excursion.

All too soon, of course, the week was over and we returned to a slightly colder Ontario.

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