Memorial Day Luminary at the National Cemetery 27 May 2016, 1:00 am
If you’ve never before taken the time to visit the annual luminary event at Fredericksburg National Cemetery, do yourself a favor and make it a point to visit this year.
The annual tradition will be held this Saturday, May 28, from 8-11 p.m.
This will be the 21st anniversary of the Memorial Day Luminary, and it’s particularly special because this year marks the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the cemetery.
A host of volunteers offer short programs at a variety of tours stops over the course of the night (I’ll be there among them!). But most impressively, each grave will be marked by a pair of candles and a flag, set up by local Boy Scout troops. When lit up at night, the sight is soul-stirring.
It’s a wonderful way to remember those who gave their last full measure of devotion for our country.
Memorial Day Pops Concert 25 May 2016, 11:00 pm
Stevenson Ridge offers a special Memorial Day “thank you” to all the servicemen and women who’ve been married here!
The Rappahannock Pops Orchestra will be giving a FREE Memorial Day concert on Monday, May 30 at 6 p.m. on the grounds of Mary Washington Hospital. The concert will include a tribute to “big band” music, selections from popular Broadway musicals, and will feature jazz soloists from the Pops.
The concert will offer a special tribute to those who gave their all for our country. Children will be given flags for a parade through the audience. The Popcorn Bag will provide concessions.
Make sure to support our local Pops Orchestra on this Memorial Day, so bring chairs, blankets, food, etc and enjoy the Pops! For more information, click here.
Red, White, and Blue Strawberry Shortcake 25 May 2016, 1:00 am
In the spirit of the upcoming patriotic holiday, I found an easy dessert recipe you can make this weekend: Red, White & Blue Strawberry Shortcake. it’s colorful and delicious.
You’ll need the following items:
- Angel Food Cake or Pound Cake
- Cool Whip + blue coloring
In the blog where I found this recipe, they serve this dessert in stemless wine glasses; however, I’m sure any dish will work.
Clean and cut the strawberries, then put them aside. Cube the angel food cake or pound cake and then put it aside, too. Then mix the blue food coloring with the Cool Whip to complete the red, white, and blue look.
Put the blue cool whip in a piping bag or use a ziplock bag and cut the bottom corner. Then layer the items in your dish, starting with the shortcake then the strawberries and finally the cool whip. It’s recommended that you put the cool whip on right before serving.
Your guests will love this light & fun patriotic dessert.
Tulip Poplars Shed Their Blossoms as Spring Turns Toward Summer 24 May 2016, 1:08 pm
When the tulip poplars drop their blossoms in early May, it’s like a little taste of autumn in the freshest time of the year. Little dashes of orange, yellow, and honeydew-green sprinkle the trails.
Tulip poplars, common in Virginia, are the tallest hardwoods in North America, reaching as high as 150 feet. Their leaves look like webbed, six-fingered palms, symmetrical in design. Their blossoms look like little tulips—which is where the trees get their name from—although by the time they drop from the forest canopy, the flowers have often stretched themselves open enough that they’ve lost their tulipy look.
Thomas Jefferson particularly loved tulip poplars, which he called “the Juno of our groves.” He planted a pair of them, like sentinels, on either side of his back porch, and over the course of two centuries, they grew to towering heights. Both finally came down within the past decade, but years ago, I had the chance to buy a small sapling grown from the seeds of one of the trees. That tree now grows outside my son’s home in western New York.
Here at Stevenson Ridge, we have many tulip poplars growing wild in the forest on the back of the property, and several sprinkled in the woodlots around the cabins. They are done blossoming for the year, which is a sign that spring is past and summer is moving in!
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Pallet Board Gardening 18 May 2016, 11:00 pm
Pallet board projects are trending right now! Just search on Google or Pinterest, and you’ll find 100+ different projects to do with unused pallet boards. In the spirit of spring, we found a fun DIY pallet board garden project for you. Hanging the pallet board vertically allows more space especially for those who don’t have the room in their yard or live in an apartment.
First, find your pallet board and clean it off. To avoid splinters and loose pieces of wood, you’ll need to sand your board. Next, you can use this pallet board garden for herbs or flowers, so visit the local home and garden store to pick out your plants. You can also grow your plants seeds rather than seedlings, if you’d prefer.
You’ll need to enclose the “shelves” from the bottoms with a piece of wood. Afterwards, you can add the potting soil. Then plant your seeds or seedlings!
To add a fun touch to the pallet board garden, you can paint the front panels with black paint or chalkboard paint, then add the name of your favorite herbs or flowers with chalk.
One of the perks of this vertical pallet board garden is that is easily moveable to any living space in the home and can be hung on a blank wall. It’s a simple and easy project to add a little green to your home this spring.
The Snow Goose 17 May 2016, 11:00 pm
We’ve had a pair of Canadian geese that have made Stevenson Ridge their home this spring. Over the weekend, they played host to a cousin of theirs: a snow goose.
At first, it was hard to get a good look at the new feather friend, who seemed to stay on the far side of one of the Canadian geese. All we could tell was that the new visitor appeared very duck-like but was much too big to be a duck. Finally, as the birds made their way closer to the pond, we were able to get a better view.
Snow geese are rare in this part of Virginia, which is close enough to their migration route to make them “uncommon” (according to the Audubon Society) while still making them possible. The black wing tips suggested that it wasn’t a more common (and otherwise more likely) domesticated goose.
Our visitor brings to mind that classic Scooby-Doo episode featuring the Snow Ghost, which I’ll paraphrase here: “There’sno goose like a snow goose!”
A Little Reminder 15 May 2016, 11:00 pm
A Little Wedding, A Little History 14 May 2016, 12:08 pm
We’re getting ready for a wedding this afternoon here at Stevenson Ridge. Teal, peach, and off-white pom-poms festoon the fireplace in the chapel, and spider-thin curly-que candelabras, also teal, sit at the center of each table. A sign in the lobby says, “Happiness is not a destination. It is a way of life.”
Outside, it’s the kind of day our handyman, Frank, would call a “Chamber of Commerce” day—sunny and pleasant and enticing.
As I look out the front doors across the great lawn, I see the needle-thin radio tower that rises above nearby Myer’s Hill.
Of course, I’m drawn back to events 152 years ago. If I stood on this spot on May 13, 1864, I’d have watched Federal forces storm the hill only to be driven off a short while later by Confederates. In the back and forth, Federal commander George Gordon Meade was nearly captured when the Rebel counterattack—so fierce and effective—nearly overran his staff. “Gen. Meade had to gallop for it,” said one of his aides, “and not being familiar with the paths came quite near enough being cut off!” Meade finally made good his escape by jumping his horse across the Ni River.
Infuriated by his near miss, Meade ordered half of his army to counter-counterattack. The V and VI Corps swept forward—just under 40,000 men. “The rebs were lying on the other side to avoid our shells which were hissing and exploding around the crest,” said one Federal soldier, “and when they heard our cheers supposed a mighty force was coming and so they ran like the devil.”
At the end of the day, the hill belonged to the Federals.
Standing in front of the Lodge, I would have had a front-row seat to the action.
Trees obscure the view today, and only the radio tower lets me know the exact location of the hillcrest from here. At the time, a soldier described it as “a bold, round hill on the south bank of the [Ni], upon which was a well-appointed farmer’s dwelling.”
The Ni River flows off to my left; the topography of Stevenson Ridge slops gently off perhaps half a mile to the river’s edge. The river itself is only about ten feet wide or so, but the banks are steep. In the rain of May 1864, they would have been treacherously slippery.
I think about those Federal soldiers marching through that rain. The first wave—men under the command of newly minted Brig. Gen. Emory Upton—had fought on May 8; engaged in a bold, desperate attack on May 10; and had been embroiled in the brutal slugfest at the Bloody Angle on May 12. How exhausted and spent they must have felt.
I think about those Confederate defenders—among them, men of the 9th Virginia cavalry, who all came from the surrounding countryside. How they must have felt defending, quite literally, their home field.
I think even of Meade. The area where he rode his horse to safety is now a horse farm.
What a juxtaposition of scenes for me today: “happily ever after” happening in the here and now; gunpowder, rain, and blood 152 years ago.
Couples who get married here at Stevenson Ridge get to celebrate one of the best days of their lives. Knowing what turmoil this property has seen in the past, I am glad that it now gets to see such happiness.
Congrats, Grads! 13 May 2016, 3:43 pm
Tis the season for graduation! As the weather is slowly starting to warm up here, it also means college and high school graduations. It’s a fun and somewhat scary time for the seniors as they end one chapter of their lives to start a new one. No matter where you’re hosting your graduation party, here are some fun party ideas for you:
Since graduation is in May or June, most graduation parties are summer cookouts with snack foods. Such a light atmosphere can give everyone the chance to mingle with the grad. You can spice up your standard cookout or snacks with themed items or even food bars, offering lots of different choices for your guests. Searching on Pinterest, you can find great ideas for your menu and different bar ideas. Look for a burger bar, taco bar, sandwich bar, potato bar, etc.
It’s easy to use balloons and streamers for a backdrop, plus you can color coordinate with a theme or to match school colors. For centerpieces, most places like Party City and Hobby Lobby have premade centerpieces. If you’re looking for DIY centerpieces, you can make simple ones with a mason jar, adding stars, poms, numbers (2016), etc to give them more flare. Also, don’t forget to have a guestbook so the grad can look back on who helped celebrate their achievements.
For college grads, you can get more creative with themes catering to their degree or upcoming career field.
Making mini graduation caps with Reese cups and more chocolate is always a sweet-tooth’s dream! Little diplomas are as easy as using Pepperidge Farms Pirouette cookies with a ribbon to complete the look. We’ve seen some parties with a candy bar with colored candy to match the school’s color. And of course, you can’t go wrong with the classic cake or cupcakes for dessert.
Battlefielding on the Anniversary of the Battle 10 May 2016, 11:00 pm
It’s been a rainy few days to be out on the battlefield, but 152 years ago on May 9, the Federal army moved into the area that is now Stevenson Ridge, so of course, I had to go out onto the field, rain or shine!
Fortunately, I had some great company: three fellow historians who had never had the opportunity to explore Spotsylvania before. One was colleague from Emerging Civil War, James Brooks from the University of Nottingham in England. He’s been in the States for a few days on a research trip, but he took some time out Monday to do a little battlefielding. With him were two friends, a librarian with the Virginia Historical Society and a historian from Henrico County, Virginia.
We started with a tour of the works here at Stevenson Ridge, then we moved to National Park Service property to talk about the battle in a larger context. We walked through the battle chronologically,
We took the time to look at some spots off the beaten path (although Spotsy itself often feels off the beaten path!), and we enjoyed the sublime beauty of the Bloody Angle, where the hand-to-hand fighting was among the most horrific scenes of the war. I still find it hard to believe a place so awful is now so beautiful.
We also took the time to pay our respects to Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick, killed in action 152 years prior. Sedgwick was the highest-ranking Federal officer killed during the war. His loss, said General in Chief Ulysses S. Grant, was equitable to the loss of a division.
The battle of Spotsylvania Court House spanned May 8-20, 1864. It remains with us every day here at Stevenson Ridge, though.