Day: December 1, 2014

From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, National Harbor

Merry Christmas from the Harbor!

Seems like just yesterday that I was racking my brain about what I was going to include in the July Harbor column and now I sit here pulling out all of the holiday stuff! Those of you who have been reading this column on a regular basis know that I regained my Christmas spirit a couple years ago after a stretch of leaning more toward the “Grinch” side the of isle. Last year was the discovery of The Elf on the Shelf for my great nephew and the year before that I credit the Shrek & Friends (most specially Puss ‘n Boots) themed ICE show here at the Harbor. Last month we gave you a preview of this year’s ICE extravaganza at the Gaylord, Frosty the Snowman, and once again it doesn’t disappoint. While I am not a fan of Christmas decorations, tree lightings, etc. happening BEFORE Thanksgiving, I have to admit that it does give way to making this December column a little more interesting since we go to press before the bird is on the platter. This means that we had the opportunity to see Frosty in action along with all of the other fun things that are going on here for the next 4 weeks. The photos on these pages don’t really do the ice sculptures justice. And….they look even “cooler” when you can hear the music in the background and see the expressions on the kids (young and old) faces as they walk through the maze. I didn’t do the ice slide this year because we were on a timeline but I recommend that you take the opportunity. Just be sure to lean WAYYY back on your parka (provided by the Gaylord) so that you get up to maximum speed! Gingy – yet another fabulous character…

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Dining Out, Wining & Dining

Mackie’s Bar & Grill – The New Kid On the Block

This month we visited one of Old Town’s newest restaurants, Mackie’s Bar & Grill at 907 King Street. Located in the space that housed Layla’s for the past several years, this is a welcome new addition to the Old Town dining scene. Mackie’s is the dream child of Sang Lee and his wife Susanne Mackie (hence the name). Both Lee and Mackie have been longtime Old Town restaurant patrons and have always thought there was a need for a good “steak house”. Lee says that he wants to concentrate on really good, high quality steaks and everything that making that happen entails. Mackie’s isn’t “officially” open. They have been taking their time serving the public and testing out the menu so that when they open “officially” on December 20th – which happens to be the anniversary of Lee and Mackie’s first date – he wants to make sure he has things right. If the meals we have had there in the interim are any indication of what is to come – they on the right track. The dining room is positioned at the rear of the building and is separated by a heavy glass door from the lively bar space that greets you upon arrival. At first we thought this odd, but after entering the restaurant area we understood how the door helped block the noise of the crowded bar. By having the bar area separate it makes for a nice quiet dining experience with background music conducive to carrying on a conversation. The dining room is long and narrow with about 45 seats, mostly two tops and four tops. It makes for a fairly intimate experience. The black dinner napkins and heavy silverware underscore the masculinity of the room. It is elegant and comfortable at the same time. The…

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Notes from the Publisher

Publisher’s Notes

Well here we are at the end of another year. The end of 2014 means that we have been printing the Old Town Crier for twenty seven years or 324 monthly issues. That is pretty impressive that we never had a business plan or any large investment money or start up money. We paid our first printing bill on a credit card and have made it from there to here. Not to say there have not been some bumps and hard knocks on the road but we never missed an issue. If it were not for the folks who have worked with us as vendors, writers, photographers and so much more, we would have never made it. The people who we most need to thank are those advertisers who, in a few cases, have been with us 27 years every step of the way. To all of our advertisers who have supported us and supported Alexandria, we thank you! Maybe we started here in Old Town, but today the Old Town Crier is a regional magazine entertaining people in three states and even the Caribbean. To those of you who have never been to Alexandria, I invite you to come and visit our quaint but alive and kicking town. December 6th marks the annual Scottish Christmas Walk and boat parade of lights. This is an exciting time to be in Alexandria. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season…and thanks again to all of our family and friends! Written by: Bob Tagert

Social Media Message

December Greetings and Marketing Words of Wisdom

Last month I wrote about the importance of giving thanks to your customers, family, and friends. This month I want to discuss the importance of inspirations and beliefs. When it comes to marketing, the key to any successful campaign is to truly believe in the product or service that you are providing. When you believe in the product or service, only then can you find the inspiration needed to turn naysayers into believers. As 2014 comes to a close I hope that the following words of wisdom will guide you and bring about a successful 2015!   It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.  – Theodore Roosevelt, April 1910 Written by: Laura P. Parker Laura P. Parker is a full-time freelance writer and marketing guru. For more marketing tips or consultation advice please contact her at

Personality Profile

Frank Solivan: Musician, Husband, Hunter, and Fisherman

As I sat down to begin writing this month’s personality profile, I sat for a long time without typing. I found myself remembering my conversation with Frank Solivan and I promptly became stumped wondering where do you begin when one man has done so much? How do you begin to give life to a man who can disappear behind a musical instrument while simultaneously grabbing the attention of everyone in the room with just one, single note? After a few moments I realized that this month’s personality profile would not be told with the usual timeline approach; instead, small anecdotes will be used to give you a sense of the amazing person that is known as Frank Solivan. An Alaskan Adventure Ends in Love When Frank turned 18 he decided to drive from his California hometown to Alaska. His friend Ginger Boatwright, a fellow musician, had invited him to play in a band. In typical Frank fashion, he jumped at the idea to share his music with the world or in this case Alaskan society. His time in Alaska was spent hunting, fishing, playing music, working with Ginger’s husband, and eventually meeting his lovely wife at the tender age of 21. When Frank was 22 he attended an Alaskan Folk Festival, where the fates intervened to give him his first interaction with the love of his life, Leah. As the fates would have it, another year would pass before Frank would meet his future wife again. The following year he once more traveled to the same folk festival. As he puts it, “I went back, we hit it off, and the next thing you know we were falling in love. She was a preschool teacher and owned an artisan shop called Rock, Paper, Scissors.” Leah quickly became an integral part…

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Grapevine & Vintner Profile, Wining & Dining

Granite Heights Winery: A True Labor of Love

Located on a 225 acre farm in Fauquier County, Granite Heights Winery specializes in small batch wine production, honey from the farm’s own beehives and exceptional jams from its’ orchard. Owners Luke and Toni Kilyk believe that their homegrown products and handcrafted wines reflect the personal care and devotion they have put into the winery every step of the way. The Kilyks, each of whom has a full time profession, are not only the owners, they are also the winemakers and do most of the vineyard and farm work themselves. According to Toni, “You would be amazed at what two people can accomplish when they are in love with what they do.” With the help of renowned viticulturist Lucie Morton and the philosophy that great wine is grown in the vineyard, the Kilyks have developed a vineyard tailored to the production of high quality wines. The winery has 10 acres of high density plantings with 2000 vines per acre, including Chardonnay, Barbera, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Vermentino. What distinguishes Granite Heights is the effort the owners put into choosing the type of vines (French clones) to plant, the planting system to use and the high end grape/wine processing equipment they chose. The determination to put quality ahead of everything else has allowed them to make the exceptional wines they have been producing since 2008. The Granite Heights Tasting Room is in a 100-year old farmhouse that has the original, gorgeous heart of pine floors and a large porch overlooking a tranquil pond with a view of the vineyards beyond. Each room in the farmhouse has been decorated with a particular theme in mind, great for small private parties. Granite Heights estate wines include 2010 and 201l GH Humility and 2010 Barbelo, which have received favorable reviews…

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From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, To the Blue Ridge

Christmas Trees – Real or Artificial?

Real or fake? This year, we’ll put up a small artificial tree for Christmas. Part of me cringes internally, remembering Mom’s scathing comments about fake trees and the kind of people who had them when we were growing up. Nice people didn’t use those tawdry things; they put up real trees that the family went out and chose; a nice big ceiling-height fresh one. We got our tree as late in the month as possible and it never went up beforeDecember 20th. We even had a few live ones with root balls way before tree hugging was fashionable, and those pretty pines now grace the front yards of two of the houses we lived in when I was a child.  As a young adult living on my own, I continued to use real trees, often ones I cut from an abundance of scrub pines and cedars from the farm where I lived. December trail riding was often a scoping trip to find the perfect tree for me and several friends. No Christmas tree story of mine would be complete without confessing the story of trying to drag one home on horseback. We chopped it down with an ax carried in my saddle bag, and I tied a drag rope to the trunk and attached it to the saddle D-rings for the short jog home. Conditions were perfect: there was snow on the ground and the tree slid along, perhaps too quietly at first. The horse, a young half broke 3 year old colt, barely noticed it, and I mounted him and set off. But it slid into his hocks down a slight incline and he panicked, exploding into a rodeo-worthy bucking frenzy, convinced a lion had him by the back legs. I was unceremoniously dumped as he bolted at a…

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Caribbean Connection, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

Enchanting St. Thomas

Though it’s only 32 square miles in size, St. Thomas has a million miles worth of things to do. Go shopping and sailing, snorkeling and sightseeing, or diving and dining. Enjoy the island’s world-renowned golf course, picture-perfect beaches and spectacular nightlife. Take the Skyride 700 feet above the city or climb the famous 99 Steps of Charlotte Amalie for an incomparable view of the Caribbean. And if you’re interested in culture and history, don’t miss seeing the second-oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, the 1680-built Fort Christian or the childhood home of Camille Pissarro, one of the best-known French Impressionists. St. Thomas’s history and culture alone are worth a visit to the island. Fort Christian, a U.S. National Landmark, is the oldest standing structure in the Virgin Islands and home to the Virgin Islands Museum, where early island memorabilia and old maps trace the islands’ history. Market Square, a bustling produce marketplace, was once one of the West Indies’ busiest 18th-century slave markets. Also of interest is the Synagogue of Beracha Veshalom Vegmiluth Hasidim, the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the United States. On nearby Government Hill, looming over Charlotte Amalie, stands Blackbeard’s Castle. Known during colonial times as Skytsborg, this 17th-century fortified tower also serves as a popular restaurant and hotel. Located in the hills not far from the heart of Charlotte Amalie, Government House has been the center of government in St. Thomas since the mid-1860s. Visitors interested in seeing St. Thomas’s political life may tour the building’s first two floors. The 99 Steps, made by bricks that were once used as ballast on Danish and British ships, were built into the hillside to keep the orderly grid of the city intact. Whether indulging in some of the world’s prettiest beaches, re-discovering history at museums, forts or historic…

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Sex and the Civil War

CIVIL DISCOURSE, DECEMBER 1864 L.P. Hartley once wrote: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” And so it is with the Civil War and American sexual morality during the 1860’s. Things we outlaw, they tolerated. Things we tolerate, they regarded as monstrous crimes. Start with the notion that Americans in the Victorian age were prudes. Not so, unless one is willing to overlook the large families of that age. Domestic terrorist John Brown managed to sire twenty children before Virginia broke his neck on the gallows for trying to start a national slave revolt. Thomas P. Lowery relates in his The Story the Soldiers Wouldn’t Tell: Sex in the Civil War an incident occurring in Carlisle, Pennsylvania a few days before Gettysburg. It seems a North Carolina regiment captured a good supply of Yankee whiskey and were soon helping themselves to it. One of the Tar Heels reported “some of the Pennsylvania women, hearing the noise of the revel and the music, dared to come near us. Soon they had formed the center of attention and joined in the spirit of the doings. After much whiskey and dancing, they shed most of their garments and offered us their bottoms. Each took on dozens of us, squealing in delight. For me it was hard come, easy go.” “With malice towards none, with charity for all”, our friendly Pennsylvanians rattle the stereotype of Victorian prudishness… Civil War soldiers, or at least the Yankees, had pornography and dirty books. We know this because the Federal provost marshal complained what a chore it was to have to burn the mountains of the stuff his postmasters intercepted. So, pornography was forbidden, but apparently it was okay to have the government go through your mail. We have all heard of bullets stopped…

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