Flashback Friday: Miyajima Island




Wild deer in front of the famous floating Torii Gate

This post is a flashback to when Sean and I went from Okinawa to Iwakuni on mainland Japan. Sean had to attend a meeting up there and I tagged along to get a little taste of maple leaves, cold weather, good eating, and deer… so perfect to put us in the holiday spirit.



We took a short excursion one day to Miyajima Island, aka the Shrine Island, a convenient 10 minute ferry ride from the mainland. There we saw plenty of wild deer roving the streets, shrines and temples, and beautiful views of changing foliage.

In addition to these scenic buildings and spots, Miyajima also has charming narrow winding streets and a downtown square area with lots of food vendors and shops selling local specialties. There’s lots more to say about this trip to Iwakuni and Miyajima, including some pictures of wonderful local food we ate while we were there.



A Visit to Great Falls


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One of the most popular hiking spots in Northern Va is Great Falls. There is usually a long line of cars going into the park and it requires some exercise of  patience while waiting to enter.

It’s often packed on the trails too, but why wouldn’t it be? The scenery is really pretty… especially this time of year.



Five Favorites


 (I have titled this picture “Ears”… Sean and Quinn on a drive out to the country)

As we headed into mid-October, the weather turned cooler and there were some cozy rainy days and a few nice drives out to the country. Of course, this weather also makes me want to eat! Here are my favorites from the past week…


 (Croque Monsier and frites from Cock and Bowl in Occoquan, VA)


(Impatient doggie waiting for us on our morning walk)


(Spontaneous after dinner dessert crepe one night at Clifton Cafe)


(An afternoon spent at Great Falls, Va)

Rainy Day in Middleburg



“Brilliant! I don’t know what’s more beautiful… the man or the dog!”

As I was taking this photograph of Sean and Quinn, an older eccentric woman walked by and said this to us. We didn’t quite know how to take it.

The woman reminded me of a crazy lady I saw once in Texas who brought her dog inside a grocery store. She looked very glamourous from the back wearing a full-length fur coat. But from the front, her face was completely smeared with lipstick. The store manager kept trying to get her and the dog out of the store, but she just kept saying, “I don’t know what the problem is… he just wants to run everywhere.”

Coincidentally, the woman we saw in Middleburg on this day was also wearing a fur vest, but the lipstick was perfectly within the normal bounds on her face. I think she was giving us a compliment.

It would make sense that a resident of Middleburg would appreciate a handsome dog. This little town is the heart of Virginia Hunt Country, and lots of things here revolve around the hounds. During the annual Christmas parade, the hounds walk down the street in a straight line as people cheer them on. ( an event I can’t wrap my head around since I can’t ever imagine Quinn being so well-behaved)


We visited Middleburg one rainy day last week after I saw the video of the hounds in the Christmas parade.

This small town has one main street filled with boutiques, taverns, and a butcher that sells bacon maple donuts. Of course, it was pretty this time of year with all the colors of changing leaves. The town is very doggie friendly as well and several of the cafes (Coffee Grounds and Red Fox Inn) have outdoor patios where you can sit with your furry friend. Unfortunately, it was rainy while we were there, so we didn’t stop anywhere for a drink or bite.   

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To get to Middleburg from the DC area, head first to historic Leesburg. Then go south on highway 15 and west on Highway 50. We went a bit too far on the 15 and ended up taking some pretty back country scenic roads. If that happens to you, don’t worry. You’ll see all kinds of pretty old stone fences in the Virginia countryside.  



Noche IberoAmericana at the Mexican Cultural Institute



A few weeks ago, Sean and I attended the Noche Ibero-Americana event at the Mexican Culture Institute in DC.

This event featured food, drinks, and music from 18 different Spanish speaking countries. We sampled tasty cuisine from Peru, Spain, and El Salvador. There was cava from Spain, pisco sours from Peru. mojitos from Cuba, and cerveza from Honduras. The entertainment included musicians from Peru and Uruguay.

This was a really fun night, but my favorite part was touring the beautiful historic building with Diego Rivera replica murals on the walls, crystal chandeliers, and a gorgeous wooden carved staircase.







The musicians from Uruguay were part-vaudeville, melodramatic, old-time singers. They chose several women from the crowd and serenaded with so much emotion. Look at those facial expressions! If I’m honest, I would’ve been flattered if they had chosen me!

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Finally, this guy was not a musician at all, but one of the attendees that night. He was posing for his girlfriend, and his picture was so cute that I couldn’t resist snapping him too.

This night reminded me of all my lovely experiences I had during my youth as an exchange student and traveler in Mexico. It makes me upset to watch the news nowadays or talk with people from there and hear all the negative stories about how life has become so stressful and dangerous. I’ll always try to remember the good times in my mind.


Mt Vernon Wine Festival


Each fall, Mt Vernon hosts a wine festival featuring a dozen regional wineries. Attendees can rent tables or spread out a blanket on the lawn in front of George Washington’s home facing the Potomac.


They offer tours of the estate, including Washington’s wine cellar.

This was one of the first very chilly nights of this fall, and I froze my butt off. But it was fun!

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George and Martha Washington themselves were on hand to take photographs with the guests.

I wonder how many philosophical discussions took place in this very spot all those years ago…

It’s great that Mt Vernon is a national treasure that we can still enjoy today.

Del Rey Art on the Avenue


Every year we look forward to going to the Art on the Avenue street festival in Del Ray.

I went on a lark 4 years ago by myself for a scammy writing gig that I NEVER got paid for, but I’ve been hooked on the festival ever since.

It’s usually held at the beginning of October, and there’s always a pie baking contest, artisans from around the region, kettle corn and cider donuts, and fun people watching.

Last year, we admired a local artist who features animals in his prints and we fell for one picture in particular with black cats AND black labs. The print said, “Black animals are the chocolate chips of life” and there were all these tiny black labs and cats getting poured into a mixing bowl of cookie batter. For some unknown reason, though, we didn’t buy it last year and lived with regret ever since.

We were so excited to find that artist and buy that picture, but sadly, he did NOT have a stall this year!


I guess it just wasn’t meant to be…

Anyway, we still had a nice time strolling up and down the avenue and basking in all the autumn colors.

We discovered an outdoor Biergarden, which we have resolved to try out one of these evenings.

Also, we finally ate at Holy Cow Burger. The line is usually out of the door, and this day was no exception, but we were set on it.


We got the jalapeno popper burger, which had a layer of cream cheese, spicy ketchup, and a fried jalapeno on it. We’re totally recreating this one at home!


One of the things I love about Del Rey is that it’s kind of funky, like this bike shop that has a skeleton riding a bike on its roof.


Del Rey is also very doggie friendly as there are many restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating. We didn’t take Quinn along this time because crowds freak him out a little bit.

But that’s okay, because I got kind of obsessed with these little guys. I imagine that’s what Quinn must have looked like as a tiny puppy.




I had planned to enter the pie baking contest this year, but flaked out completely. I still had to go check out what would have been my competition. I had planned to make an apple pie, and of course there was no shortage of apple pies.


I was especially interested in this one because of the name “Orange is the new apple” since I like the show so much.



Overall, it was a great day again in Del Rey.

Until next year, Art on the Avenue!