The Blog Squad

Monday, April 30, 2007

How To Be A Gracious Host

If you were one of the 54 people chosen to greet Queen Elizabeth II when she visits Richmond on May 3, be advised that she isn’t to be treated like a long lost buddy from college — Her Majesty expects a certain level of decorum. So, polish up on your etiquette with these tips from Katherine Barrett Baker, director of The Sabot School of Etiquette:

1: Do not touch the Queen; only shake her hand if she offers her hand first.
2: Don’t talk with your hands — this includes the “thumbs up” gesture, which evidently is considered obscene in many European countries.
3: Don’t speak to the Queen unless she speaks to you first.
4: Address the Queen as “Your Majesty.”
5: Abide by the provided dress code — no jeans or tennis shoes.
6: Don’t stare at the Queen.
7: Keep your hands out of your pockets.

And whatever you do, don’t shout, “How’s that 400-year-old humble pie taste, Queenie?”

Friday, April 27, 2007

Is This Thing On?

Jim Gilmore yesterday declared his candidacy for President of the United States.

Cue the crickets.

Gilmore made the announcement in front of 40 people at the GOP headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa, several less than showed up for my preschooler's Circus Day.

If you tried to find the story on AP this morning, you'd have to navigate past Richard Gere downplaying the kiss and the passing of the guy who sang "Monster Mash." Even the Times-Dispatch buried it on the bottom corner of the Metro Section front page. Can you imagine where that story would have played if it had been George Allen or Mark Warner running? Let's face it. With less than $200,000 raised, zero name recognition and very little charisma, Jim Gilmore is to long shots what the Grand Canyon is to big.

Janet Giampietro

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Makeovers and Mojitos: What else could a girl want?

Still wearing the same makeup shades you wore all winter? To get a fresh new look, grab your gal pals and head to Wack (305 N. Robinson) on Thursday, April 26, where you’ll find Mint, a free Girls’ Night Out Open House, between 7 to 9 p.m. Makeup artists will be offering makeovers and providing tips with the salon’s featured cosmetic line, TIGI, and esthetician Amy Faulkner will properly prep the skin beforehand.

Other pampering procedures such as skincare consultations will also be available. And it wouldn’t be a night out without refreshments, would it? While you’re chatting up your friends you can sip mojitos and sample sushi from Sticky Rice.

Wack, which has been open for about six months, offers special girls’ nights out quarterly and men’s spa nights twice a year. On May 13 look for the men’s Tune Up Night. In addition to skin treatments, there will be a beer tasting, an exotic car on-site and other guy-focused fun. Call 377-WACK for more information.

Crafty Classes at House of Lukaya

When you browse through high-end boutiques, do you ever wish those luxurious, scented soy candles were a little more affordable? Well, you can learn to make your own starting today at House of Lukaya when Ernest Barnes of Fragrant Soy Products begins teaching classes on candle-making. The classes, Wednesdays and Sundays from 7 to 9 p.m., cost $20 and you’re guaranteed to leave with a 16-ounce candle. If you want to make more than one, it’s an additional $10 per candle.

Since Lucretia Jones opened her shop, which carries handmade goods spanning art, apparel, jewelry and bath products earlier this year, she’s been focusing on using her space for more than just retail. She teaches private knitting lessons and soon other teachers will be offering crocheting lessons and sewing classes. “I’m going to be adding more classes as soon as teachers show themselves,” she adds.

The candle-making classes will continue as long as there is interest. Call before you come — 377-3380 — so Barnes can make sure there are enough materials on hand.

Saddle Up: Horses in Children's Literature

In one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes, Jerry upsets his distant cousin, Manya, when he says that he hates anyone who had a pony when they were growing up. As it turns out, Manya and all of her friends had ponies growing up in Poland. Jerry quickly changes his tune: “Who wouldn't love a pony? Who wouldn't love a person that had a pony?” And he’s right. Who doesn’t love ponies? Or horses of any kind, for that matter?

If you didn’t have a pony as a child and you don’t hold as much animosity about it as Jerry did, check out the “Saddle Up: Horses in Children’s Literature” exhibit beginning next week. The exhibit will showcase horse books from the Richmond Public Library’s Martha Orr Davenport rare book collection and original art, books, and horse memorabilia on loan from private collectors. A public reception tonight from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Martha Orr Davenport Special Collections Room kicks things off, but the exhibit runs through May 30. This is the perfect opportunity to introduce children to the grandeur that is the Library of Virginia. Opportunities for viewing “Saddle Up: Horses in Children’s Literature” include Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Richmond Main Library, 101 E. Franklin St.

In other art news, check out “Visions of a Dream: The Chicago Freedom Movement” photography exhibit in the James Center Atrium, 1051 E. Cary St. Photographer Bernard J. Kleina’s images, brought to Richmond by Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, depict the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, focusing on the issue of housing in Chicago. The exhibit through April 28.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Jamestown Jam

When the Queen of England visits Jamestown next month, I have no doubt the place will be ready for her. Muskets raised! Cannons loaded! Toilets agleam! Yes, without question Jamestown is ready for the Queen. But is it ready for you and me? Um, not so much.

Last week, the family took a little Spring Break day trip to the Jamestown Settlement and Historic Jamestowne site. It started with a scenic drive down Route 10 — "Kids, look at the factories!" — and then the windy but fun trip on the Jamestown Ferry.

The niggling annoyances started immediately. The signage pointing the way to the Settlement and other points of interest didn't explicitly point to the parking, so it was a matter of just following the stream of cars. OK. Let's ask. There was a gentleman pointing the way into the parking lot. "Do we park here for the visitor's center? Is this where the Settlement is?" Reply: "That's up the road a bit, I believe." (Later, I would realize he was confusing the Settlement with the Historic Jamestowne site, which is not connected with the Jamestown Settlement.) Not good. We wove our way through the jam-packed parking lot with no success in finding a spot. Turning down one parking row we found ourselves at a dead end where only delivery trucks were permitted and had to do a tight u-turn to get out. We left the lot and followed the other stream of cars going into what was clearly becoming default overflow parking. We were directed into an adjacent muddy field with a sign marked "No Motor Vehicles."

Once in the lavish visitor's center, the first stop was the restroom. The tops of the sinks were not just wet but held an actual layer of water, and the paper towels were gone. (When I would visit again several hours later, after the trash had obviously been cleared, the paper towels were gone still, or perhaps again.) Coming out of the bathroom we joined my husband, who was having trouble getting his tickets. The cashier had first incorrectly rung him up for combination tickets with the Yorktown Victory Center. Then, in trying to correct her mistake, she couldn't make the computer system void the transaction.

Once in the Indian village, the experience took a turn for the better, but you still wondered with this many people here just on spring break, what will it be like when the serious (anticipated) crowds start showing up. The three replica ships — most especially the Susan Constant — were very crowded to navigate, especially up and down the steep steps to the deck below. Guides were having to remind children to stay with their parents. And though there are plenty of interpreters, you don't see employees just strolling around ready to offer assistance or answer a question. All I can say is, I'm glad we didn't do the trip in the summer.

The Historic Jamestowne site, which is part of the National Parks Service, is a much more relaxed experience. Of course, there isn't nearly as much to actually do or see. But the natural beauty of the place is undeniable, with the James coursing wildly beside you (as I said, it was very windy) you can get a real feel for the actual settlement. There was digging and sifting going on at the site of the fort, which I'd never seen before, and even the kids enjoyed the archaearium, which houses many of the artifacts they have uncovered. In tandem, these two places can work wonderfully together. Having gotten an idea at the Jamestown Settlement for the structures and the spaces and the things they housed and then standing on the actual ground was a powerful experience. If only the folks over at the Jamestown Settlement can pull it together from an organizational and logistical standpoint, then maybe all visitors this summer can get the royal treatment.

—Janet Giampietro

Friday, April 06, 2007

Break Out Yer Bonnets

People are quick to say that Richmond never changes. That we are stuck in the past, or stuck in our ways, or just plain stuck. It’s a bad rap we hang on ourselves -- one which is mostly false.

But there is one thing I am happy to say never changes -- ever -- and you can experience it on Sunday. Easter on Parade, the Monument Avenue festival which puts a neat little spin on traditional parades. There are no floats or marching bands, it’s just us -- 35,000 of us -- who are the parade, strolling back and forth from Allen to Davis in our Easter finery. Or in flip flops and cut-offs. Or in full goth gear. Or in drag. It all works.

There are the vendors of food and merchandise of every sort, a petting zoo, pictures with the Easter Bunny, face painting, giant inflatable slides and $5 lemonades. And Jonathan the Juggler, of course, the second most central figure to my Easters behind Jesus Christ.

And the hats. Oh, the hats. There is a bonnet contest which brings out the dormant insanity of Richmonders. There is even a pet bonnet contest which drives people to all sorts of extremes. A couple of years ago, a friend and I approached a woman and a little dog who had some kind of antlers or antennas on its head, with no visible strap. “How is it on there?” my friend asked. “Oh, I just used a glue gun,” the woman replied.

One change, though, this year is the introduction of a "title" sponsor -- First Market Bank. Does that mean a giant inflatable moon bounce shaped like an ATM? A separate prize in the bonnet contest for the best hat made entirely out of Ukrop’s grocery bags? Free cotton candy with opening of a checking account? I certainly hope not and I suspect that the Ukrops know a good Richmond thing when they see it. I doubt they’ll fuss with it at all.

Easter on Parade is truly when Richmonders come out to see and be seen. If you’re lucky enough to have a friend with a Monument Avenue address (or wealthy enough to have a Monument Avenue address) you can party all day from the front porch and watch the action go by. If you don’t see at least 10 friends and 10 people you’d rather avoid, you probably haven’t lived here very long.

Why am I telling you what you most likely already know? Because for as many people as I see each year at the parade, it astounds me how many Richmonders have never been to Easter on Parade. If you want a true sense of the spirit of this town, you must get to Monument Avenue on Sunday. Happily, some things never change.—Janet Giampietro