middleburg life

A Look Back at the 2018 International Gold Cup

Photos by John Scott Nelson Photography

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these riders from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. While the International Gold Cup like the United States Postal Service has no official motto, the die hard Gold Cup fans could steal the postal workers motto for this October’s event.

Despite the not so cheery weather, fans donned their best hats and put on their smiling faces to brave the damp weather and enjoy what turned out to be an exciting day at Great Meadows on Saturday, Oct. 27.The lush green grass was a bit wet and made for some muddy boots, but the steeplechase races went on and the horses didn’t seem to mind. The day didn’t go to the dogs. However, the entertaining Terrier Races in the paddock did start the day and grabbed everyone’s attention. 

This article first appeared in the December 2018 Issue of Middleburg Life.

 

Hanging History: The Official White House Christmas Ornaments

Story by Kaitlin Hill | Photos by Randy Litzinger

The tradition of decorating Christmas trees can often turn into a walk down memory lane, with each ornament acting as a ghost of Christmases past. Since ornaments are often given as gifts, the markers of special occasions or, sometimes embarrassing, reminders of now-grown children’s elementary artistic pursuits, they hold their own unique histories and serve as jolly juggernauts of nostalgia. Add string lights, weaving ribbon or twinkling tinsel, and the finished fir can tell the intimate story of a family, a new couple or a set of lifelong friends.

As Americans, our shared history is boldly and beautifully told across the country, and right here in Middleburg, on towering trees and magnificent mantels that are bedecked in Official White House Christmas Ornaments. For local Nancy Novak McMahon, the ornaments are both patriotic and personal. She orders multiples each year and has the entire collection—all 37—which she displays every Christmas. She received her first as a gift from a co-worker after moving to Virginia from Chicago.

The first White House Christmas Ornament, a two-dimensional golden angel with outstretched wings and a festive horn, was released in 1981. It bears a simple inscription, “Christmas 1981. The White House.”

“I had a new co-worker who, the first Christmas that we worked together, as a kind of welcome to the Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C. area, gave me the White House Christmas Ornament, which I had never even known existed.” She continues, “I just thought it was the neatest thing and every year for eight or ten years, she always gave me an ornament as my Christmas present.” To Nancy, the ornament is special because of its ties to the Washington region and friends she made while living here.

Even since moving to Middleburg, McMahon carries on ritual by buying one for herself, and giving them as gifts, too. She even sends two as far as Holland, one to a close friend and the other to her friend’s in-laws, who recently downsized.

The White House Historical Association’s 2018 White House Christmas Ornament honors President Harry S. Truman. This ornament is designed to illustrate three significant changes made by him during his administration, one to the Presidential Seal, and two to the White House itself.

“They let me know, the ornaments made the cut…the [current] ornament is still up every year and has a place of honor in their new apartment.” They watch for McMahon’s package with the newly released ornament each year. She laughs, “It’s quite the tradition.”The ornaments started as part of an outreach initiative by the White House Historical Association (WHHA). Founded by Jacqueline Kennedy in 1961, the non-profit and purposefully non-partisan association was created as a means to educate Americans about the rich history of the White House. Twenty years and six presidents later, including her husband Ronald, former first lady Nancy Reagan launched the White House Ornaments as a continuation of Kennedy’s focus on historical preservation and education.

The first ornament was released in 1981, a two-dimensional golden angel with outstretched wings and a festive horn. It bears a simple inscription, “Christmas 1981. The White House.” Over the years, the ornaments became more elaborate, including colors, three-dimensional designs and even moving pieces.

In 1984, the fourth ornament is the first to depict a president’s face. Thomas Jefferson sits regally in a circle of gold, called “Jefferson’s Medal of Peace.” And in 1987, the first touches of color are added—evergreen wreaths with Christmas red ribbons adorn the “White House Doors.” The 1999 Lincoln-inspired collectible is a golden book inlaid with a pensive looking Honest Abe that even opens. The portrait was painted by George Healy and still hangs in the State Dining Room.

The 2007 White House Christmas ornament honors the first administration of President Grover Cleveland.

Not only do these annually revealed Christmas treasures showcase specific presidents, but they also capture moments in time and executive mansion memories that may have been forgotten. The 2016 edition is a gleaming red and gold miniature representation of the fire trucks that responded to the 1929 Christmas Eve blaze at the White House during a children’s gathering. Herbert Hoover, who was president at the time, invited the same children back the following year and presented them all with toy versions of the red engine as a keepsake.Each year, a new designer is selected to conceptualize the ornament. Stewart McLaurin, president of the White House Historical Association says, “Over the years we have used various sources of design. We have had a competition among professional designers, a competition among design school students and we have used the design team at the manufacturer of our ornaments in Rhode Island.” He adds, “From time to time we even receive an unsolicited design.”

The process of choosing a design is collaborative. “We talk it through as a staff and with members of our board of directors and react to several designs,” McLaurin said. Sometimes the WHHA even asks artists to team up. “Occasionally, we will like a couple things from one design and a couple of things from another design and we will ask those designers to work together.”

As for selecting which president to feature each year, that decision was made long ago. “Fortunately for us, back in the Reagan administration when the idea was first presented to Mrs. Reagan to do a Christmas ornament, the decision was made then that we would feature a different president each year and we would do it sequentially.” He continues, “It started with Washington and we have now worked our way up to Harry Truman. That takes the politics out of it, that takes any favoritism out of it when we know that the next year, it’s the next president.”

The 2003 White House Christmas Ornament honors President Ulysses S. Grant and his family.

As McLaurin mentioned, 2018’s ornament honors Harry S. Truman, and highlights the renovations he made to the White House while in office. The front of this delicate white and gold ornament features the Truman Balcony added between 1947 and 1948. On the flipside, you’ll find The Blue Room, complete with an extravagantly decorated Christmas tree. Perhaps the most significant of Truman-era changes is seen in the Presidential Seal. Prior to Truman’s presidency, the American eagle’s gaze focused on instruments of war clutched in his left talon. Truman shifted the eagle’s focus to its right talon, which grasp olive branches of peace.Once a concept is selected, ChemArt, a veteran-owned small business—the same manufacturer that has produced every ornament from the start—is trusted to bring the vision to life. McLaurin says, “They have worked with us since the ornament started. They know us. They know the ornaments.”

Customers know the ornaments, too. And as McLaurin tells it, collectors are often eager to purchase the next in line. “There is a big excitement about what the ornament is going to be.” He adds, “Once you start collecting, you have the one the next year. Even more than that, once you start giving them as gifts, the recipient expects to receive one next year.”  Tracking down the ornaments is easily done, and if you happen to miss a year, don’t worry. The entire collection is available for order on the White House Historical Association’s website; shop.whitehousehistory.org.

The Christmas Sleigh in Middleburg is one of the only shops in Virginia to carry the entire collection. “We are the largest supplier of this ornament in Virginia. We carry the entire series and we have them in stock all the time,” said Linda Tripp Rausch, who owns the Christmas Sleigh with her husband, Dieter Rausch. They are one of the store’s most popular sellers, and it is not difficult to understand why. In fact, the store had to reorder before Thanksgiving. “People are getting something that is unique, it’s historic, it’s a collectible and the proceeds go to a cause,” McLaurin said.

Their philanthropic nature reflects the holiday season’s focus on giving, but moreover, the ornaments themselves are manifestations of the true American spirit. A spirit that is undeniably patriotic, built by veterans and loved by both sides of the aisle. They speak to the class, elegance and majesty associated with the White House, and remind us of those who have come before us to make this Christmas, and those that follow, possible.

 

Lighting up the Night for All to See

Photos by Randy Litzinger

Joyce Mullins, owner of Mullwyck Manor in Upperville, Virginia, shares her love of Christmas with her friends, her family and even strangers. Joyce graciously offered her home, Mullwyck Manor, as the backdrop for this month’s cover shot. Although her home already featured three Christmas trees and decorations in every room, she offered her den as the backdrop for our Hunt Country Christmas tree which was designed and decorated by Linda Tripp Rausch and Diane Spreadbury of the Christmas Sleigh in Middleburg.The Christmas tree features two complete sets of collectible White House Ornaments, a nod to our nation’s history and our close proximity to Washington, D.C. However, what’s under the tree makes it distinctly Hunt Country. Look closely. The hostess went room to room and gathered her personal treasures to help get that perfect Hunt Country feel. She even added two of her own wrapped gifts alongside the beautifully decorated ones Linda designed and brought for the shoot.

Mullins, along with her son, Rick, creates her own spectacular decoration display that takes a week to put up and tear down for friends, neighbors and strangers to enjoy each year. Most notably, Rick decorates their pond every Christmas with dazzling lights that can be seen from the road. She gives him full creative liberty with the pond. “He just goes wild,” she says.Each year, the Christmas light elf tries to up the ante as he knows passersby are excited to see the latest installment. “It’s to make people smile as they go to and from work. Even when I am putting it up, they beep and wave. They expect it.”

If you happen to drive through Upperville as the sun goes down, be sure to keep an eye out for Mullwyck Manor. This seasonal spectacle is one of the community’s favorite traditions and is not to be missed.

 

This article first appeared in the December 2018 issue of Middleburg Life.

Meet Middleburg: Punkin Lee, Leather Goods Designer

Story and photo by Kerry Phelps Dale

She’s as Middleburg as they come. Punkin Lee has lived all but a few years of her life in the Middleburg community. After graduating Hill School, she lived away from her hometown only to attend high school at St. Catherine’s in Richmond followed by two years at Centenary University in New Jersey, then graduating college at Florida State University.

As a child she always had horses of her own. “I had two ponies to take care of before I went to school. I would ride one before school and when I’d come home I’d ride the other one.”

“We would ride all weekend, riding wherever,” says Punkin about the way she and her friends spent their spare time. “We would ride over to somebody’s house, pick up somebody else, ride into town. You didn’t come down the road, you would just cut through farms.”

“When I was home from high school and college, I’d ride a horse during my lunch break and jump in with the hunt and then drop out and go back to work,” recalls Punkin who also fox hunted and showed horses. Clearly, the town has changed over the years, “It’s gotten bigger and busier.” But the reason Punkin has made Middleburg her lifelong home is the one thing that’s remained the same. “Community. It’s a great place to live if you get involved in things.”

Punkin’s involvement in Middleburg has centered around keeping it healthy for businesses and residents while preserving the history and heritage that make Middleburg so unique. Volunteering as the Middleburg Business and Professional Association president, serving on town landscape and Historic District Review committees, and whatever else comes up in the community, keeps her busy when she’s not at Journeymen Saddlers on Madison Street.

While most people have jumped around from one job to another throughout their careers, Punkin leaves the jumping to her customers. She has owned and operated her shop that specializes in custom riding chaps and belts with finished needlepoint, and repairs to saddles, boots, tack and strap goods for 41 years. Her staying power is matched closely by the majority of her colleagues, most of whom have been with Journeymen Saddlers since the beginning years.

In her shop, there are leather goods everywhere—bridles and halters lie in heaps on the floor, rolled hides stand at the ready in different departments, saddles rest on stands, chaps hang on hooks, boots set on the floor, dog collars are displayed on a board. The intoxicating smell of leather hangs in the air and its soft feel is always within reach.

Leather is organic, artistic, practical and magical in its possibilities. “You take half a hide and you create. You cut it, you strip it,” says Punkin. “And then it’s something,” At Journeymen, that something is beautiful, functional and of the highest quality. The store’s reputation draws people from afar and keeps customers coming back year after year. The professionals, the really good horsemen and women, make up the bulk of Punkin’s business, but the weekend horse riders appreciate the craftsmanship of her workshop, too.

A customer came in the shop and wanted to order custom chaps for her very tall boyfriend who was to stop by later to be measured last month. She handled a chain of leather samples of every color and finish imaginable, her fingers ran over the smoothness of the squares. “These are so cool,” she said as she flipped through the selection over and over again.

Leather repair and custom repair work require a pair of human hands. Little of the work can be accomplished by a machine alone, though the treadle sewing machine in the corner is an indispensable tool. Like many trades, there aren’t many young people interested in learning leather work. “We’d like to continue as long as we’re healthy,” says Punkin of herself and her employees. “What else are you going to do? I’m not a sitter.”

Not a sitter at all, Punkin runs regularly. “We run on Landmark (School Road) a lot, eight miles to the Y and back, 17 hills,” she added. “But, who’s counting, right?” She and her group of women friends have been running together for more than 20 years and have completed an Ultra Marathon, a marathon, several half marathons and countless shorter races. She said they always run as a group and have picked out a marathon to run next fall in Nags Head, North Carolina. “If we’re going to do one, go flat. If you train on the hills here, you ought to be able to crank that out on the flat.”

Committed, consistent and hard-working, Punkin is a stayer. A get up and go person who is happy to stay put in Middleburg, a life choice our community is all the better for.

 

This article first appeared in the December 2018 issue of Middleburg Life. 

“Lucky 7” Charity Gala Celebrating Seven Years of Serving Individuals with Special Needs

November 19, 2018 | Courtesy of Sprout Therapeutic Riding and Education Center

Therapeutic Riding and Education Center’s “Lucky 7” Charity Gala and Gaming benefit kicked off the celebration of their “lucky” seventh year of serving individuals with special needs with fun, food, drinks, and a little “gambling”.

The gala was held in the organizations’ barn, complete with twinkling string lights, professional gaming tables with dealers and a farm to table dinner, courtesy of Fields of Athenry Farm and RSVP Catering.A cocktail hour eased guests into the night, featuring beer from Solace Brewing Company and wines by Slater Run Vineyards, both of whom partnered with Sprout on this special anniversary event. A “Big Board”, a fresh take on a silent auction, entertained guests by featuring items to anonymously bid upon. This “interactive” auction added to the excitement and theme of the night as guests could take their pick from any auction item listed on The Big Board, ranging from designer silk scarves, spa treatments, personal chef dinners, weekend getaways and more.Executive Director, Brooke Waldron, delivered an inspiring speech about the importance of serving others through the power of horses. With not a dry eye in the house, Sprout students arrived in the arena, accompanied by their trust four-legged friends and Sprout instructors for the “Sponsor a Horse” portion of the evening. With warmth and love in their hearts, guests generously bid to sponsor a therapy horse for an entire room – resulting in ALL seventeen of the horses being sponsored!With the generous support of the event sponsors of Sue Fitzgerald and Associates, Newstead Farm, Alison Robitaille and Family, TriSept Corporation Northwest Credit Union and many others, the “Lucky 7” gala was a huge success.Event Chair, Kristin Quinn, and her committee worked to make the gala a night to remember, and their efforts did not go unnoticed, as Founder and Executive Director Brooke Waldron revealed following the charity gala that support from all those who attended raised over $300,000. Save the date for next year as it’s sure to be a “don’t want to miss event!”

 

 

Veramar Vineyard Offers Enhanced Tasting Program

by Brian Yost

There is something a little different going on just across the mountains in the Shenandoah Valley. Veramar Vineyard has initiated what it calls an “enhanced tasting.” They’re still doing a standard public tasting, but also have instituted a program that takes a deeper dive into some of their best wines in a guided, small-group setting.

If you’re unfamiliar with Veramar Vineyard, the Bogaty family owns it along with Bogati Bodega in Round Hill and James Charles Winery and Vineyard a little further west in Winchester. In addition to producing wine, James Charles and Bogati winemaker Justin Bogaty also does custom crush for a handful of other Virginia wineries. The quality of the family’s wine is highly regarded throughout the Commonwealth.

I was invited to the first of these tastings in March, so I arrived at the appointed time and waited in the tasting room for the rest of the group to assemble. The small groups are limit- ed to a maximum of eight people. After everyone arrived, we were ushered into a private tasting room just off the main public space.


Once inside, we were seated at a tasting bar. At each seat there were a pair of wine glasses and a plate of excellent Charcuterie. Behind the bar was Tom Donegan, Veramar’s wine specialist, who conducts many of the winery’s special events. Posted on the wall behind him was a board listing the four wines that comprised the day’s tasting.

I love the format. There are other wineries in the Commonwealth that do food and wine pairings, but they’re done either as a part of the regular tasting or as special events conducted for the wine club. To my knowledge, this is the only winery in the state that has a regular food and wine-pairing program that is available on a regular basis for the general public. In addition, these are reserve or club wines that are being poured. In other words, they are Veramar’s premier wines.

After a brief introduction and an explanation of how things would proceed, Tom began to step us through the wines. We started with a Fume Blanc, which is a style of Sauvignon Blanc. Paired with French olives, the wine itself was excellent with bright fruit and perfect balance. It was probably my favorite of the entire event and I took bottles home.

After that great start, we moved on to a Chambourcin dry-style Rosé that was pared with Prosciutto. The acidity of the wine was perfect alongside the saltiness of the cured meat. Then on to a Merlot that had a nose you could get lost in. The red fruit of the wine was expertly paired with a very rich duck rillette. We finished
with the Veramar Rooster Red, which is a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The dark fruit of the blend was featured alongside a won- derful aged Manchego and fig jam.

The formal tasting lasted about a hour. Tom did a great job leading us through the wines and for anyone learning about wine, the pairing format is a great educational opportunity.

I also found a certain sense of camaraderie among the members of our group and I very much enjoyed interacting with them. After the event ended, there was no attempt to shuffle us back out of the room. We were afforded an opportunity to purchase glasses or bottles of wine and there was time to socialize and trade notes with other members of the group.

>If you’re interested in attending one of these sessions, you’ll need to check the Veramar website for times. The enhanced tastings are conducted just a couple Saturdays a month and require an advance reservation. I should also point out that the tasting list will vary from session to session. So it may be possible to attend more than one and taste a different line- up. In any case, I walked away a huge fan of the program and the Veramar wines. I strongly recommend checking it out for yourself.

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On the Hunt… for Everything Mint Julep!

By Summer Stanley

At long last, springtime in Virginia comes breezing in through open windows, riding on the scent of azaleas, magnolias, peonies and honeysuckle, and I find myself craving the kind of southern comfort that most would associate with derby fever. However, for me, Mint Juleps are warm weather refreshments to be enjoyed long after the “run for the roses” is over.

The Mint Julep has been the traditional beverage of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby since 1938 when they started selling the cocktail in signature glasses for 75 cents each. Not surprisingly, it’s also the official cocktail of the Virginia Gold Cup. Virginia, after all, gets some credit for the earliest printed references of Mint Juleps. In his book, Travels of Four Years and a Half in the United States of America, British traveler John Davis mentions drinking them at a Northern Virginia plantation in the early 19th century.

Originally, a Julep was known for being any sweet and syrupy drink, often used as a vehicle for medicine. In the early days, it was likely made with rye whiskey or rum, and it wasn’t until the 20th century that Kentucky, proud of its bourbon, popularized it in the traditional recipe we know today: sugar, water, bourbon, fresh mint leaves and crushed ice.

Though sometimes served in a highball glass or even a pewter stirrup cup, you’ll most often find the drink served in a sterling silver julep cup, which in itself is a symbol of southern hospitality and makes for an appropriate gift on many occasions. The cups can be engraved with monograms or special sentiments, used for floral arrangements and centerpieces, and add instant class to a vanity or desk.

If you’re like me and can’t get enough of all things mint julep, there are plenty of ways to get your fix. I’ll bet on it! 

Where to hunt in Middleburg this weekend:

  •  Goodstone Inn & Restaurant in Middleburg has won many awards for its Virginia fine dining. The Restaurant at Goodstone features state-of-the-art, seasonally inspired cuisine with a farm-to-table emphasis. One of their specialty drinks happens to be the Mint Julep, and they have shared that recipe on their web site so you can create this refreshing cocktail at home, too. (Recipe below)
  • Join Salamander Resort & Spa on the terrace on May 7th from 3-7 pm as they celebrate with a Kentucky Derby event. You can sip Mint Juleps, delight in derby bite size fair, listen to live music, and experience “the most exciting two minutes in sports.” ($20/pp, Mint Julep bar and service bar are a la carte)

Where to hunt for julep cups:

Goodstone’s Mint Julep Specialty Cocktail

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups water

2 cups white sugar

1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves

32 fluid ounces Kentucky bourbon

8 sprigs fresh mint leaves for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

1. Combine water, sugar and chopped mint leaves in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Allow syrup to cool approximately 1 hour. Pour syrup through a strainer to remove mint leaves.

2. Fill eight cups or frozen goblets with crushed ice and pour 4 ounces of bourbon and 1/4 cup mint syrup in each. (Proportions can be adjusted depending on each person’s sweet tooth). Top each cup with a mint sprig and a straw. Trim straws to just barely protrude from the top of the cups. Serve juleps on a silver platter.

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