island style.

Since this summer seems to last forever, and the temperature still hasn’t cooled down yet, our summery life continues.

On a kid-free weekend we explored the Eastern Shore, something I’ve been wanting to do for years. Because it’s a bit of a hike to get out there, it’s not a great destination for just a day trip, and needed a bit more planning. I’d been to Assateague a couple of times for camping on the beach, but this time I was finally able to approach the shore during daylight hours, and the views were astounding. What a weird coast we have, where the ocean turns into sand just briefly, and back again. Pearl Jam’s “Oceans” comes to mind.

We made a couple of detours on our way up the shore: one to visit the Custis Tombs (some graves of Martha Washington’s ancestors, on the site of what was once Arlington Plantation), and one to Eyre Hall Plantation’s garden, which ended up being probably the coolest garden I’ve ever been in. We had the surreal experience of pulling up in the middle of the day, to a (beautiful) house that’s clearly still inhabited, slipping into the back gate, and wandering for an hour or a century or so around the acres full of boxwoods above our heads. This is the secret garden to end all secret gardens, complete with a crepe myrtle grove, family cemetery, and the ruins of an orangery. In the blistering late August heat, it was an oasis of cool air. And the awesomeness makes sense. The bricks in the massive wall that surrounds the entire garden were brought over from England as ballast in a ship, and having been built around 1800, it’s one of the oldest gardens in the country. THIS is why you buy boxwoods and then just have patience. A lot of patience. Patience that transcends the grave. Not so that you can personally enjoy the boxwoods, but so that your great-great-great-great grandchildren can enjoy them. Investment!

Later we explored Onancock, a town stuffed full of beautiful old victorian houses, as well as a very legit history museum that rivals the finery of any rt. 5 plantation. We found a great record store where we bought a ton of $1.00 records that were marked down to 2/$1 (pro tip: he ships for cheap!). We wondered about some of the empty storefronts. We spied a lot of churches and bed and breakfasts. We had a drink at the Irish pub, where a kilt-clad gentleman crooned to the sparse but cheerful patio population.

Bright and early, we took the ferry over to Tangier Island, the forgotten little crabbing community in the middle of the bay. The ferry captain told us about how the softshells are prepared “island style,” which means entirely cleaned out in the middle so that they’re two pristine little halves connected only by a slim thread. On the dock, we were accosted by locals in golf carts trying to sell us a tour, which we bypassed in favor of a walk. We wandered the narrow streets, peering at equal numbers of precious beach cottages and holey abandoned houses. On the outskirts of the main drag, we crossed over water full of skittering crabs, and headed down a path through some reeds taller than us, toward the small, beautiful beach. From there we headed back to the center of town, meeting a few friendly island cats and stopping into some gift stores along the way. After lunch (followed by ice cream under the constant presence of some disconcerting political signs), we sleepily took the ferry back to “the mainland.”

It was a perfect weekend. The seafood we ate deserves its own post, but I’m not a food writer. Maybe I could aspire to be one, just for the crackly, golden-brown batter on the various softshell crabs I ingested over the course of those three days. Maybe I could do it for the remoulade. Or the plump crab cakes full of tender chunks of meat. Or at least for the only not-rubbery clam strips (somehow! magic?) I’ve ever had.

What else have we been up to? We’ve milked the pool at Matt’s place for all it’s worth, Morella being happy to take over what she calls “the hot pool” with her dolls. She watched about half of Star Wars (A New Hope) for the first time, and enjoyed it (phew!). We went to a weird, magical little local aquarium shop where she just yelled “WOOK!” the whole time trying to get us to look at all the different fish she was finding. We spent an afternoon at Lewis Ginter, meandering around in the miserable heat and somehow managing to have fun.

Matt played his last weekend show with Positive No, so I went and was treated to the usual PN energy blast, with a bonus cover of “Flagpole Sitta.” I didn’t even hate being out at a show. Maybe I will be ready to go to another one, in another two years.

With work I went on a lunchtime riverboat cruise on the James, which was relaxing and which took advantage of the first blessedly cloudy day in what feels like a century.

Matt is inventing a card game, which I had the pleasure of trying out as soon as the test cards were sliced up out of the printer. I have a very, very low threshold for complexity in card / board games, and I can report that this game was easy to pick up and fast to play. But that doesn’t matter half as much as how cute the card designs are. More on this later, I’m sure.

It’s birthday season in my life, so we’ve been to lots of birthday gatherings for both family and friends. On my birthday we went to Busch Gardens and then to a housewarming party — a fun day, though maybe not so restful. The next day we spent part of the afternoon lazing on blankets with friends, at the Hollywood Cemetery picnic. In the shade, it made for a pretty perfect scene.

As you can see, Morella has the backyard gathering thing down pat:

In other news, she has outgrown pretty much all her shoes at the same time. She rode the “big swings” for the first time at Busch Gardens this weekend. Her favorite food at the moment is carrots dipped in soy sauce. Her favorite pastime is finding interesting bugs and asking a million questions about them. She has changed her mind about what she wants to be for Halloween 9347958394 times, and it is not yet October. 😅 She snuck two different Halloween decorations in the cart at Target tonight, unbidden.

Now you’re pretty much all caught up. I’m heading into a very busy week at work. See you on the other side, I hope.


2 thoughts on “island style.

  1. Haha Hayley I love that you were commenting on my blog at the exact same moment I am sitting here mining your newsletter for quotes for my other blog.

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