pink sand beach in Bermuda

Can you believe that Porch Season is coming to an end? How did you spend yours? In between your vacation, irregular summer schedule and transporting children hither and yon, we hope you managed to visit The Gracious Posse every now and again. In case you missed a few, here’s a summer-y of the highlights for your perusal this Labor Day weekend.

Sunshine and Blue Skies

Blessed with unusually temperate weather here in RVA, we were able to enjoy the great outdoors to its fullest.

A few of us donated a progressive dinner (Midsummer’s Night Progressive Dinner ~ Rivah Style) on the Rappahannock River to the Anything Goes Gala. Luckily a cartel of friends won the bidding, and we couldn’t have predicted 

Progressive Dinner on the Rappahannock River © The Gracious Posse

how perfect the evening turned out to be.

I  climbed on a bike for the first time in several years to join the Biking Belles

Biking Belles shirts © The Gracious Posse

on a late sunny afternoon to bike the Capital Trail. I encourage all to experience the bucolic trail ride that runs beside Route 5, the cradle of American history.

Jim Carleton welcomed us to his gentleman’s farm in June. 

raised bed with lavender © The Gracious Posse

His unending gardening quest could have him living off the land and sea in no time.

Summer Images

We were impressed by the effort and style many put into the yards, gardens and even boat docks we discovered this summer. We hope you will find in Dockscaping, Crape-ScapingGarden Gates and Rappahannock River Riches some Pinterest-worthy summer images.

Trains, Planes and Automobiles

The Posse was on the go.

Alison and her family kicked their summer off with a 10-day Italian adventure.

Manarola, Italy © The Gracious Posse

If you’re thinking about taking your family, read Alison’s Ten Day Italian Itinerary for a Family with Young Adults and Top Ten Tips for Touring with Family in Italy for helpful and essential information.

LDB  and I visited family in Bermuda. 

Moongate at the Princess © The Gracious Posse

Read Living in Paradise Bermuda-Style to find out what it’s like to live there: the good, the bad and the gracious.

Speaking of Bermuda,

An Evening in Bermuda was the theme for the 58th annual Bal du Bois. The Junior Board of Sheltering Arms Rehabilitation Hospital transformed the Country Club of Virginia 

Bermudian architecture at the Bal du Bois © The Gracious Posse

into a picturesque Bermuda setting to celebrate the 2014 sponsors.

Back Home on the (cooking) Range

Our summer adventures led to related culinary pursuits. The Progressive Dinner’s dessert was Key Lime Parfait, which inspired me to share 

Shrimp and Melon Parfaits © The Gracious Posse

Parfaits Two Ways: Savory and Sweet.

Alison’s Italian adventure prompted her to find the ultimate tiramisu with a fun family

Tiramisu Taste Testing © The Gracious Posse

Tiramisu Tasting.

Lastly, Sassy Grits and Sausage Casserole

grits casserole © The Gracious Posse

was another crowd-pleaser that KK served the morning after the Progressive Dinner. Make note of this when you need to feed a house full of guests over the upcoming holidays.

It Wouldn’t Be Summer without Flower Camp

Sisters aMl and mEl kindly shared their passion and talent for floral arranging with a few lucky friends. We learned about

Flower Camp arrangement © The Gracious Posse

using the new neutrals in Part One,

succulent preparation © The Gracious Posse

how to arrange with succulents in Part Two, and

fake peony © The Gracious Posse

how to make a fake peony in Part Three.

Winding Down the Season

As summer faded, many began the transition from the porch to the classroom. 

In Dorm Room Drama: Venus v. Mars, Alison chronicled the difference between girls 

Auburn dorm room

and boys

JDB's dorm

when it comes to decorating (or not) a dorm room.

We profiled our first Educator in Residence, Davidson President Carol Quillen.

Davidson College President's Welcome © The Gracious Posse

Charmed by the President’s home

Davidson College President's home © The Gracious Posse

and Carol’s influence on the college and beyond, we enjoyed our tour of the welcoming Davidson campus.

Leave it to sSn to keep us on our toes when it comes to being a tourist in our own hometown. In Cure the End of Summer Quandary with a Hometown Tour,

Segway Tour in RVA

she inspires us to see the sites we usually ignore in our daily travels.

Empty Nesting is something I’ve grown accustomed  to the past year, but it’s a new phenomena for Alison. See how she copes with it (or not)

The Homestead tower and motorcourt © The Gracious Posse

in Another Strategy for Surviving the Empty Nest: Avoid It.

tailgating with whoppie pies © The Gracious Posse

The change of season envelopes me with mixed emotions. I hate to say goodbye to the peaches, tomatoes and long summer evenings, but when I think of football season, tailgating, changing leaves, a fire in the fireplace, and soup on the menu, it makes me feel okay about retiring the swimsuit and sandals. I hope this post finds you happily drinking in the last remaining days of pour-ch season.  


August 29, 2014 

A Posse Challenge ~ Cooking for Two

Just about any mother with an empty nest will tell you that down-sizing dinner and keeping it interesting is one of the biggest challenges she faces. When I finally returned home after avoiding my newly empty nest for as long as my husband would permit, the first item on my agenda was dinner. Depression set in as I envisioned years of boring bagged salad and rotisserie chicken or baked fish looming in our future.

For 18 years, my ever-evolving tried-and-true dinner recipes have been intended for at least four. In more recent years, my athletic teenage son required hefty meals to meet his caloric demands as well as his finicky taste buds. My husband would rather not eat leftovers, so whipping up the favorites to eat over several days is really not an option; plus we really don’t need the heavier meals.

As I was shredding the chicken for our first night home, I realized it was time for an attitude readjustment. Instead of bemoaning our empty nest at every meal, I’ve decided to face the situation like a big girl and embrace the challenge of cooking real meals for two. Fortunately the first step to facing this challenge was sitting amongst my cookbooks practically untouched since I received it about ten years ago from aGw.

Bride & Groom First and Forever Cookbook

Flipping open the Bride & Groom First and Forever Cookbook, I was delighted to find several recipes meant only for two. Written by identical twins who had been boarders at St. Catherine’s School here in RVA, it is filled with Mary Corpening Barber and Sara Corpening Whiteford’s stories of their food experiences living and working as twin daughters, chefs, wives and new moms. While they are stars in the food galaxy, their recipes are thorough and uncomplicated.

Each recipe is prefaced with an anecdote and often a suggestion for accompaniments. With beautiful pictures of some of the published offerings, the cookbook provides a comprehensive base of recipes and menu suggestions that are suitable for most any couple, whether just married or recently pared down. It evens offers suggestions for how to cook some of the meals together, as well as a whole chapter called Dinners & Desserts in a Dash. Although the book was published eleven years ago, the recipes are classic enough to stand the test of time save for a few calling for then-trendy sun-dried tomatoes.

Freshly inspired by this well-designed book, I decided to try their Corn-Chip Crusted Halibut with Creamy Salsa and Cilantro (recipe below). The fish was easy to put together, though their recommendation for two 8 oz. fillets was more than plenty. For side dishes, they recommended Sweet Corn with Jalapeño and Butter Lettuce with Mango, Goat Cheese and Mighty Mint Vinaigrette. Since sweet corn is at its peak right now in these parts, the first recommendation was easy. The Butter Lettuce salad was more time-consuming than anticipated because I had not made the superb vinaigrette (recipe below) ahead of time. Peaches and feta would work beautifully in the salad as well this time of year.

The result was a meal fit for a king and queen. Creating a lovely meal and discovering we could celebrate our new status were two revelations we felt demanded a bit of the bubbly. 

dinner for two with prosecco © The Gracious Posse

To our empty nesting posse, I challenge you to join me. Let’s try to create some nice dinners for two at least once a week. We’d love to share your pictures and recipes that even our friends with full nests can whip up for an in-home date night. We can’t wait to see what you concoct!

salutationa&eAugust 27, 2014

Corn Chip-Crusted Halibut with Creamy Salsa and Cilantro
Serves 2
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  1. 2 halibut fillet (4-6 oz. each)
  2. kosher salt
  3. ½ t ground cumin
  4. 2 T unsalted butter, melted
  5. 1 T fresh lime juice
  6. 2 handfuls corn chips, crushed
  7. ¾ cup premium-quality bottled salsa (not fresh)
  8. 3 T sour cream
  9. 2 T fresh cilantro leaves
  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or Silpat pad and place halibut on it. Season both sides of fillets with kosher salt to taste and cumin. Combine the butter and lime juice and drizzle over the fillets. Top each fillet with a thick layer of corn chip crumbs. Cover fillets loosely with foil.
  3. Bake until fish is opaque in center about 18 minutes, removing foil after about 10 minutes.
  4. While fish is baking, whisk the salsa and sour cream together in a small saucepan over heat until just warmed, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Place fillets on individual plates, top with creamy salsa and garnish with cilantro.
Adapted from Bride & Groom First and Forever Cookbook
The Gracious Posse

Mighty Mint Vinaigrette
Yields 1
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  1. ¾ c olive oil
  2. ½ c firmly packed fresh mint leaves
  3. ¼ c white wine vinegar
  4. 1 T plus 1 t Dijon mustard
  5. 1 T plus 1 t honey
  6. ¼ t kosher salt
  7. freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Combine olive oil and mint in a blender and process until puréed, about 15 seconds. Add vinegar, mustard, honey, kosher salt and pepper and blend until just incorporated. Do not over blend. Refrigerate covered for up to a week.
  1. Would be great with fruit or on lamb.
Adapted from Bride & Groom First and Forever Cookbook
The Gracious Posse


Another Strategy for Surviving the Empty Nest: Avoid It

Last summer after dropping her youngest for his freshman year, Ellen wrote elegantly about her Four Strategies for Surviving the Empty Nest. Because I often think of Ellen as my older sister (after all she is 374 days older than I am), I often find myself trying to follow her graceful lead. Though I witnessed her return to her empty nest with aplomb, I took my typical ostrich approach to the same situation last week.

The Homestead tower and motorcourt © The Gracious Posse(not college but so many of them these days do feel like a resort)

After dropping my baby at college, I refused to go home, at least for a few days. Instead I persuaded my husband that we needed a quick getaway ~ to the Homestead resort.

The Homestead pink logo © The Gracious Posse

After all, it is sort of on the way home, and we really did need some transition time.

The Homestead new spa garden © The Gracious Posse

The Homestead proved the perfect spot (even in the rain) to lessen the bittersweet pain of this milestone and prepare for our new stage of life.

The Homestead river walk in new spa garden © The Gracious Posse

While I enjoyed the Homestead’s remodeled spa with rBr who serendipitously happened to be in the area, my husband took comfort in the familiar faces of the long-time employees at this family-friendly resort.

fountain at The Homestead spa © The Gracious Posse

Occasionally I saw ghosts of my children running through the main hall in their younger days, but the comfortable and familiar surroundings proved a relaxing antidote after the stress of the prior weeks preparing to send my son on his way. Now is the time for my husband and me to start finding shared activities other than parenting. He won’t spa (yes, that word can be a verb) with me, but we did enjoy a mountain hike together.

mountain hike at The Homestead © The Gracious Posse

As we were heading to the Homestead, PMB called with his words of wisdom for dealing with the empty nest, suggesting that we should expect to need about two weeks to adjust. In our case, I beg to differ. I have the feeling that the empty nest syndrome won’t really sink in for about two weeks, when we finally realize that this change is permanent. I’ve already made plans to be out of town then. No, I won’t be taking a round-the-world cruise. Dr. Peter LeViness at the University of Richmond urges freshman parents to not make any drastic geographical changes right after the nest empties. But I know I cannot sit in our quiet house for too long.

Fortunately, I’ve got this cutie who makes almost as many domestic demands as my son did.

Palmer at 10½ months © The Gracious Posse

He refers to Palmer as his replacement. While I don’t go that far, it is nice to have someone who lets me know daily that I am still needed. He’s just one more way that I am avoiding my new reality.

To our posse who are now facing or already survived the empty nest, what’s your survival strategy (and don’t say, get pregnant ~ that shipped has sailed)? Ellen’s coping methods include reconnecting with your spouse, speed parenting, virtual parenting and relying on your posse. I know I will utilize all of those methods eventually, but for now I still have my head in the sand. Anyone joining me?

salutationa&eAugust 25, 2014