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Welcome, August 2015!

August’s arrival always brings such mixed emotions. The thrill of summer has worn off, and signs of the coming fall appear everywhere. Back-to-school sales and Halloween candy filling grocery shelves leave me desperate to cling to the waning days of summer, though some of the events that we are looking forward to this month take us rushing into September.

Redskins Training Camp

Redskins training camp banner 2015

now through August 16th
Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center
2401 West Leigh Street, Richmond
most days 10:30 a.m. walk-through and 3:00 p.m. open practice
check schedule for full details
not a Redskins fan?
find out where you favorite team is training here


Richmond Jazz Festival

Richmond Jazz Festival 2015

Thursday, August 6th – Sunday, August 9th
how about some cool jazz in this hot month?
see schedule here


Carytown Watermelon Festival

2015 Carytown Watermelon Festival

Sunday, August 9th
celebrate everyone’s favorite summer fruit


Pre-UCI Bicycle Race Activities

50 days and counting until the biking world converges on Richmond for the UCI World Championships. Hurry to get your VIP tickets for all of the races here. In anticipation of becoming the biking capital of the universe, look what’s happening in RVA this month.

Balance in Motion: The Evolution of Cycling in America

Balance in Motion bike

now through Sunday, October 18th

Bikes: Science on Two Wheels

Science on Two Wheels

now through Sunday, September 27th

Anthem Moonlight Ride

Anthem Moonlight Ride 2015

Saturday, August 22nd
6 -11 p.m.


We are excited to be gearing up with the rest of RVA to welcome the world in September. In the coming weeks look for more biking features like our Biking the Capital Trail post. Why not start early and catch some cycling fever in August?


July 30, 2015

Make-ahead Dishes and other Tips to Enjoy Cooking on Vacation

Getting away to a beach, river or mountain retreat with the family this time of year? For 24 years now lDd and I have vacationed together with our growing families at Sunset Beach. While very charming, our vacation haven is not known for its culinary options. Since our combined number has swelled to 10 (sometimes more with assorted friends in tow) we cook a lot, sharing the cooking and shopping duties. Below are dishes we have vetted that should make your life as Chief Food Officer a little easier. With a little planning you can spread the cooking, prep and clean-up responsibilities so you get some vacation time, too. 

Make Ahead Dishes

Making dishes ahead of time to bring to your vacation retreat means you have to plan ahead just a bit and allow for room in your coolers to pack them. Your reward will be enjoying the meals as much as everyone else with the shopping, prep and clean-up only a memory. I find having dishes on hand for the first day especially allows me to get my bearings in the rental before having to sprint to the grocery store for provisions. 


breakfast cupcakes

Bacon Breakfast Cupcakes. The beauty of the cupcake is the individual serving portion in its own container. Leftovers (haha) can be frozen and used on demand.

grits casserole © The Gracious Posse8

Sassy Sausage Grits Casserole. This yummy breakfast casserole will please even the fiercest anti-grit in your crowd. 


pesto © The Gracious Posse3

Chicken Tortellini Salad. Alison’s go-to doubles as a dinner entree. A superior yummy dish, it transports easily in any container.

Smoked Turkey Breast. HHD smokes two Butterball turkey breasts on his beloved Egg at home.

smoked turkey

They don’t last long, though, with this hungry crowd, but we are grateful for every nutritious smokey turkey sandwich we can get out of them. If you do one thing ahead of time, do this one!


Bourbon BBQ Pork Tenderloin. This slow-cooked low-fat entree is a tried and true winner. Plus, it travels in a cooler right in its aluminum cooking packet (place in a gallon zip bag just in case the aluminum rips), taking up minimal space without a dish.

Tenderloin with sauce

Make and freeze ahead and you’re good to go when you arrive.

crab cakes with remoulade sauce

Remoulade Sauce. Just add boiled shrimp or crab cakes. Our week at the beach wouldn’t be the same without it. Definitely make it ahead to avoid the long ingredient list from your pantry and save yourself some vacation chopping. It’s much easier to bring the jar of remoulade than all the items that go into it.

Befores and Afters

By far one of my favorite techniques for spreading around responsibilities is getting young, old, male and female alike to declare themselves to be either Befores or Afters for a meal (the groaning you hear in the background is from my children). Alma Abernathy, of Alma’s Famous Cheese Straws, originated this method to divvy up the chores of feeding the crowd that gathered at her house at Lake Lanier. We didn’t dare NOT PLAY Befores and Afters when the imperious Alma requested it. Befores and Afters will simplify your life and spread esprit de corps amongst your troopsmuch as they might grumble a little.

Here’s how to do it: Before beginning the dinner prep, declare it’s time for Befores and Afters. Look each person in the eye to show them you mean business and secure their commitment, and you’ll be the happiest hostess in the land. Don’t forget you have the power ~ you control the food!

Alison and I have no doubt the Posse has recipes and tips to share to make cooking for the crowd in the vacation rental or your own holiday home less of a burden on the CFO. We’d love to benefit from your experience. Do share!


July 28, 2015

Prepping for Christmas in July

Believe it or not, tomorrow marks five months until Christmas Eve. Before you go into a panic attack, cGc, let’s take a minute to catch our collective breaths. With a little planning and list-making now, maybe we can actually enjoy the holiday season this year. What a novel idea.

1. Christmas Cards

  • Decide on a photo versus a greeting card. If you will be sending a photo card, start going through your vast digital library from this year or plan a photo shoot with the necessary players in these last weeks of summer. I got lucky last year and scored this picture in Venice during our Italian adventure.

Christmas card 2014 by Design Corral

Sue at Design Corral made the rest happen.

  • Update your address list. If you haven’t taken the time yet to do so, consider transferring your address book to an Excel spreadsheet. Over the coming years, you will thank yourself.
  • Look for pre-season card sales. You should be able to find them everywhere at least until the end of September.
  • Read Ellen’s post from 2013, Start Planning Your Christmas Cards Today for Joyful Greetings in December. Though the price of a stamp has risen, her timeless recommendations will guide you to the perfect choice.

2. Christmas Gifts

  • Find a pocket-sized notebook to list your gift recipients and possible ideas. Keep it in your purse to go with you whenever you are shopping. I need to take my own advice pronto as I just ordered my first Christmas gift of the season.
  • Craft a homemade gift. My favorite gift last year came from a fellow photo card hoarder. Look what kMg did with some of our old family Christmas cards.

Christmas card heart ornament 2014 front © The Gracious Posse

Christmas card heart ornament 2014 back © The Gracious Posse

By cutting and pasting words, designs and photos from past cards on both sides of a gold-painted wooden heart from A.C. Moore, she created an heirloom that I will cherish each year when decorating our tree. Even if you have organized your photos into albums like cFl showed us in A Posse Member Shares Her Christmas Photo Card Solutions, you can scan some of your friends’ photo cards and print them on photo paper before decoupaging and sealing with an acrylic gloss.

  • Consider buying gifts in bulk for the hims, hers and couples in your life.
  • Get a jump on gifts that require advanced planning, like a custom embroidery or monogram design from Sarah Gibson Wiley at Huger Embroidery. She’s hit the big time with a feature in House Beautiful’s June 2015 issue. Talk about a welcome gift.

3. Christmas Cooking and Baking

  • Pull out the cookbooks now. Every June I receive my annual copy of Christmas with Southern Living

It takes me at least a month to peruse the ideas crammed inside, but once I do, the Christmas plans start to gel.

  • Use fresh produce and freeze a special holiday treat. Blueberries are being harvested right now down the road at the Chesterfield Berry Farm. If I am smart, I will purchase several just-picked pints this weekend from my favorite Farmer’s Market and make the always popular Christmas Morning Scones to freeze and share with my family and friends come the crazy holidays. sSn often does the same during peach season and delivers gallon-sized bags of her frozen homemade peach pie filling, along with a box of premade piecrust, to friends in December.

4. Wrapping and Decorating

  • Beat the holiday crowds and schedule a trip to those big box craft retailers during the slow season. They may not have all of the Christmas trimmings out just yet, but they will have a lot of other items that you will need when it’s time to wrap and decorate.

If It's Paper baking supplies © The Gracious Posse

  • For all of our RVA friends, guess who is back in town? If It’s Paper, the beloved Westwood Avenue institution until IP restructured its business, has been reincarnated by a South Carolina mom.

If It's Paper colorful paper products © The Gracious Posse

You can find the new local store in the Stein Mart Festival Shopping Center on Midlothian Turnpike with many of the same paper products, as well as some cute new additions.

If It's Paper colorful straws © The Gracious Posse

If It’s Paper also has locations in Columbia, Greenville and Charleston, S.C., and Macon, GA.

5. Get in the Spirit Now

Peppermint Cocoa Ice Cream Sandwiches © The Gracious Posse 

Merry Mix © The Gracious Posse

See? No stress, cGc. Just some ideas to get your Christmas juices flowing. Think how chill you’ll feel come December, whether you want to or not.


July 23, 2015

Exploring Wimbledon Courtesy of the Tube Strike

While eBh toiled away during the day at The Championships at Wimbledon behind this door

The Door to the Internet © The Gracious Posse

where the Internet lives (I had to chuckle), I had grand plans to hop on the Tube (London Underground) and explore London to my wandering heart’s content. But you know about best laid plans: it’s best to have a Plan B mind for when a change-up strikes or, in this case, the Tube goes on strike. Forced to leave my Tube map behind, I set out in my walking shoes wondering what I would find closer to our home-away-from-home base.

Merchant Windows

I headed straight for Wimbledon Village, a smaller ‘burg in greater-Wimbledon. What a charming crossroads of chic retail, restaurants and pubs. The village was bubbling with tennis excitement, and to boost the buzz even more, the local merchants’ association sponsored a window-dressing contest to engage visitors and fans.

Bayley & Sage sign © The Gracious Posse

The creativity in the local shops ran from whimsical

Pet Pavilion window © The Gracious Posse

Gardenia London Tennis Window via Gardenia London

Bathtub of Tennis Balls © The Gracious Posse

to elegant

LK Bennett window © The Gracious Posse

Shanna Melville window © The Gracious Posse

Neom window © The Gracious Posse

Yellow Prince Racquets © The Gracious Posse

Orange Prince Racquets © The Gracious Posse

to artistic

Farrow and Ball window(note the paint colors: Trophy, Net, Strawberries, Lines and Tennis Balls)

 to offbeat.

Gallery window

Alien Tennis Balls window

The contest was brilliant. The windows cleverly conveyed each establishment’s vibe. I suggest the local organizers of the upcoming UCI Road World Championships in RVA sponsor a similar plan. Read to the end of the post for the winner!

Urban English Gardens

Although visiting Kew Gardens via the Tube was put on hold for that day, the glorious gardens for which the English are famous were not out of reach. Every bend and turn in the road held a new photo-op. I couldn’t help but notice the abundance of jasmine in bloom, blessing passers-by with an intoxicating fragrance to blot out even the most noxious car exhaust.

Jasmine on porch


Jasmine on wall

Hydrangea were bountiful,

White House with Green

Hydrangea garden

Hydrangea at Number 6

but the real show-offs were the multitude of flowers.

Lush Front Garden

Garden behind AELTC

Gate to Lush Garden


Red Roses

The Brits have such a knack for lush cultivation of small spaces. I returned home inspired to focus on small garden spots in my landscape and not fret about the totality.

Wimbledon Commons

Another must see destination recommended to me was Wimbledon Commons. This expansive (1100 acres) natural and protected area lies within the urban confines of suburban London. Ponds, paths and fields provide an oasis accessible to all for sunbathing, picnicking, running, strolling, reading, bird-watching, star-gazing and romping with the family dog. Upon setting foot onto the Commons, the big city seems to be in a galaxy far, far away.

The Common

I had planned to tour the Windmill Museum on the Commons and eat lunch, but the museum, run by volunteers, was closed that day. Fortunately the lunch at the Tea Room gave me a picturesque setting to recharge.

Windmill Tea Room

At the end of the day I realized that I was thankful to have been forced to stay in the neighborhood and not rush to visit greater London’s sites. Now I have a great appreciation for the culture of Wimbledon life and hope to plan a down day for my future destinations. 

Jasmine Cheerio!


July 21, 2015

and the winner is…

Pet Store windowPet Pavilion!

Surprising Wimbledon ~ Not Only the Premier Tennis Tournament But Also Gorgeous English Garden Inspiration

When you picture The Championships at Wimbledon, what comes to mind? If you think of pristine grass courts,

Players on Grass Court © The Gracious Posse

all-white sporting attire, stylish British spectators and the BEST tennis ever, you’d be correct, but did you know it’s a horticultural feast for the eyes as well? During my recent visit with my daughter eBh who was working at the event (if you follow The Gracious Posse on Instagram you likely deduced my location), I was delighted to discover the exquisite grounds of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club expertly cultivated to create a Tennis in an English Garden setting.

Tennis in an English Garden

As I entered the All-England Club in Wimbledon

All English Club entrance © The Gracious Posse

with my Grounds Pass (thank you IBM Events Team),

Grounds Pass © The Gracious Posseivy and petunia planters decorate the exterior of Number 1 Court

I was immediately captivated and surprised by the magnificent horticultural displays at every turn. How do you balance looking at some of the best tennis and magnificent gardens in one day? Just like the Augusta National Golf Club works to achieve that perfect southern landscape with its bountiful azaleas and lush grounds peaking at the Masters, the gardeners at AELTC achieve the classic English garden look with herbaceous borders,

Herbaceous Bed © The Gracious Posse

 formal walkways,

Formal Walkway to Number 1 Court © The Gracious Posse


Tennis Ball Topiary © The Gracious Possesmall succulents create the tennis ball definition

Camera Man topiary © The Gracious Possetopiary celebrating the camera crew dominates the roof of the press building

water features,

Pool atop Top Henman Hill © The Gracious Posse


Trellis in Planter © The Gracious Posse

formal planters and benches,

Variegated Holly Standards © The Gracious Posse

and charming beds.

Official Colors: Purple, Green and Lovely All Over

The AELTC chose the official colors of purple and green in 1909. The flowering plants throughout the grounds follow suit. A small army of gardeners care for the containers, hanging baskets and ground installations, keeping them looking lush and fresh throughout the tournament. 

Score Board © The Gracious Posse

Petunias in Wall Planters on Court © The Gracious Posse

Patio Restaurant © The Gracious Posse

Fountain at Wimbledon © The Gracious Possemore fountain fascination

Boxwood Planters in a Row © The Gracious Posse

Planter, Gate and Trellis © The Gracious Posse

Hanging Petunia Baskets © The Gracious Posse

Something for Everyone

Visiting Wimbledon with a Grounds Pass enables you to wander the outer courts at leisure, viewing a variety of match play from singles, doubles, men, women and juniors.

Juniors at Play © The Gracious Possejuniors doubles match at Court 6

Although the Grounds Pass does not grant a seat at the Show Courts (Centre, Numbers 1 and 2), the flexibility to spectate on your own schedule suited me. You can still experience a big match if you don’t have a show court ticket. Just join the party-like crowd watching the big screen on Henman Hill, so named after spectators gathered there in the 1990’s to cheer on fellow countryman Tim Henman as he competed in four semi-finals.

Crowd at Henman Hill © The Gracious Posse

When it’s time to get up and stretch, the gorgeous grounds await. You can bet I spent equal time watching tennis and garden-gazing.

Formal Planter © The Gracious Posse

There’s nothing like going on holiday to bring inspiration to the soul. I’m grateful for the unexpected pleasures of visiting Wimbledon. It’s hard to beat prestigious tennis on revered grounds under a glorious sunny sky. 

Cheerio! © The Gracious Posse


July 16, 2015