Betsy and Charlie in Charlottesville

A couple that moved to Charlottesville from Washington DC who will tell you all about their adventures in a new town.

Book Mooch

I love getting letters and packages in the mail, and thanks to a new find (from my sister), I’ve been getting a lot more packages recently. Book Mooch is a free site for book swapping.  You post books that you are willing to part with (harder than it seems, trust me) and receive points.  With those points, you can “mooch” books from others around the country.  When someone requests one of your books, you just pop it in the mail. I use media mail through the post office and it ends up being between $2 and $3 to ship.  If I find a book I want, I just select “mooch this book” and a week or so later, I have a new book in my mailbox.  I can manage my book wish list through the site and whenever a book becomes available, I get a little ping in my inbox.  It’s like Christmas!


Cafe 88

Somewhat by chance we stopped by Cafe 88 the other day for lunch and we like what we found there.  On Fridays and Saturdays they serve what seems to be a very popular spicy beed soup (the restaurant was full and at least 80% of the patrons had the beef soup), however the manager convinced Betsy that it would be too spicy for her. The only other things they have on the menu are dim sum and “bento boxes.” We tried two different bento boxes. Each box includes a main dish, rice, and a vegetable. The cabbage was fantastic. We both had chicken and both versions were very good.  Mine was a fried chicken and  the other was a sort of BBQ’ed dark thigh.

We really liked all our food. Looking around, the beef soup and dim sum looked really good as well.  I mentioned Cafe 88 to a chinese friend and she said she likes the food there, but it isn’t real Chinese. She has only been there once though.  I got a different impression — from the terse and broken communication of the hostess/manager/cashier to the fact that nearly everybody there was asian and eating spicy beef noodle soup, to the delicious cabbage. We also saw a local chef there, which in my mind gives the place some street cred.

We will be going back here.

Serenity Nails

The other month, I went for my manicure and pedicure at CK Nails and Spa (behind the Taco Bell by Barracks).  Phuong, one of the owners of the salon and probably the sweetest woman in Charlottesville, let me know that she and her husband were separating and she was leaving the salon.  She and Nick (the most patient and very skilled technician) would be opening a new salon in the next couple of weeks.  Without getting the name and definite location of the new salon, I left a little sad thinking I would never see these pleasant people again and might have to do some sleuthing for a new salon.

Much to my surprise, I was driving home from some errands the other week and saw a new nail salon opened behind the Sticks on Preston (Preston Plaza), Serenity Nails and Spa, and there were Nick and Phuong! They had opened their new salon and, bonus, it is closer to my house!

Since then, I have visited Serenity Nails and Spa twice and the service is fantastic.  The new spa is clean, the massage chairs are very fancy, and my nails have looked great.  The best part is the quality of the staff.  Everyone is incredibly friendly and good at what they do.

Serenity Nails and Spa  is my new go-to!


C & O restaurant week edition

We do not always participate in restaurant week. I am always a little worried that restaurants are a little different during restaurant week, and not for the better.  But we have had some good experiences lately, so we might make it a regular thing. During the most recent restaurant week we went to C&O. Although we were a little late in making a reservation (another reason we probably don’t participate every year), we were able to score a 5:30pm reservation (just a little on the early side). We had a bad restaurant week experience about 3 years ago at C&O. Although I told myself I wouldn’t  chastise them for one bad restaurant experience we have never been back, but we have been meaning to go ever since Chef Dean Maupin took over a year or so ago. Dean was the chef for our wedding at the Clifton Inn, and we are big fans. We enjoyed his menu many times at Clifton, and even went to a cooking demo of his once — we regularly use one of the recipes he taught us.

We loved our meal at C&O and we definitely saw Dean’s mark on the food, especially compared with the last time we went to C&O. The plates were smallish, sophisticated, and spot on with flavor. The two entree’s, red snapper in a mussel broth and lamb with risotto, were fantastic. The other dishes we had, especially the profiteroles, were equally impressive. My sense is that Dean brings a slightly more modern point of view to the cuisine and presentation at C&O, one that I hope the patrons appreciate. My sense is also that restaurants are getting better at handling the demands at restaurant week.

We were very glad we braved restaurant week and will surely be back to visit Dean at his new(ish) digs.

top dishes in charlottesville

I found this post sitting in our drafts from 2011.  Seems like it’s still pretty accurate.


maya – pork belly (may not be available any longer)

clifton inn – sweet breads

zocalo – duck

mas – heirloom tomatoes with grey sea salt

ten – poke don

tavola – buratta



bang – sashimi spoons

maya – mussels

zinc – bbq wrap (midtown fest – not on the regular menu)

tavola – ragu

mas – heirloom tomatoes with grey sea salt

clifton inn – salmon tartar with avocado

Travinia Italian Kitchen

I had a fun little date night with one of my girls the other week. We always try to go someplace new when we meet up, so we decided to check out the new Stonefield restaurants. We went on a Wednesday night which happens to be 1/2 price martini night at Travinia Italian Kitchen. It was pretty crowded, which we thought was a good sign. We grabbed a seat at the bar outside, chatted for a while over a martini (for her) and a water (for me), and finally ordered. I had the spaghetti bolognese and my friend ordered the calamari and artichoke dip. I have to say, I think there is a curse on chain italian restaurants. The spaghetti was pretty bland, the artichoke dip was incredibly heavy, and the calamari was bland and a bit greasy. I was really disappointed but I guess not surprised. Looks like I’ll just have to stick with Tavola  from now on…

Holy Gouda!

About 20 minutes west of Charlottesville and a little north of Crozet is a monastery.  At this monastery is a group of Benedictine nuns working very hard.


The nuns make one thing — 2 lb wheels of creamy Gouda cheese. And they do an excellent job.  I am a little biased, however, because Gouda is one of my favorite cheeses.  This cheese is really good.  The Post has written about these nuns a couple of times and explain the process for making the cheese and the back-story of how a group of Gouda making nuns ended up in central VA .

You can order the cheese by mailing in an order form found on their website, but its more fun if you make the trip out to the monastery.  Directions are on the website and hours that you can purchase cheese are limited, so check the website for details.  The drive is beautiful, and the setting of the monastery is very serene. *Suggestion: grab a baguette from ABC and have a picnic in the country* Apparently one of our favorite places in C’ville, Feast, carries the cheese as well. You may be able to purchase it there in quantities less than 2 lbs at a time.

Eet smakelijk!

McCormick Observatory

Just on the west-side of UVA’s grounds is the McCormick Observatory.   On the first and third Fridays of the month, UVA opens the observatory to the public so you can observe the stars and planets through the telescopes and to learn about any research work and history of the observatory. The observatory open at 9pm and there are a lot of visitors.

Charlie and I drove out to the observatory on Friday night and got to view a nebula in Orion’s sword, a start cluster, and Jupiter.  It was very cool and a fun (free) Friday night date idea!  photo

some favorite recipes recently

As I mentioned, it’s been a bit crazy in our house recently.  Nothing bad, just a lot of work for both Charlie and me.  When we can relax over a simple dinner, there’s nothing better. Here are some recent recipes we’ve tried and really enjoyed:

This spaghetti is my go-to dinner.  It’s easy and elevates the everyday spaghetti to another level.

This cake was a big hit both at work and for my dad’s birthday celebration.  My dad loves chocolate cake and served himself two pretty large slices.

I can’t get enough of these tacos.  We just had them tonight and I always want more.

Another taco recipe that was a major winner.



We also hosted an at-home Easter brunch for Charlie’s mom this weekend.   Charlie made a delicious quiche based on Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking“.

We also made a salad with baby spinach, goat cheese, red beets, pecans, and raspberry vinaigrette and a fruit salad with strawberries, raspberries, and lemon zest.  Very spring-like, and delicious.


Bon appétit!

hide yo kids, hide yo wife

Sunday morning – “hey Betsy, I think someone broke into our car”.  Luckily, I think all they got was a 5 year old iPod and the charger.



Just sayin’, hide yo kids, hide yo wife.