Archives for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Children’s Playtime

Author: From • Nov 1st, 2009
   Category: Blog Entries.Local, Reviews
What to do on a rainy weekend? Or any weekend for that matter? This Saturday we took our child to Toddlin Time in Fredericksburg. It's on Princess Anne st, across from the Texaco, just down the street from Carl's. It's upstairs, with plenty of room for the kids to run around and play. On this Saturday, it was much brighter inside with the rain coming down outside. Just when we though Bennett had played with everything in the room, they got out the 'parachute', a huge colorful thing that the children rode on, then ran under. The laughter wasn't contained to the children playing. Public session is from 9:45 - 10:30 on Saturdays.

Child Friendly Dinner

Author: From • Oct 31st, 2009
   Category: Blog Entries.Local, Reviews
This afternoon we were able to swing by Fredericksburg Pub (behind the mall) with our one year old. Here is a facility that isn't exactly child friendly, but it isn't in their business plan either. They did however have steamed veggies, which worked well with a few bits and pieces from our main entrees.

Compare this to our experience last weekend at Glory Days ( Here is an enterprise that understands that they will garner a larger portion of the dining crowd by subtlety offering a great children's option. Not only to they offer a child's menu, they have two different sizes available. Our one year old was able to finish the small portion, and we didn't feel like we paid for a meal fit for a 10 yr old. We say, enjoying a college game on one of the many tvs, while our child was well fed (with healthy alternatives), and we all went home happy.

If you get the opportunity, I strongly suggest you visit Glory Days in Massaponax (Cosner Corner).

Old Towne Butcher ready for customers

Author: From • Oct 10th, 2009
   Category: Blog Entries.Local, Downtown, Reviews

Had the chance to get by our new butcher today. Olde Towne Butcher is located on William Street next to University Cafe and across from Kybecca. Tonight there will be two beautiful rib-eye's sitting on the grill getting the heat treatment. I like a place where you get to pick and choose the best cuts available. I was eyeing a couple of Delmonicos, but went with a little less fatty steak. While I was there waiting, several people stopped in and just looked around. Mr. Russell was working hard in the back, slicing garlic for their sausage specialty.

Foti’s Scores Again

Author: From • Oct 2nd, 2009
   Category: Blog Entries.Local, Reviews
The Chef at Foti's in Culpeper deserves a ton of praise for the Shaps Wine Dinner the other weekend. Our group couldn't even pick out which of the items we liked the most, and of course the selection of wine was impeccable.

New Lenses for the Nikon

Author: From • Mar 14th, 2009
   Category: Blog Entries.Local, Reviews
This week I took the leap to expand my camera bag (read about my choice of the D90 here). We're looking at doing some travel this summer, and I wanted to add some perspective changes. I've also found that the factory 18-200mm just doesn't get up close enough for many event type pictures. So off to Adorama to pick out a few reasonably priced additions.

I don't have the budget for a several thousand dollar high powered lens, so when reading Pop Photography this past trip, I found the ProOptic 500mm mirror lens. This is basically like strapping a 5in telescope to the front of your camera. The lens is compatible with just about any DSLR out there, because it uses T-adaptors to attach. This means you'll be putting the camera in manual mode, and focusing it yourself. But this shouldn't be much of a stretch if you've had a camera for a little while. I also now see in post editing that the window I was shooting through also added haziness and some added distortion on the other super fisheye lens.

Caveats, this fixed aperture lens requires a lot of light, and a very steady hand. It was very overcast, and using a simple tripod, it was still difficult to get a clear photo. I obviously need to play with this one a little more. A more thorough review can be found at Popular Photography.

The other item purchased was a Phoenix Super Fisheye lens. The field of view of this lens is claimed to be up around 180 degrees. In reality, things are so distorted at the edges, you're always going to have something less, however, it still gets a lot more in the picture. I took a photo of Gail feeding Bennett along with the entire scene of the kitchen. This perspective is much closer to what you see with your eye, and seems to be a more realistic photo. So often, I find that the bounds of a photo can't tell the whole story, because you can't pull in the surrounding environment.

The photo below is taken from the same photo as the squirrel picture above. I then used PTLens and Gimp to stretch it out to full frame. I'm still playing with the best way to do this, and have had mixed results.

Lastly, I now needed a bigger case to put all of this stuff in, so off the Internet again for an answer. I've long admired Pelican Cases for the indestructibility, and now they offer an option with a fitted bag. There is one flaw in this bag, in order to provide an internal net pocket at the top of the bag, they didn't include any Velcro along 75% of this edge. This considerably limits your configuration options. So the first thing I did was to rip out the Velcro sections and put two of these together to span the top edge (edge closest to the photographer in the picture below). I then reconfigured the remaining dividers to match my camera and accessories. Hey, if I don't like it, I can always get foam and custom fit the Pelican case to my setup. So here is my Pelican 1526 (1520 case with a 1527 carry bag), purchased from Cases4Less.

Great Ski Vacation – Winter Park, CO

Author: From • Feb 22nd, 2009
   Category: Blog Entries.Local, Reviews
If you have a family, and like skiing (or someone in your family likes skiing), let me recommend Winter Park, Colorado. Why? Because there is something for everyone.

Unlike some great ski locations, Winter Park has a descent small downtown where you can find a variety of spas, rentals, snowmobiling, and best of all: a full grocery store. Winter Park resort has a HUGE kids building, so that when they get tired of skiing the parents can go back out and hit the slopes. Of course if you have teenagers, the parents are likely to call it quites while the teens explore the variety of slopes. In that case, might I recommend Doc's to get a nice adult beverage and unwind.

From the Fredericksburg area, you have several options for how to get to Winter Park. We chose to cash in some airline miles and take American out of Richmond. I love flying out of Richmond because of the security lines. The other recommendation is to go to Dulles and take one of the direct to Denver flight.
If you go:
- Drop by the visitors center/chamber of commerce in downtown Winter Park and get 2-for-1 lift ticket coupons.
- While there, pick up 2-for-1 rentals at Beavers Sports Shop.
- Rent a 4WD or AWD, because snow can pop up at any time
- Have a camera nearby at all times, while out in the hot tub, the local fox decided to cruise by several times.
- A couple of family radios will help with keeping track of people, but they may not work if you're completely around the mountain. We used them to figure out who was stuck in the woods.
- Call ahead and make reservations for the child care. (Ours got to spend a few days at the grandparents, thanks Mom&Dad!)

Mary Wash Hospital Thanks

Author: From • Feb 7th, 2009
   Category: Blog Entries.Local, Reviews
Sometimes it's one or two people that can really change how your stay in the hospital goes. Our son was admitted last Saturday to Mary Washington Hospital with low oxygen levels due to what we were to find out was pneumonia. We had been to the doctor earlier in the week, and had been giving breathing treatments for a respiratory virus, but then a followup visit indicated he was having more trouble we took him to the ER. Two nights stay and a few x-rays and treatments later he was released and is now improving every day.

Several of us have been having a discussion over at Fred2Blue about the interesting questions you get asked during the admitting process. This apparently has gotten back to management, as they changed the way they ask you religious preferences. (Instead of "what religion are you" it is now "do you have any religious preferences that would affect care".) Bravo MWH for listening to your patients.

But the real success of this visit isn't the doctors, or most of the staff. They did their job, but it was pretty average. What set this visit apart was an RN named Jeff, who knew how to crack a joke, or could wait a short bit if Bennett was sleeping, or would talk to us about treatment and find out our feeding schedule so he could plan certain medications. Jeff was there most days that we were, and was just the biggest help to us, the parents, who were going through their child's first hospital stay.

The second person who really went over and above was a respiratory guy named Coffee (pronounced Ko-fee). He gave us pointers on what's needed to get a good breathing treatment in. He also showed us how to pat the side/back to get more of the mucus out and relieve him of some congestion. He knew that we were going to be taking him home and wouldn't have the advantages of the hospitals suction equipment.

The rest of the stay was nice, but like any medical facility these days, it pays to listen and remember what each doctor says. More than once, it was one of us remembering something that had people going back into the chart and notes and going 'oh yeah, there it is'. Or remembering that we could get discharged after a last round of antibiotic shots - I wonder what time we would have gotten out of there if we hadn't asked if they were going to discharge us. The best one is remembering that up to 3 months, a natural pain killer is sugar water called sweeties. Had we not requested this bit of relief for our little guy, several rounds of IVs and shots would have been 'grin & bear it'. At least this time they should have the right insurance card.

Fredericksburg Pub

Author: From • Jan 18th, 2009
   Category: Blog Entries.Local, Reviews
Today Gail took me out to "The Fredericksburg Pub" for lunch. She had the pub burger, I had the bronzed fish sandwich. Both came with fries. I also added a Boddingtons (on tap) to the meal. This place is going to give other area restaurants a run for their money for the following reasons
a) Good pub fare
b) Fast service, I mean fast for everything, from getting our order, to bringing our drinks, to having the food in front of us.
c) Nice sized proportions and good prices
d) A Variety of flat screens showing football (American football) and football (soccer)
f) Attractive and unique uniforms

The F'burg Pub has a great architectural bar in the center, which is the focal point. In addition to the regular booths, they have an opening into a patio that will be open to the outside in the summer, but at the time is heated and closed in. It almost doubles the seating. The food was cooked wonderfully, and comes with a bar specialty, a fried pickel. We almost missed it in the pile of fries, but our waitress pointed it out and we both loved it.

On the service, we noticed on several occasions that the wait staff, servers, runners, everyone was working together to make sure we were taken care of quickly. We noticed a manager kick in at one point for a neighboring table.

The bar has not yet finished their cask system, so those wanting cask beer will have to wait a little longer. The selection of draught beers was adequate, but more interesting was the ability to get a nice sized flight tasting. Not only could you select a flight of beer or wine, you could also select any 3 ounce tastes 12yr or less Scotch ($18) or 3 tastes of bourbon ($14). Their menu excludes "local selections" of these flights, but that's still an interesting take on 'flights'.

We plan on heading back to The Fredericksburg Pub to try the deserts, after seeing the cheesecake at the table behind us.

Not being British, I'm not sure if the staff kilts are authentic, and I'm definitely curious if the miniskirts are typical of a British Pub. But rest assured, the place has good food and drink too.

That's the advantage of reviewing wonderfully run establishment like The Fredericksburg Pub, is you don't feel like the attractive uniforms are trying to distract from poor food or bad service. In this case it all adds to decor and feelings of drinking in a British corner PUB, with staff anxious to make you feel at home. Oh yes, and since this is a non-smoking environment, you will never leave smelling like a chimney. Lets hope that more area establishments take this cue.

Sam Adams Utopias – Extreem Brewing Hit

Author: From • Dec 31st, 2008
   Category: Blog Entries.Local, Reviews
[Photo Courtesy Zengrrl via Flickr]
[Update 12/31] Today realized a few ounces still in the bottle. It's been closed since Friday the 26th. The extra few days exposed to air has aged the flavors just a bit. I now get a nose of honey after pouring a taste. The taste has become a bit bolder, with a strong smokey maple syrup flavor. Interesting.
Last night we hosted a beer tasting party, entry requirements were to bring a unique beer that you wouldn't have expected others to have tried before. In total, there were nine friends that showed up for a delightful evening. It was so good we didn't even mind skipping the obligatory football viewing in this bowl season.

One of the beers I had been anxious to try, and the inspiration of the party, was a 2007 bottle of Sam Adams Utopias (Bottle #2950 for anyone interested). This had been a bit of a splurge last fall when the release reached limited stores in the area. I had called around and found that Total Wine in Central Park had a few bottles, one of which had not been reserved beforehand.
To be fare, this is no ordinary beer. Some of this wonderful elixir started it's fermenting process thirteen years before being bottled. It's only sold every other year, and it's very limited production. The brewing requires a special yeast that can withstand the high alcohol content. The 2007 is a 27% alcohol brew, that could be classified as a barley wine. It's aged in bourbon, sherry, brandy and cognac casks, resulting in a variety of smells and tastes. It arrives in this unique bottle that looks like a brewing kettle. This is not a beer that you use pint glass.

The pour looked liked a cognac. The initial sniff revealed the scent of a sweet chocolate liquor. We asked around on what people were smelling. I said fermenting peaches, a friend said toffee, another said caramel. All of these were there at the same time. The first sip brought the often quoted statement "this is beer?" It seems to be closer in taste to a liqueur. The malted toffee flavors meld with the bitterness of the malts. A hint of a sweet fruit is there, along with various flavors from the casks. The tongue tingles both on the sweet receptors at the end, and at the back from the bitterness. Unlike liqueurs, this is a very smooth drink. It is hard to pick out that this started out with typical beer makings. There is a medium finish, not too long, not too short. Even my wife, who is not one to venture too far into the unknown, asked for a second sample.

You might be tempted to ask what to pair with a beer like this - nothing - this beer stands on it's own. We had it as a before dinner drink, an aperitif. It might make an equally good after dinner drink, but I wouldn't suggest having a lot to drink, as you want to have very active taste buds.

Blackberry Storm update 1.1

Author: From • Dec 6th, 2008
   Category: Blog Entries.Local, Reviews
On Friday 12/5, RIM and Verizon released software version for the Blackberry Storm. I consider this release 1.1 (maybe closer to 1.0 with the unit shipping with a late beta). Already, I can tell you this:
  • The screen rotation is MUCH faster. It doesn't get locked into portrait or landscape like it did before.
  • Clicking on links in the browser is MUCH more accurate. Before when I would try to click, about 50% of the time it zoomed in (which is normally done when you double tap the screen)
  • The GPS registered 5 satellites sitting INSIDE my house much faster than before. Next week I'll try it out on the train which it seems to give the unit more trouble. The train windows must be thicker than the house.
  • The upgrade was faster than I expected. I had upgraded the software on my 7130e once, and it took hours. This took about 45 minutes start to finish, maybe an hour if you count the time it took for me to download the update to my PC. (It's 102MB download.)
  • Rumor is that battery life is better after the update. I'll come back and update this post in a few days. Before the update, commuting an hour each way on the train, using the browser and media functions, plus use during the day, would result in about 2 bars left on the battery. Pretty poor performance compared to the iPhone (however, the battery is replaceable on the Storm). Hopefully this update will improve that.

A few notes. I had to log onto the Verizon website and actually download the update. Some people that only use BIS (blackberry internet service) are able to get this over the air. For those that don't know, you can go into Options -> Advanced Options -> Wireless Update and select check for updates.

My berry was originally BIS, but when we were bought out by another company, I had them activate me on their BES server. So I have both BIS checking emails, and Enterprise access to my work email, calendar, etc. I had to wait for them to post a download file, and use the Blackberry desktop software to perform the update. It took about an hour after the update completed to finish the enterprise activation.

I will also note that not ALL application settings are saved and restored. My favorite RSS reader Viigo didn't save my account login info. The update DID preserve all of my 3rd party apps though, so that saved me hours of time.

Because of my enterprise activation, and the combination of service books and calendars, it seems that I now have duplicates of many meetings. In the past, this has either cleared up, or I sync and delete the duplicates. This same problem occurred on my 7130e last year.

And finally they haven't fixed the shutter lag on the camera...

One last note. In a week, other berry users have played with the device, and a number of iPhone users have too. The iPhone users like to point out that the interface is much like the old blackberries, rather than migrating everything to the touchscreen. For those of us upgrading from a blackberry, this is a huge benefit actually. The familiarity with the interface is a benefit, plus the addition of a full screen keyboard makes it a winner. I expect to see more improvements though that add touchscreen shortcuts for menu items. The bb Storm has by my count, 11 buttons (4 bottom, two configurable side buttons, lock, mute, vol up, vol down, and the screen press). That gives developers an awful lot to work with.