The hustle and bustle of a vibrant city is energizing most of the time, but sometimes you need some relaxing time in the country. There’s something about a bubbling river, home cooked meals (bonus points if they’re done by a Jewish Grandmother), and a house packed full of family. My version of chicken soup for the soul.
This past weekend, my family ditched the traffic of D.C. to trek down to Staunton for Labor Day weekend. My uncle Terry and his beautiful wife Patti own the most gorgeous, historic farm in Southern Virginia.
You drive up a narrow, and when I say narrow I mean clutch-the-car-door-and-squeeze-your-eyes-shut narrow, bridge over a river, and the majestic manor comes into view. Hike up a little dusty gravel strip and the gardens await your exploration.
Terry will walk you around the estate, and tell you about the little brick building that used to be slave quarters, and the tiny red spring house that’s the oldest building on the property.
Inside the country-Georgian style home, everything has been impeccably decorated according to the period. The parlour looks straight out of a civil war film, and the living room is permeated by the rich scent of hickory.
We round everyone up and venture here every year for Labor Day, and it somehow gets more and more beautiful every time.
A tradition of ours is to explore the farmer’s market that happens each Saturday, so we caravanned to the heart of Staunton for some fresh produce, bread, and cuddles with the sweetest dogs.
After our trip we were just parched, and nothing quenches summer thirst quite like grapefruit. If you’re thinking “vodka and grapefruit would be a little more summery in my humble opinion”, you’re going to fit in with us perfectly!
My mom makes the best grapefruit crushes, and she’s graciously allowed me to share her recipe with you. Start by scooping a few chunks of juicy grapefruit into your glass.
Note: I’m not one for precise measuring, so just trust yourself when I say use a “splash”.
So, splash a bit of licor 43 (amazing fruity-vanilla liquor) over the grapefruit, and add a shot of vodka to the mix.
Finally, slosh a bit of sprite and tangy grapefruit juice on top, give it a quick stir, and you’re good to go!
We made a huge pitcher of these, and marched on down to the river.
My adorable cousins, Lily and Emily, and the ever so handsome Bedford, a German Shepherd with boundless energy.
The closest thing to a family photo we have from the weekend. I’m not the least bit embarrassed to point out that that’s my dad with his hands up in the air, Six Flags roller coaster style. Okay, maybe just a little embarrassed…..
Have you ever seen anything so cute in all your life??
We were starving after the strenuous day at the river, and luckily Mennie and Lily were happily preparing dinner.
They marinated massive shrimp in rosemary, garlic, olive oil, and lemon zest, and threaded them on some skewers to hit the grill. Watermelon and feta salad was made and so was my favorite cherry tomato pasta salad.
We dragged the pounds of food to the river, where Patti had set up a magical table setting overlooking the sun setting on the water.
Everyone toasted to family, clinked their glasses, and dove in with alarming fervor. Just a warning, if you don’t watch out around my hungry family, you could lose an eye.
Full, happy, and in an impressive food coma, we trudged up the hill back to the house, and fell asleep within minutes.
My Jewish Grandma woke us up with this perfect breakfast spread of lox and bagels, and we all begrudgingly packed up to leave.
You have no idea how hard it was to say bye to these perfect girls!
Trust me on this, do yourself a favor and grab a few metal folding chairs, a pitcher of grapefruit crushes, some family, and head to the nearest body of water you can find.
After a few hours, the headache from the pollution and noise of the city will melt away, and you’ll feel rejuvenated and ready to face the world again. Not that a few more grapefruit crushes wouldn’t hurt…
Monica’s Grapefruit Crushes (makes 1 drink….so quadruple it)
- a few segments of grapefruit (about 1/4 of a grapefruit)
- a splash of licor 43
- an ounce of vodka
- splash of sprite
- splash of grapefruit juice
- Cut the grapefruit chunks into your vessel of choice, and pour the vodka and licor 43 over them.
- Add a ton of ice, and splash over some sprite and grapefruit juice.
- Mix, and enjoy, preferably on or near a body of water.