In which the author tells you how to run your life -- or at least how to make the most of the fun parts of it.

For instance, inside these pages you will learn how to weather a mortar attack in good spirits; how to avoid booking yourself on the Internet into a bed and breakfast full of twee quilts and dusty tchotkes; and how to plan a dinner party that will stun your guests with deliciousness and style and not destroy your will to live with the amount of work you have to do to pull it off.

These are things I know firsthand, and things people who know me often ask me about (though I usually just book them into bed and breakfasts myself -- identifying ruffled death traps is an acquired skill). I am almost always right about everything (food, style and travel-related, anyway, and often many other things) and if everyone would just do as I say, dinner would taste better, cupcakes would not be dry, your parties would be more fun (for you), and mortar attacks... well, they always suck. I can't do anything about them.

*except laundry. I can't manage my own laundry, much less yours.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How to Run Your Life on a weekend in DC: Get out.

Here’s how to run your life this fall if you live in DC and like Shakespeare, great food, antiques and wine:
  • Call in sick to work on a Friday. Get yourself to Union Station and buy a ticket to Staunton, Va. (Pronounced Stanton, not Stawnton.) The train leaves at around 11 am. It's called the 51 Cardinal. The ride takes around three hours, and you’ll be spanning the lunch hour, so bring a picnic lunch to eat. (More on that in a future post). Pack it in a nice size cooler, maybe one with wheels, because you’ll be filling it up with produce and meat from the farmers market.
  • Bring this book to read on the train:
    It features Polyface Farm, which is not far from Staunton, and will rev you up for Saturday’s farmer’s market.
  • Before you get there, buy tickets to a play or plays at the American Shakespeare Center here: and make reservations to sleep either here: or here: (ask for a corner room).
  • Make reservations to eat dinner here on Friday night: and here on Saturday night, or vice versa: You might want to go back to Staunton Grocery for brunch on Sunday (it’s good).

This may or may not be your bacon.
  • On Saturday morning (early) since you are car free, find a way to get someone (Al’s Radio Cab out of Waynesboro? Ask your hotel…) to take you to Mrs. Rowes on I-81 outside of town for a real Southern breakfast.
  • There is a farmer’s market downtown every Saturday – go early to get the best stuff (including freshly killed but previously happy and fulfilled chickens who do not mind you eating them) and fill your now empty cooler to bring back on the train with you on Sunday around 1 pm.
  • If you feel you must do something educational, visit the Woodrow Wilson birthplace and presidential museum. Answer that nagging question: Why didn’t the League of Nations pan out?
    Or go here and check out the cool barn:
  • Keep your eyes out for (or make a beeline to) Kitch’n Cook’d Potato chips, which despite all the stupid apostrophes are “the most popular potato chips in the Shenandoah Valley.” You’ll find the store at 1703 West Beverley Street, a little bit outside of downtown. Buy some for the train ride back. You’ll be back in DC at around 5 pm. Remember that you called in sick so don’t brag about the weekend you just had.
You’re welcome.