Upcoming Nature Photography Events at the National Fish and Wildlife Conservation Center

Posted by  | January 25, 2013  at 2:08 PM  

The last time I tried my hand at "nature photography" I ended up on my backside sliding down a rather steep embankment straight into a creek, or in this case I'm pretty sure it was a crick. Don't worry though, I went down holding my camera above my head to keep it out of harms way. While my Nikon came out unscathed, I wish I could same the same for my dignity; I'm pretty sure I saw some squirrels pointing and laughing.

My antics aside, for those of you looking to brave the great outdoors for some wild, wonderful shots, the Potomac Valley Nature Photographers (PVNP) will be hosting some great events over the next couple months. The first event will be a presentation and the second a hands-on workshop. Information on both events is outlined below and there are more details on both after the break.

Remember: if (when) you fall to hold your camera high and if you thought squirrels were snarky, just keep in mind those rascally rabbits are totally ruthless ;)
Jim Clark Presentation
"Life through the Lens: Notes from the Field; Lessons from the Heart"
February 8, 2013
National Conservation Training Center
698 Conservation Way
Shepherdstown, WV 25443
Nature Photography Workshop
March 2, 2013
8AM to 4PM
(Pre-registration is required)
National Conservation Training Center
698 Conservation Way  25443
Shepherdstown, WV

Vote for Shepherdstown in Budget Travel's Search for America's Coolest Small Town!

Posted by  | January 18, 2013  at 8:35 AM  
Shepherdstown, WV, has made it to the final round of voting in Budget Travel's search to find America's Coolest Small Town!

If you're a frequent reader of this blog, you know I love Shepherdstown. From the food to the music to the people--Shepherdstown is more than cool, it's a bit of utopia disguised as small town in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

I could give you 100's of reasons why Shepherdstown deserves this title, but here are a few old posts that should do the trick.


Below is a peek of Shepherdstown's blurb on the Budget Travel Website, but you must visit the site to vote!

To vote for Shepherdstown visit Budget Travel's website: http://www.budgettravel.com/contest/americas-coolest-small-towns-2013,14/

You can vote once a day, so vote EVERY DAY on every "smart" device you can find--you can even try some not-so-smart ones too ;)

Shepherdstown, WV

(Population: 1,734)You might say all roads lead to West Virginia's oldest town, which celebrated its 250th birthday in 2012: The Potomac River, the C&O Canal, and the Appalachian Trail all pass through this Revolutionary War-era town in the lower Shenandoah Valley. But look behind those preserved 18th-century brick facades for surprisingly cool signs of life—this place is by no means a living museum. Housed in a Confederate hospital, the Mecklenburg Inn is known for its live bluegrass music and was named one of the best bars in America by Esquire. And the sophisticated Bistro 112 is housed in an 1830s brick building that once served as the town's haberdasher. The Contemporary American Theater Festival at Shepherd University stages productions from renowned playwrights like Neil LaBute, David Mamet, and Sam Shepard.

Indie Adams Morgan: A Must See Music Series in the Admo

Posted by  | January 9, 2013  at 8:51 AM  
When I told some of my friends, I was going to "The Admo" to check out some bands, I was met with looks of shock and horror. The Adams Morgan (or Admo) bar scene is infamous for being kind of a drunk mess; it's the place you go for 21st birthdays, jumbo slices of pizza, and to pick up boys via chugging contests. I'm pretty sure the last time I went out in the Admo, someone fell down a flight of stairs, someone was slapped with a jumbo slice, then there was something about a paddy wagon--and those were just my friends! I swore off the Admo after that night and stuck to it for about 5 years. So, what on earth possessed me to venture back as an (almost) 30 year old? Music, my friends, music.

The Indie Adams Morgan music series first piqued my attention when I saw something about The Woodshedders headlining "Roots Night." As I did some scouring via the interwebs, I spotted a lot of familiar names on their lineup and was instantly intrigued! Indie Adams Morgan is a series of Thursday night shows held at "Club Heaven" in Adams Morgan. Different weeks have different themes such as Indie, World, Jam, and Roots, and feature up to three bands from that particular genre. This series is set to showcase local (DC) talent as well as some local (WV) acts as well! In addition to The Woodshedders on Roots Night (February 28), Camryn Wessner will be joining People's Blues of Richmond and Sol Roots on February 22 for Jam Night! Other bands I'm excited to see in this series include Funk ArkKings of Belmont, Covered with Jam, and Moogatu; and there are still more additions to come!

Thursday, January 3, was the launch of Indie Adams Morgan and featured local (DC) acts Heather Mae, TheRuinCity, and Vasudeva. I managed to convince a friend to come with me to check things out after quite a few "this isn't typical Adams Morgan, I swear" and the promise of a frosty brew or two. I took it as a very good omen for the evening when I found a parking spot right across the street from Heaven--a slight miracle since parking in the Admo is usually Hell.

While the music is what motivated my outing, the venue, is what really sold me on this series."Club Heaven" is nothing like any of the images in your head right now. The stage area is set up on the 2nd floor of the building, and is in close proximity to both the bar and bathrooms. There's a decent-sized dance floor, but then nested around the room you'll find cozy seating areas, should you just want to sit back and enjoy the show. There's also a balcony area, should you prefer more of a birds-eye view. It's a venue that manages the perfect mix of being both roomy and intimate at the same time.

If the Indie Adams Morgan launch was any indicator of what Thursday's are like in the Admo, sign me up! I can't wait for the next show, and I'm super excited to see this series take-off, so start spreading the word!

Tickets for most shows are under $15, with special discounts for Facebook and Twitter followers.

For more info on Indie Adams Morgan follow, like, and love.


9 Dragons at Hollywood Casino, Charles Town

Posted by  | January 3, 2013  at 5:02 PM  

Spider Roll, 9 Dragons Roll, and the Hot Mama Roll
Nestled in a sea of slot machines at Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, WV, you'll find 9 Dragons--an upscale taste of the Far East without the hassle of traveling any further east than the Eastern Panhandle.

When a guest and I were invited to test out this exotic dining destination at Hollywood Casino -- locally still referred to as "The Track" -- I really had no idea what to expect beyond sushi and sake bombs. While our multi-course meal did include both sushi and sake, that was only the beginning of our tour de taste buds.

Approaching 9 Dragons, you'll first notice the bar area where you'll find several high-top tables scattered between the beverage bar and sushi bar. This seating area allows for all the people watching you can handle as you take in the diverse culture of the crowded casino. Should you be looking for something a little more intimate, ask for a booth in the back; after a martini or two, you'll quickly forget you're right in the heart of so much hustle and bustle.

Speaking of martinis, let's talk cocktails! Initially, I had my heart (and my liver) set on a sake bomb; however, after perusing the drink menu, how could I possibly pass up a drink that included wasabi dust?! The Dragon Fire Martini is a mix of Absolut Citron, lemon lime, cucumber, and wasabi dust. As I ordered this fire-breathing beverage, our waitress inquired with raised eyebrows if I thought I could handle the spice. My dining companion chuckled as I told the waitress there's no such thing as too hot to handle, which set the tone for a spicy theme that prevailed throughout the evening. I found the Dragon Fire to be quite refreshing and not nearly as deadly as expected. Let's just say this gave me a false sense of security for what was to come.

As my fellow foodie and I sipped our beverages  (she wimped out and played it safe with wine), we settled into the somewhat daunting task of what to order. The menu at 9 Dragons is quite extensive with foods ranging from exotic delicacies like jellyfish salad and beef tendon, to more familiar looking Far Eastern fare such as fried rices.

It took quite a few passes over the menu before we made a decision on our main dishes, so in the interim, we started things off with some sushi. My friend opted for the Spider Roll (fried, soft shell crab), while I decided the Hot Mama Roll (tuna, cilantro, and jalapeno) was a must. Our waitresses took note of our order and told us we'd be missing out if we didn't try the 9 Dragons Roll (eel, shrimp, tuna, salmon, cucumber), so how could we resist? Not only was the 9 Dragons Roll the perfect combination of both flavors and textures, but when it came out it actually looked like a dragon! I'm not a fan of soft shell crab, but I was told the Spider Roll was tasty. And then there was the Hot Mama. Remember how I said I can handle the spice? I lied. My very first taste of sushi was a piece of the Hot Mama, so this was also my first sampling of 9 Dragons wasabi. Somehow I managed to get a bite that was nothing but wasabi and jalapeno. I don't know whose waterworks started first--mine from the overwhelming heat or my friend's tears from laughing so hard. My eyes haven't watered that much since I looked at my Neiman Marcus bill. All drama aside, I recommend the Hot Mama 110%. Just use caution when dabbling in the wasabi: it's not for wimps my friends.

Once we finished wiping away our tears, we were ready to place our entree orders. After MUCH deliberation, and a long chat with our waitress over Hong Kong-style foods versus Japanese or Chinese cuisine, I went with the Lobster Harbor Style (extra spicy obviously) and my companion went for the 9 Dragons Seafood. The 9 Dragons Seafood is a combination shrimp, squid, scallops, crab, and veggies mixed in a light sauce and served with a side of rice. This dish looked too tempting to not try, so I was a rather rude dining buddy and reached across the table for a taste or two. The seafood was excellent, fresh, plump, juicy, all that jazz, but what really stood out for me were the snap peas! The peas maintained a nice crunch without being chewy, and the light sauce brought out just enough of their sweetness to balance out the seafood flavors.

One of the things I learned while dining at 9 Dragons, is that lobster is prepared quite differently in Hong Kong. In American cuisine, lobster is served whole or split down the center, where as in Hong Kong, the lobster is cracked into multiple pieces. With the lobster "Harbor Style" your whole lobster comes out, cracked in pieces and then coated with a nice spicy layer of deliciousness. I love plain old steamed lobster, but let's just say Harbor Style does to lobster what Gangnam Style does to wedding receptions--it takes it to a whole new level.

I start to feel somewhat stuffed even as I type this post, but no matter what you do, be sure to save a little room for dessert--I'm not talking about just a fortune cookie either. My friend and I did our best to polish off a monster piece of cheesecake. Trimmed with fresh berries and dark chocolate, the cheesecake was cool, creamy, and impossible to resist. Like everything else that night, it far exceeded any expectations. It was an evening that left us virtually speechless beyond "wow."

On a return trip to 9 Dragons, I'd really love to try some of their soups; specifically, there was an asparagus and crab number that caught my eye. I'm also anxious to try the Hong Kong-style noodles: a dish similar to lo mein, but with the noodles pan-friend, so they're crunchy around the edges, yet soft in the middle. I'd also like to try a few sips of their sparkling sake--perhaps paired with a 9 Dragon Roll? Price points at 9 Dragons range from $6 sushi rolls to seafood entrees in the mid-$20's. You could definitely dine here on a budget, but if someone else is footing the bill, go for the lobster and do it Harbor Style.

9 Dragons
750 Hollywood Drive
Charles Town, WV 25414