NRV Magazine Nov-Dec 2021

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NRV’s Premier Lifestyle Magazine

New River Valley Nov/Dec 2021

Happy Holidays

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Nov/Dec 2021

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Nov/Dec 2021


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Nov/Dec 2021




Past ure Ta lk


S ug ar and Spice 10 Kr i s Kr ingle 16 S pi ce Co l l e c t ion 20 Ho l i d ay D ecor 24 B ore d G a mes 3 0 N RV Ri d e : UP S Tru c k 3 4 G i ft Gu ide 3 6


B l ac ksb urg B o okstore 42 Off t he Wa ll 45



Whe n I G row U p 3 8

Ad ve r t i se rs Index 46 Nov/Dec

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Nov/Dec 2021

Pasture Talk








P. O. Box 11816 Blacksburg, VA 24062 o: 540-961-2015

PUBLISHER Country Media, Inc. Phillip Vaught MANAGING EDITOR Joanne Anderson ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE Sabrina Sexton ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE Kim Walsh



DISTRIBUTION MANAGER Dennis Shelor WRITERS Joanne Anderson Karl Kazaks Emily Alberts Jo Clark Emma Beaver Becky Hepler Nancy Moseley Kameron Bryant

PHOTOGRAPHERS Kristie Lea Photography Kevin Riley Tom Wallace Billy Bowling Photography Nathan Cooke Photography

© 2021 Country Media, Inc. Country Media, Inc. will not knowingly publish any advertisement that is illegal or misleading to its readers. Neither the advertiser nor Country Media, Inc. will be responsible or liable for misinformation, misprints, or typographical errors. The publisher assumes no financial liability for copy omissions by Country Media, Inc. other than the cost of the space occupied by the error. Corrections or cancellations to be made by an advertiser shall be received no later than 5 p.m. the 20th of each publishing month. No claim shall be allowed for errors not affecting the value of the advertisement. Paid advertising does not represent an endorsement by this publication. Content cannot be reproduced without written consent from Country Media, Inc. All rights reserved. Real Estate advertised in this publication is subject to the Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Reading Becky Hepler’s article on the “Trades” reminds me of my grandfather’s story, which might be motivational for a painting career. His mom died when he was 7, and his dad went out of state for work, sending money to the family he lived with. When he got word his father died, my grandfather at age 17, took a train to retrieve his body and bring it back for a proper burial. He finished high school, joined the U.S. Army, and upon discharge got married and settled in Boston as a painter and wallpaper hanger. At the height of the Depression, he had two customers and nine employees. Once a week, he went to the two largest banks in Boston and picked up keys for all the foreclosed houses with instructions to paint them inside and out whether they needed it or not. “Frank” semi-retired to Vermont in his mid-50s, painting hotels locally in the summer, and traveled around the U.S. and to Europe several times. He drove from Vermont to Alaska, and when someone saw his Vermont license plates, the guy said: “Hi Frank.” He heard “Hi Frank” when he got off a train once in Germany, and another time in Scotland. Talk about small world. He painted Norman Rockwell’s art studio walls while his pal Norman was seated at his easel in the center of the room. My point? Interior painting in the New River Valley runs around $30-45 per hour. With approximately 2,080 work hours in a year, $40/hour works out to a

handsome $83,200. Just sayin’. My sister and I celebrated our brother’s milestone birthday recently our way, on horseback! We met in Gettysburg, and the 2-hour battlefield trail ride by Hickory Hollow Farm is amazing for all ages and rider skill or no experience in the saddle. They have the greatest horses and the best wranglers, and the most knowledgeable battlefield guide rides along as you wear a receiver and ear piece to hear his comprehensive presentation. The shops are some of the best gift shops for very nice, unusual merchandise (and I’ve been to a lot of gift shops!). Do not miss the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center for its movie, cyclorama and museum. My final sales pitch for Gettysburg is stay at Baladerry Inn for cleanliness, excellence, quiet, affordable and convenient to everything. And you know, as a former long-time innkeeper myself that I know what I’m talking about here. Thanks for picking up this issue, reading the articles and patronizing (please) the advertisers. Shop local again. Hard to believe this closes out our 15th year, and a new one launches soon. May your New River Valley holiday season be bright and safe.

Joanne Anderson ManagingEditor

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Sugar and Spice



Nov/Dec 2021


Text and Photos by Jo Clark


Legend claims that the first gingerbread houses were designed in honor of Grimm’s fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel.” In that tale, two abandoned children found an edible house in the forest made of bread and decorated with sugar. Here’s a joke: “What's the best thing to put into a gingerbread house?” Answer: “Your teeth!”

A World of Gingerbread Nowadays, gingerbread houses are quintessentially Christmas, and displays are found around the globe. You can see edible landmarks, cathedrals with stained glass, movie characters and everything in between.

There has been an annual White House gingerbread display for longer than anyone remembers. The Ritz-Carlton in Tucson builds a dine-in gingerbread house. And a mall in Xi, China, constructs a 700-foot tall, 20,000-cookie house for shoppers to explore. People everywhere are obsessed with gingerbread creations. Don’t believe it? Check the Instagram hashtag #gingerbreadhouse—1.35 MILLION posts!

Local Creations However, you can find drool-worthy displays much closer to home. Floyd is home to an annual contest at the Floyd Country Store for more than five consecutive years. I hung around the kitchen and took pictures as they designed a gingerbread replica of the country store, using an old post card as the blueprint. Nov/Dec

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I have a new appreciation of the skill level involved. Oh sure, I’ve seen it done on television. But they make it look easy. Take a big sheet of gingerbread, cut it to shape, use icing to construct the house, and then decorate with more icing and gumdrop candies. Piece of cake, er, gingerbread—right? Wrong! The process took DAYS! It took several bakers, who were required to be talented decorators, architects, builders and crafters. And that was just one building that had to fit on a 24” x 24” board. When the contest entries began to arrive, the store filled with intricate gingerbread buildings. There was Mabry’s Mill; a log cabin with a “rock” fireplace and chimney (and a fire in the fireplace!); a church with stained glass windows, lit from the inside; really!? Who can think of that? Not to mention making it! And in this contest, everything but the lights must be edible, which includes the supporting structure material. The more I examined the creations, the more I said: “Wow. Just, wow.” Now don’t get me wrong. I can bake with the best of the home bakers. And I’m crafty—I have even taught



craft and painting classes. But gingerbread construction takes both these talents and several others to a whole ’nother level! Carve out time in your holiday schedule to go and take a look at the competitors’ entries, and you’ll see what I mean. Plus, you can cast your vote for this year’s winners.

Building a Century-Old Store Owner Heather Krantz said the Floyd Country Store’s entry was “just for display. It wouldn’t be right to compete against the business entries.” All that work for adulation…sound familiar? The variety of tools in use might surprise you. A pizza wheel makes a handy circular saw, while a bench scraper was used for creating shiplap siding. A cookie cutter created scalloped edging—perfect for replicating the striped awning out front. All of the building parts were edible, too. Overlapping Necco wafers were used for roofing; Rainbow Sour Belts were cut into small bits for the awning; spun sugar mimicked sheets of glass and glue; wreaths made and trimmed with

Nov/Dec 2021


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icing were used to decorate the outside of the store. Once you see a few unusual things repurposed, your mind fairly dances with ideas—like pretzels for fire logs and black jelly beans for pavers. The Floyd Country Store is well known for its Friday Night Jamboree and live radio shows. Gingerbread musicians and their instruments, seen jamming around the store’s entry, were created with cookie cutters and drawn free-hand.

Bake Your Way to Fame The contest is divided into three categories: Youth, Adult and Business. The registration deadline for this year’s competition is November 26. Local sponsors provide prizes and gift certificates for the winners. Entries will be displayed in the windows of the Floyd Country Store and the Soda Shop from December 9 through Christmas Eve. Community voting will end on December 20, and winners will be announced on December 21. To get the scoop on this year’s contest, including rules, guidelines and helpful hints, go to: https://www. Jo Clark spent several days observing construction techniques of the gingerbread Floyd Country Store. No gingerbread was consumed, however the same cannot be said for the store’s snickerdoodles! Jo hasn’t confessed, but there are still cookie crumbs on her chin!



Is There a House in Your Future? If you are ready to break ground on your house of gingerbread but don’t have a general contractor on speed dial, stop by Nest Realty at 118 Country Club Drive in Blacksburg for your building materials. The kits contain everything you need to start construction on a 6” x 6” floorplan, with the roof to bring the height to about 10”. It gives new meaning to “tiny house,” doesn’t it? All kidding aside, Nest Realty and Kent Jewelers have sponsored a Gingerbread House contest for more than a decade. The contest donates 100 percent of proceeds to Valley Interfaith Child Care Center (VICC) and Micah’s Backpack, charities that benefit children in the New River Valley. Purchase kits at either Nest Realty or Kent Jewelers (250 S. Main, Blacksburg.) Entries are returned to Kent Jewelers. They remain on display in the Kent Square lobby for three weeks before Christmas while public voting occurs. Last year nearly 100 kits were purchased, however, there were fewer than 20 entrants. There are no trophies or medals, but consider this: In 2020, $2,000 was received, and Nest Realty matched that for a total of $4,000 donated to children’s charities. Now that’s a winner! Kits = $20; voting tickets = $1; winner’s fame and adulation = Priceless!

Nov/Dec 2021

Spencer E. Lowry VP Commercial Lending, New River Valley 540-427-6815 |



Market Executive - New River Valley 540-378-8953 |

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Nov/Dec 2021

Kris Kringle

Text by Kameron Bryant


Father Christmas, St. Nick, Santa Claus, Kris Kringle— no matter the moniker, we all know the plump gift-giver these names refer to. And likely, we also know that our modernday, commercialized Santa Claus is based on the memory and esteem of a real bishop from the third century with a penchant for secret gift-giving. But what about Kris Kringle? How did that name turn up on our list of nicknames for the reindeer-herding man in red who only appears on Christmas Eve? Protestantism and Martin Luther is the short answer, but to dig a bit deeper, we have to look back at Saint Nicholas. St. Nicholas—patron saint of a very long list of people (including sailors, children, travelers and merchants) and of Greece and Russia—is known for his generosity, protection and working miracles. His prominence in the Russian Orthodox Church is so profound that there is the Russian proverb: “If God

were to die, at least we would still have St. Nicholas.” Venerated for good deeds such as leaving bags of gold so a poor man’s daughters would not be sold into slavery and for performing wonders like resurrecting three murdered boys, the reverence afforded to St. Nicholas in Catholic and Orthodox traditions goes far beyond Christmas celebrations depicting a jolly fat man. But over time, the celebrations on his Dec. 6 feast day (some countries celebrate on Dec. 5) focused more on St. Nicholas’s gift-giving, particularly for children. It became a time to give children small gifts and sweets like chocolate coins or oranges, and the image of St. Nicholas began to shift, taking on aspects of European gods who could fly and had long white beards. But during the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, Christmas and St. Nicholas’s popularity took a major turn. Catholic traditions were rejected and discarded. Elevating certain days like Christmas and the feast days of saints was seen as one step away from idol worship at best and worship according to the “suggestions of Satan” at worst. In some countries, celebrating these days was officially banned, and Nov/Dec

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NRV Feature

those who refused to comply could see heavy fines. Martin Luther also took issue with the celebrations of St. Nicholas. For someone trying to lead people as far away from Catholicism as possible, celebrating St. Nicholas felt a little too close to deifying the saint for comfort. But instead of taking the extreme stance that some of his fellow reformers did, Luther attempted to modify the reason for the season by bringing people’s attention back to baby Jesus and away from St. Nicholas. Luther introduced the term “Christkind,” German for “Christ child.” Intended to be a reference to the incarnation of Christ, the Christ Child was promoted as the true bringer of gifts instead of St. Nicholas, and He appeared on Christmas Eve instead of the saint’s feast day. Luther’s gift-giving Christ child was meant to symbolize fundamental Christian truths without stripping away the fun for kids—the incarnation was a gift from God that made salvation possible, which is the ultimate gift from God to humanity and the real reason to celebrate.



Somewhere around the 1830s and 1840s, Christkind was altered to “Kris Kringle,” and the name was popularized by the lead character in the 1947 Christmas film Miracle on 34th Street. The original film, outlining the story of a man called Kris Kringle who claims to be Santa Claus (and of course, he is the real Santa Claus), won three Academy Awards and was deemed so culturally significant that it was chosen for preservation by the National Film Registry. It’s a bit ironic that Kris Kringle, starting out as Martin Luther’s and his followers’ attempt to focus Christmastime celebrations on Jesus and the gift of His presence on earth, still managed to come full circle and morph back into a mystical version of St. Nicholas. It just goes to show that sometimes people cannot be swayed by shifting religious beliefs. Tradition, and perhaps a little bit of magic, wins.

Nov/Dec 2021

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7/21/20 4:301PM 9

NRV Profile

Not Your Ordinary Collection of

Spices . . . Text by Emily Alberts Photos courtesy of Adam Weatherly When the Spice Girls -- Scary, Sporty, Baby, Posh and Ginger -- came on the scene in 1994, they inspired an entire generation of “Girl Power” and released chart-topping mega hits that have made them one of the most successful girl bands in the world. As they have just celebrated the 25th anniversary of their debut single, “Wannabee,” the British pop stars have sold some 90 million records worldwide. These iconic characters are almost doll-like themselves, so it’s no surprise their highly sought-after collectible dolls are the best-selling dolls of all time. And believe it or not, a local Christiansburg man by the name of Adam Weatherly is the proud owner of the World’s Largest Spice Girls Doll Collection! He is eagerly hoping to get them into the Toy Hall of Fame this coming year to commemorate the dolls’ 25-year anniversary milestone. Coincidentally, it is also the Toy Hall of Fame’s 25th anniversary this year. Born and raised in Princeton, W.V., Weatherly hails from a family of avid collectors. “Everyone in my family collects. My brother is obsessed with Dolly Parton, and I remember how he’d always wear special gloves when handling her vinyl records. My Aunt Sally collected celebrity dolls and taught me how to be careful with the boxes, never to open them, and she even gave me my very first doll, Strawberry Shortcake.”



Nov/Dec 2021


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Adam Weatherly

. . . So here’s the story from A-Z


“This was all just normal for us,” he adds. But it was the Spice Girls’ message of believing in yourself that really struck a chord with Weatherly. “They came on the scene at a pivotal time in my life. I saw this group of women who all came from very poor backgrounds and worked for what they had, struggling in the years before they found fame, but always believing in themselves, and they just lit up my whole world.” Weatherly says it was the Spice Girls who truly paved the way for 22


the Britney and Christina era, and that people forget how truly popular they were here. When the 6 o’clock news announced the release of the first ever Spice Girls Dolls, Weatherly knew he had to have them all. “Of course, at the time I had no earthly idea how many that would end up being!” The dolls sold out so quickly that Weatherly had to go to two different K-marts to find his very first doll, Posh on Tour, and she will always be his favorite because of the lengths his parents went to help him find her.

“These dolls actually faced just as much criticism -- and even racism -- as the girls themselves. Doll manufacturing companies thought no one would buy them because they were a multi-cultural group, but they proved everyone wrong,” he explains. With over 400 dolls, Weatherly hopes that one day he might be able to donate his world-famous collection to an actual Spice Girls Museum, so that they are always protected. “I don’t care about money when it comes to collecting. To me it should be about what makes you happy. Collecting toys is no different than baseball cards, cars or art. In fact, toys are art, but most people never look at it that way.” Speaking of art, Weatherly currently sells ‘80s pop art in his Etsy shop, TheSourPieman. He is also putting together a book that he hopes will help increase his chances of getting the dolls

Nov/Dec 2021

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into the Toy Hall of Fame this year (*find out how to nominate him via his Instagram, @thespicegirlsdolls). “I have done interviews with the doll designers and hair stylists – and I have all the original concept art. Employees have given me everything they have left over after a doll release -- prototype clothing, accessories, etc. The book will feature photographs of these special pieces in my collection.” Weatherly has even reached out to the Spice Girls themselves and to Simon Fuller (the group’s original manager) to get their approval for the book and avoid any infringement issues.

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“When I was 13, I wrote the Galub company that produced the dolls and asked them for prototypes. I still have the letter they wrote back, saying no!” For collectors, prototype dolls are The Holy Grail. “Even if I can’t have them, I just wanna hold them! I know they are out there somewhere, unless of course they melted in someone’s attic or something, since the prototypes are usually made of clay.” Believe it or not, Weatherly has also never seen any of the Spice Girls in person. “I would like to see all five, but I’d be happy with even one!” Since there is already 25th anniversary merchandise in stores, a sequel to the movie Spice World, and even a deluxe edition album on the way, Weatherly thinks they may be setting the stage for a comeback tour. Bravado does tour merch, and that is whom the Spice Girls have partnered with for their 25th anniversary merchandising. Also, Sporty is on Dancing With the Stars, so it seems the stars might be aligning for Weatherly this year.

When will you think your collection is complete? “Since there are just as many bootleg dolls as there are official -- and they are even harder to come by - every time I think I’m close to finishing, I find I am actually further and further away.” NRV-based freelance writer Emily K. Alberts seems to be amassing a nice little collection of sauce packets from takeout restaurants, but that is about it!


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NRV Home

Home Holiday Décor

Text by Joanne M. Anderson Photos by Christy Wallace In 1910, Howard Taft was the 27th president of the United States and the 10th chief justice of the United States, the only person to have held both offices. Joyce Hall founded Hallmark Cards. The average wage was 22 cents an hour. Eight percent of homes had a telephone, and the average house price was $2,500. The 4,400-square-foot house in Pulaski that Blake Le and Shannon Collins purchased in the spring of 2018 was probably on the high end for the day, maybe $5,000. Imagine. A 3-story house with a big wraparound porch, hardwood floors and multiple fireplaces for the cost of basic kitchen appliances today, not including a wine cooler or trash compactor. And the main attraction of this house? Well, for



Blake there really wasn’t any. He’s an artist who likes modern lines and contemporary structures. For Shannon, it was the newel post. Imagine. Buying a large, white, century-plus old house because of an interior post. Well, as the old saw goes: Stranger things have happened. Newel posts stand at the bottom (or middle occasionally) of a staircase. They are often decorative and serve as an anchor for the railing and handrail. It’s an architectural detail that evolved from simple, tapered square posts to elaborate columns with large caps and carving in the post. Many held vacant space inside where important papers or drawings could be stored. Some newel posts had a button where a hole had been drilled once the mortgage was paid off and the paper was stuffed inside.

Nov/Dec 2021

Come Holiday Shop in Floyd!

December at the Floyd Center for the Arts


Winterfest and the Festival of Trees December 4th and 5th

Holiday Brass Concert with David Stewart Wiley December 11th - 7 PM

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Well, of course, they didn’t buy the house just for the newel post, but imagine their surprise when they discovered a light switch at the top of the stairs that did not seem to turn on anything. They queried a previous owner about this who revealed that another light switch next to the front door was covered over for non-use. 26


Well, Shannon got a hammer, busted the plaster and found the disengaged switch. And then, he removed the top of the newel post, simply elated to find wires inside! Since there was no light over the staircase, the pair added one, but now they also had electricity in the newel post for another light. Hey, can’t

have too many lights on staircases for safety and aesthetics. The all-white house was painted almost immediately in a medium Williamsburg-like bluegray exterior paint which then nicely contrasted with the white trim. They added matching sconces for more interior lighting in the den and living room. The third floor often houses guests, which is ideal for having two bedrooms, a full bathroom and private staircase from the back. The beautiful front stairway only goes to the second floor. The elaborate Christmas decorating begins when Halloween ends. Shannon stands aside and “lets the artist do his work”. While there may be only three large Christmas trees in the house, every room and the elegant staircase are meticulously decorated in color themes that accentuate the rooms and spaces. The front sunroom, likely once a porch, held a cream

Nov/Dec 2021



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and soft mauve color scheme last year with gigantic fur-edged stockings hanging off the marble top Victorian side table. The dining room carried a candycane theme to the max, as the walls are already painted red with all white trim, the perfect Christmas color scheme. And who says trees have to rest on the floor. The breakfast nook with its classy white shutters and built-in bench flanked by wainscoting holds a charming small tree decked out in ribbons, pine cones and ornaments. The house is not decorated so much on the outside for the simple reason, Shannon explains, that it would have to be decorated on all four sides. Residing on the corner of 9th and Jefferson, the exterior of the house can be seen from every side from somewhere. The decorations and trees do not stay up year-round, yet are so enjoyed during the festivities of the holidays. And while Shannon is immersed in the old house, newel post and antiques, Blake has come to love and appreciate the character and quality this old house embodies. Decorating it is like frosting on the cake.



Nov/Dec 2021

Happy Holidays from Ou Ourr Family Family toYours! Let our experienced, LOCAL agents help you FIND


When you are ready to find home, find us on or give us a call at 540.552.6500. ©2021 Coldwell Banker. All Rights Reserved. All offices are independently owned and operated.



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Fe at ure

Bored Games Which games will best cure the doldrums of the time 'falling back'?

Photo by Kathy Marsh

Text by Nancy S. Moseley ‘Tis the season for lots of things. For holly, for jolly, for inflatable yard art, for stuffed turkeys, gift-giving and tree-trimming; for lots and lots of time indoors with family near and far. It only seems appropriate that the week of Thanksgiving is also known as National Game and Puzzle Week. It's like the clandestine governing board of national such-and-such days knows what we might need and when: an excuse to fill our bodies and our minds with something besides calories and cabin fever. Chess and Checkers top most lists as the bestselling board games of all time. Early forms of chess can be traced back to a game in 7th Century A.D. India called "Chaturanga" because the game had two distinct elements of modern day chess – different pieces that possess varying powers, with victory decided by one single piece. By 2022, the chess market is slated to be worth upwards of $40.5 million dollars in North America. Thankfully, the market didn't just stop with the success of two implausibly timeless board games. The wellrounded gaming industry continues to ebb and flow and release games that are socially timely and relevant for all 30


age groups. Yet, the effects of games on juvenile audiences, whether it's a simple card game of Uno or something more multi-faceted like, say, Dungeons and Dragons, are invaluable to a developing brain. Through all the thrill and fun, games sneak in strategic reasoning, problem-solving and hone a healthy desire to win, while also teaching the grace of defeat.'s blog states: "A Michigan State University study reports that kids who play games experience spikes in creative thinking and abilities. Not only is creativity fun, but it is a special life skill that can be useful in school and become essential in the workforce. Playing games with kids over holiday breaks may do more than help them behave for a few hours; it may also prepare them for a lifetime of success." Retro relics like Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, Monopoly, Life, Operation, Yahtzee and even Mouse Trap, first released in 1963, are fan favorites and still move off the shelves. Countless editions of Trivial Pursuit, from Horror Movies to Harry Potter, make it a customizable fit for all Nov/Dec 2021


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family members. And the newer Cards Against Humanity, with all its indecorous expansion packs, is a great option for toddy toasting adults after bedtime. Role-playing games, when players adopt personas with traits and individual missions and move about in an imaginary world as part of a wholistic story, have been a decades-long favorite. Dungeons and Dragons, first published in 1974, is colloquially credited with the continuing development and advancement of the roleplaying genre. In August of 2021, listed Dungeons and Dragons 5E as perpetually among the best, along with other tabletop adventures including Call of Cthulhu 7E, Blades in the Dark and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. lists Ticket to Ride as 2021's best board game for families. It doesn't involve high-strategy skills, perfect for when turkey has zapped the ability to form cognitive thought. There are multiple versions, set in multiple countries, so there is always new "scenery" to enjoy. Other modern favorites that skew toward wee ones include Rhino Hero, Dragonwood and Jungle Cruise, based on Magic Kingdom's famous ride. Wildly popular 1990s classic (can we call something from the ‘90s a classic yet?) Catan is definitely worth consideration, while Azul, modeled after Portuguese tiles called azulejos, is simply beautiful to behold. Thanks to our society of convenience-hungry consumers, you can now opt-in for game night subscription 32


boxes and have a new adventure delivered to your doorstep regularly. Escape the Crate brings the exhilaration of an escape room, with puzzles to solve and codes to crack, to the comfort of your home bi-monthly. Or for those with a taste for murder and crime, Hunt a Killer is top-notch entertainment in a mailable box. When Battleship launched an electronic version in 1977, followed by Electronic Talking Battleship in 1989, it piqued our palates for the beeps and lights of games that go beyond cardboard pieces, rolling dice and fake paper money. Today, the video game industry develops so fast it's hard to keep up. While they shouldn't be overlooked as a legitimate game genre, they deserve an entire article on their own. And, in truth, it's hard to find a video game the whole family can enjoy at the same time. As we're perched at the onset of a long, earliernight-fall holiday season, don't feel overwhelmed with the choices. Family game night doesn't have to be a high maintenance event requiring hours of homework to decipher directions. You can accomplish a lot with a deck of cards and a pen and piece of paper. It's hard to beat the lightning-fast, nail-biting action of Xs vs. Os. Tic-Tac-Toe certainly beats crazy Aunt [fill in the blank's] affectionately forceful Xs and Os. ‘Tis the season! Nancy S. Moseley is a freelance writer in Blacksburg. She did not grow up playing many games besides poker with her cousins during annual beach vacations. She considers it a pretty good life skill. Nov/Dec 2021

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The Ubiquitous UPS Truck

I started out as a seasonal (temporary) hire in 1978, and now work in media relations at our corporate headquarters. Our last CEO began his career loading trucks while in college. So we mean it when we say we promote from within. – Dan McMackin Text by Joanne M. Anderson Photos courtesy of UPS Humble beginnings takes on new meaning when you learn that UPS (formerly United Parcel Service) was founded in Seattle in 1907 by two teenagers with a $100 loan. The numbers today are staggering: 2020 revenue - $84.6 billion Employees - 540,000 Countries/territories - 220 Packages delivered daily 24 million or so (the world) Delivery vehicle fleet - 127,000 Jet aircraft - 550+ (owned, leased, chartered) Daily U.S. flights - 1,232 Daily global flights - 712 It is tricky to write about a UPS truck because they have so many. The firm has the largest private 34


fleet of alternative fuel and advanced technology trucks in the world. Several still run on gasoline, others on compressed natural gas CNG. Some are electric hybrid, others are all electric, ethanol, propane, hydraulic hybrid and more which can power the engine which turns the wheels and carries the driver who hands you a package. Dan McMackin, UPS spokesperson, started his career with the company loading tractor trailers at night in high school. He worked his way through college as a part-time package handler, then a full-time driver, before holding several front line operations positions, including supervising drivers and working in the safety department. Eventually, he transferred to the Atlanta headquarters.

Driver Training “There are more than 500 methods of package delivery,” McMackin explains. “Each driver learns how to sit, put on the seatbelt, and start the vehicle, all in one motion. Entering a truck is done with 3 points of contact at all times, which is two feet and one hand or one foot and both hands on a surface to avoid slipping or tripping. Exiting the vehicle is done in reverse, grabbing the handrail and facing the packages as you leave the truck space.” The company spends $200 million each year on safety alone.

Logistics The large brown trucks and other UPS vehicles are not cruising

Nov/Dec 2021

down streets randomly on any given day. The logistics of moving so many packages efficiently and carefully are vastly intricate. Superior, sophisticated algorithms have been developed to manage almost every facet of daily operation. “We have lots of experience doing what we do,” McMackin relates. “Engineering drives eliminating waste, reducing inefficiency, lessening our carbon footprint and maximizing consistency with optimum timing.” Time is money to any corporate entity, and delivery timing is the expectation of every customer. Consistency and safety are top priorities throughout the company, which spends $200 million each year on safety alone. A very powerful math formula underpins the entire UPS network, according to McMackin. Packages are moving all the time on planes, ships, semis coming into huge distribution centers in Seattle on the West Coast and Atlanta on the East Coast along with several U.S. airports. Once here, an algorithm arranges the flow, which can be changed in seconds with the flip of a switch to adjust for variables, like weather conditions. “If there’s a snowstorm in the center of the country, for example,” he states, “within a matter of minutes or hours, delivery routes are changed, so the package is not delayed.”

the night before, hopefully eliminating the possibility of a breakdown on the day shift. “Drivers check that all signals, horns and lights work, emergency signal triangles are present, the gas cap is ‘leaded, threaded and sealed’, tires look good, nothing is loose under the truck and so on,” McMackin says. “Each evening, drivers will check many of the same things again, plus look for dents, scrapes, any damage, check pressure gauges, appropriate play in the steering wheel, lights work, lug nuts and rims look tight, front and rear of the vehicle is the same as it was in the morning and more.” One big goal at UPS for drivers, who may have driven a couple hundred miles and walked dozens of miles in short stints, is what they consider the most important stop of the day: When each driver is in his/her own driveway in the same shape as having left for work earlier that day. The other goal of the same value is that every customer received a package on time.

UPS has a vast array of excellent employment and career opportunities. “We foster careers with a culture that promotes from within, supports education, and provides excellent benefits--even to part-time staff.” []

Truck Interior The front of the most common large brown UPS trucks seen around the New River Valley have a bare bones cab designed for optimum efficiency. The seat is bolted on an accordion-like metal riser to adjust the height. There is one cup holder, no frills and minimal distractions. A small, flat jump seat is hinged on the right for a second delivery person during holidays and busy times. The trucks are clean and have been loaded by group pre-loaders who work between 4 and 8 a.m. when the driver arrives for the day shift. Drivers have the same truck every day. Packages have been strategically placed for location and different service levels, i.e., some must be delivered by 8:30 a.m., others by 2 p.m. and more by the end of the day. The back of the truck has been organized so, ideally, there is not any hunt-and-peck activity trying to find any package at any stop. The driver’s handheld device has been programmed with all stops in the correct order for level of service, distance and directions.

Epic Road Trip ®

Truck Check-up Drivers do not have routes, but delivery areas. Every driver is responsible for a pre-trip and post-trip checklist. More than two dozen items each morning include checking that a mechanic signed off on the vehicle


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2021 Buy Local

Allure Spa & Skin Health Boutique

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pearis Mercantile

Are you looking for a treasure for yourself or maybe for someone special? Then Pearis Mercantile is the place to be! Located in Downtown Pearisburg, you will find unique shopping with 35 Artisan Consigners, speciality gifts and ideas. Shop the holiday ornaments & home décor for inside or outdoor. You will find so many wonderful items it may be hard to make a decision. The friendly sales staff can help with your selection. Open daily with special Sunday Hours that start before Thanksgiving until Christmas. 200 N. Main St. 540-921-2260

Wine & Design Enjoy painting & sipping a little wine. Choose from a variety of paintings...sign up & let your creative abilities appear on the canvas. Check out the website to view the calendar. 438 Peppers Ferry Rd, Christiansburg 540-381-6964 36


New in the Mall... Paint N Fun Ceramics Come by and choose a creamic piece to paint! Create the perfect piece for you. Bring the family or friends and enjoy group fun. Please check us out on the website. 782 New River Rd. Christiansburg 540-251-3386 Uptown Christiansburg

Nov/Dec 2021 2021 Novemb er/Decemb er

Buy Local Gift Guide Bonomo’s CLOTHIER

Enjoy lovely, affordable styles for casual, work & dressy occasions. Clothing that fits up to size 3X. Shop exquisite jewelry & accessories to complete any style. University City Blvd., Blacksburg 540-951-8102

Matrix Gallery

A great little gallery full of quality American Crafts by local, regional and national artists. Pottery, Glass, Jewelry, Wood, Leather, and more. Beautiful holiday gifts that are functional, decorative, and fun! Located at 115 N. Main St. in Downtown Blacksburg 540.951.3566


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NRV Fe at u r e s

When I Grow Up

Text by Becky Hepler In the quest for upward mobility, children have been counseled to aim higher than their parents in a career path, especially if they are from a family of blue collar workers, with the hopeful result that going to college will be higher pay and less back-breaking work.

This begs the questions:

• • •

Is a kindergarten teacher less tired than a construction worker at the end of the day? How does the pay of an English major barista stack up with a plumber? Are the minions in a cubicle farm really happy?

College, in and of itself, is a very worthy goal. It expands horizons, gives critical thinking skills and provides 38


alternative viewpoints, but it’s not the only way to fulfilling work that can support a household. Chris Bennington from Giles County didn’t have any real career goals in mind when he graduated from high school. He patched together a living with jobs in fast food and a stint at Tetra, but adding a wife and family suddenly brought things into focus. He’d heard that a heating and cooling company needed workers, and he got hired. More than 20 years later, he’s still installing and maintaining heating and cooling systems and still loving it. “With me, it’s just getting into the field and having a chance to learn different things, plus work with my hands and be outside,” he says. “Most of the time, those are the most interesting things about it that I enjoy.” He also appreciates that the work includes construction, plumbing, electrical work and even computer technology, with all the diagnostic tools. Nov/Dec 2021

“That’s another reason I love it, you get the best of all the

and being a business owner in it - the responsibilities of

market with a successful brand.

worlds in trade.”

Bennington has worked with several different

companies and has been at his current place for 13 years. He has no interest in starting and running his own company. “As

long as I can support my family and make a good income, I

really don’t have to think about having my own business.” He

also feels positive about the benefits, which include matching IRA funds, yearly bonuses and an adequate health insurance plan.

Luanda Parrish grew up in her mother’s salon, Lia’s

Hair Styling in Blacksburg. She even took cosmetology classes

as her Career and Technical Education [CTE] requirement in high school, but never really thought about it as a career, opting, instead, for psychology. But one day it occurred to

her, “…psychology seemed a little too heavy for me.” I felt like

I wouldn’t be able to separate work and life. I like talking to people, and hair dressing is sort of like doing therapy but a

little bit lighter. The more I got into it, the more I started to enjoy it.”

Parrish recognizes the drawbacks of her profession

having employees, the longer hours, the need to build a

But she also enjoys the

positive attributes, the creativity, the flexibility of bringing her children and even her dog to work and the satisfaction of working with her mother to continue to build this business.

Scott Mattox of Radford always had an appreciation

and fascination with old buildings, probably linked to his

dad’s stint in the Air Force in Europe where there were plenty of those. He thought he wanted to be an architect, but his

high school drafting teacher told him that if he really wanted a job he should consider construction. Knowing how much he enjoyed working with his hands, he decided that was good

advice and got into Virginia Tech’s Building Construction program.

Right out of the program he was hired by a crew

that was doing historic rehabbing of houses and businesses

in Roanoke. He eventually got to be part of the restoration of the Hancock Building in downtown Roanoke, originally a dry goods store in the 1930s. It was purchased by Grand Home Furnishings (formerly Grand Piano and Furniture Company),


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who refaced the building to give it a more modern appearance.

are taught at the Giles Tech Center. Kevin White, principal

work, and a specialist was brought in to teach a hands-on

system, says students who do the 2-year sequence of classes

Removing that facing showed beautiful Art Deco terra cotta class on fixing the terra cotta and matching the textures with full finish work. “It was a neat project, and we have gone on

to similar ones, including one in Danville; that was uplifting an old newspaper office to a boutique hotel,” Mattox explains.

Asked the best part of his job, Mattox states: “I

think it might be getting a sense of accomplishment, having

something you can look at, tangible, see what improvements

you’ve made. It gives you an immediate achievement. I don’t know that you get that in a desk job.”

Every high school in Virginia has a Career and

Technical Education department and students are required, in addition to the usual high school subjects, to take a class in the CTE fields.

In Giles County, the two high schools (Narrows and

Giles County) teach their own agriculture, family and consumer

sciences and business classes, but the more specialized areas, such as cosmetology, automotive technology, drafting, pre-

engineering, computer technology, cybersecurity, building technology, welding, precision machining and nursing,



of the Tech Center and CTE director for the county school

and successfully pass the state-certification tests are set to enter these various fields or to go to a community college for further instruction


White says that the Virginia Department of Education

recognizes the seriousness of the skills gap and the shrinking

number of people to do these very important – and often

very well-paid – jobs. It is stepping up with more money for

schools to spend for equipment and curriculum. The state is hiring learning coordinators to improve CTE and work-based

learning. The shrinking number of technicians is driving up the cost of getting things done, so these fields can be very

lucrative financially as well as offer great personal satisfaction.

Tonya Vaden, career counselor for the Giles County

school system, thinks the skilled trades are highly overlooked.

“I think that it’s so important for people to realize that there

is success to be had in every career, and there is success in all walks of life. Each student does not have to fit into a box or

specific path,” she says. “Success is out there, and it can be found in the skilled trades.”

Nov/Dec 2021


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Independent Bookstore Back in Town Text by Joanne M. Anderson


Statistics on independent bookstores seem to be all over the map, but according to the American Booksellers Association, there are 2,321 indie booksellers. A couple surprises have unfolded since the 1970s when most bookstores were independent. Then with indoor mall construction came national chains like B. Dalton and Waldenbooks. Fast forward to the ‘90s when Books-A-Million, Borders and Barnes & Noble built massive freestanding bookstores with coffee shops inside. When came alive in 1995, independent booksellers dropped by 40% across the next five years. The Kindle was introduced in 2007 and that, it was thought, would spell doom for books, the real ones with paper pages. Amazon. com may have destroyed some of the book chains, but in the last dozen years, independent booksellers have increased by 40%. According to one NPR (National Public Radio) interview, real estate developers are embracing the independent bookstore. And herein lies the explanation. Where malls are anchored with well-known national chain stores – think: Kohls, Belk, Dick’s Sporting Goods – vibrant communities are anchored with … [drumroll] … independent bookstores! As stated by Paddy Hirsch of NRP News: “The indie bookstore is marching triumphantly into the very place that once threatened to destroy it. They have returned to dance on the ashes of Borders and Waldenbooks. Now, that's a great twist.” And one of those great twists, Blacksburg Books, opened in downtown Blacksburg on Aug. 6 this year, thanks to the efforts, work, dreams and community spirit of one Laurie Kelly. “When my husband and I relocated to Blacksburg seven years ago, I noted the absence of an 42


independent bookstore,” she recalls. As a lawyer and mom of three teenagers, time might be tight, but her passion for literature and dream of a book shop propelled her to begin planning. “The inventory began with books my husband and I had amassed over the years and my neighbor’s collection. She was an elderly woman who had been an educator and a reader all her life. We became friends, and when she died, her son gave me her books which I put in a storage unit. One day I saw a thread on the Facebook group “Everything Blacksburg” about how many people wanted a used bookstore in Blacksburg. I mentioned I was building an inventory to open one.” Her post generated lots of excitement with people asking if they could donate books. Laurie spent months collecting boxes and bags of books from very generous folks. Once she located space on S. Main St., at the far end of the Nov/Dec 2021


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“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” ~ author Stephen King

condo building where Gourmet Pantry anchors the opposite end, Laurie went to work organizing the interior. “We painted the walls, which were stark white, to add color and change the atmosphere. We built all the bookcases and shelving and removed the fitting rooms to create the children’s nook. We continue to make changes and adapt as we learn what our customers want.” Note that “we” includes her husband, who designed and built all the bookshelves and volunteer labor from all three teens. The bookcases are on casters for easy movement to a new place or make temporary space for seating. The inventory is around 75% used books and the balance new ones, a mix of paperback and hardback. While they accept donations and have a trade-in program, Laurie says the trade-ins may be on hold until next year, as she has a storage unit full of books waiting to find their place inside the bookstore. Categories run the gamut like classics, poetry, health and wellness, science fiction and fantasy, young adult, religion, art, animals and nature and many more.



Children’s story hour is held each Saturday morning, and several local author events are already on the calendar into 2022. You can find a poem written by someone local on the website each week. With around 7,500 books, a central location, and open hours every day of the week, Blacksburg Books is already on the radar of readers, families, students and residents who themselves have a passion for books reading them, holding them, looking at them, buying them and gifting them.

401 S. Main St. #106, Blacksburg Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Sunday, noon - 5 p.m. 540-315-9650

Nov/Dec 2021

How You Frame It Off the Wall focuses on treasure preservation Text by Nancy S. Moseley Being a framer is kind of like being a bartender, Tracy Williams, owner of Off the Wall custom frame shop, offers. "I hear whole stories behind vacations, weddings, special events ... you definitely make a connection. I've made people cry, in a good way." Then she adds in a side-eye whisper, like it's a secret of sorts: "If someone is framing a pet, the pet has died." It's an industry hazard, or industry reward, depending on perspective, to bear witness to all spectrums of human emotion. Only the cocktails are missing. Williams grew up in Northern Virginia and attended Virginia Tech with a major in communications. As a student, she got a part-time job framing at Ivy's Gifts and Crafts in the New River Valley Mall. After Ivy's went out of business, she actively looked for other framing opportunities in the area, having latched on to the craft. That's when she got a job at Original Frameworks in Blacksburg. Following her 1995 graduation she went to work as a store manager for the now out-of-business Piece Goods craft store, followed by a run managing JOANN Fabric store. "I've always loved and preferred working with my hands." Her grandmother taught her how to crochet when she was 8 years old so she could make her own doll clothes. She is still an avid knitter and seamstress. "I guess I'm a maker. I like making things," she laughs. Eventually marriage, three children and a collection of four-legged pets steered her away from unpredictable retail hours and toward, literally, banking hours. For the next 15 years she worked at the National Bank of Blacksburg. To keep the creative juices flowing she taught craft classes at Michaels. As her children grew up and home life settled into

autopilot, Williams decided to start putting out applications for something craftier than money management. In doing so, she used former employer, Original Frameworks, as a reference. "Once they became aware I was looking for work again, they contacted me." Williams went back to work for them. She became a manager and enjoyed more autonomy over the framing process than she had during her first tenure. During this time, she attended an annual framing conference in Las Vegas, which eventually led to her earning credentials as a Certified Picture Framer (CPF). "Then," she recalls with the vantage point of hindsight, "I had an opportunity to do all of it on my own." The fated connection: Her second husband's boss's wife ran Blue Ridge Gallery and Frame Shop out of her garage in Rocky Mount and was looking to retire. "She had all of the equipment, a good deal of

Stop in and visit our Info & Welcome Center

See our selection of T-shirts, Souvenirs, information and maps! 701A W. Main Street


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materials and a computerized mat cutter," which, in the industry, is a big deal because it allows for cutting shapes not possible with a standard mat cutter. "I thought, if I really want to open my own business, now is a good time." Williams put friends and family to work, transforming her newly leased, raw retail space entirely on her own. Off the Wall's doors opened on Jan. 10, 2020, unaware it was also the eve of a world-shaking pandemic. “I had been building this shop in my head, on paper, and eventually in reality for too long to give up easily. Personally and business-wise, I shifted my focus from a year of amazing growth to a year of steady survival.” Choosing custom framing over buying a simple, ready-made frame is best when you have something in a non-standard size or precious memorabilia. You also benefit from professional design skills and specialized preservation materials. "When a customer walks in with their art, it is a process to design the frame around the art. How to put in front of them something that makes the light bulb go on or delicately talk them out of something that may not look the best. It all takes practice. Designing takes practice." And Williams has had years of practice. She has framed a lab coat, a fisherman's hat and lures, medals, books, sports jerseys, a railroad spike, plates, antique eyeglasses, boy scout patches, the back of a stadium seat and countless pieces of more traditional two-dimensional art. Once a customer brought in her Bible and together they flipped through the pages to find all the four-leaf clovers so Williams could frame them. "Figuring out how to mount 3-dimensional items in a way that's non-harming to the item, but also invisible, is challenging." She recently used magnets to frame a family's old flour and cornmeal sacks from an ancestral farm. Her husband, Ken, helped engineer wooden slats to help square off and secure the framing of two oversized stained-glass pieces. "There is a special relationship between a framer and customer. You are introduced to be part of their lives. You learn about their taste, what they like, what's important to them. After all these years, to visualize what it will look like, then to see it all come together and having a complete product to hand to a customer, is still so fun." If you want to belly up to her counter (she even has barstools) to discuss mat shapes and your once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Almafi coast to commemorate a milestone wedding anniversary, Williams will happily toast your treasured times and relish the buzz of helping you celebrate, save and show off the memory forever. Cocktails optional. Nancy S. Moseley is a freelance writer in Blacksburg. She finds being a writer also strikingly similar to being a bartender, in getting to hear people's passions and pains. She is considering making cocktails required. Off the Wall 3225 #16 North Franklin Street, Christiansburg, VA 24073 (across from Corning) Instagram: @offthewallframegallery



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