Mark's parents have been here this weekend, and we've had such a nice time. Yesterday, we went and saw Mark's workplace, then toured around the downtown area of Leesburg, which is very nice. Lots of cute shops and restaurants, and really cool historic buildings dating from the late 1700s and early 1800s. We had a great lunch at The Wine Kitchen, which I absolutely recommend if you're ever in that area.
After we were done in Leesburg, we came home and Mark and his dad put together the Big Green Egg I got him for his birthday. That thing is going to be so cool! For our first trial run on it, Mark just used it to grill some late multi-colored corn and strip steaks, which we had for dinner with salad. He also grilled some fresh mozzarella in lemon halves, which we had with bread. It was really nice. The steaks weren't perfect, but that was much more a function of the quality of the meat (Whole Foods is just not Central Market) than the grill (or the griller).
Today, we set a slightly more educational and less decadent schedule. First, we went to the Balls Bluff Battlefield Regional Park. A small Civil War battle was waged there (the only one to have a sitting U.S. Senator killed, and he was from Oregon!). It wasn't what any of us expected--rather than being any kind of field, it was trails through the woods, winding past a small cemetery where unknown soldiers are buried and down to the Potomac River. Not a ton of interesting or useful information was presented, either, but it was a beautiful day and a nice walk.
Next, we went to the Oatlands Historic House and Garden, which is a restored plantation. We skipped the tour of the house (Irene, Mark's mom, said that if you've seen one house you've seen them all, and I kind of tend to agree), but spent quite a while in the 4.5 acre tiered formal gardens (where Mark took this really cute picture of me). The gardens were nothing short of breathtaking. It's not even a good season for gardens, but they were amazing. All sorts of different little dioramas, some cultivated down to the single blade of grass, some more organic. I'm not a huge garden person, but Mark and his parents are, so I thought I'd be bored there. I wasn't. It's worth seeing.
Finally, we went to the Aldie Grist Mill. It was a functional mill for almost 200 years (until the early 1970s) and was then restored as a monument. There were two tour guides there who did a great job, and they showed us how all of the old milling equipment worked. There I did get a bit bored, but mostly just because it had already been kind of a long afternoon and I wanted something to eat. The attraction itself is worth going to if you're in that direction.
Once we got back to the house, Mark and his mom made us an amazing dinner of crab cakes (John and Irene spent a couple of days in Maryland before they came to visit us and they brought us some lump crab), goat cheese stuffed hatch chilis, and salad with heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella. Then we all relaxed a bit, and now everyone else is in bed. John and Irene leave for home in the morning, and Mark is back to work. I'm lucky enough to have two more days off before I start back up.
This was a really exceptional visit with my (not)in-laws. I can't describe quite why, but it was great. I really feel like they've come to accept me as part of their family, and I really appreciate that. Plus they are just fun to hang out with--they really like to do and see things, they love good food and wine, and they're pretty excellent conversationalists. I'm very lucky.