Monday, December 31, 2018

New Years Eve Game Night

My kids and I have a New Years Eve tradition. We play board games. Winner puts their name in the box lid next to the year. It's a fun record to look at each year when we pull the games out, again.

This year my daughter invited her boyfriend to join us. So we were 4.

And we snacked on finger food. Again, this tradition began with my family while I was growing up. Finger food for Christmas Eve was such a hit that we carried that menu over into New Years Eve, too. I provided the desserts (plenty left from Christmas) and my kids provided an assortment of savories and the soda.

Back to game night. The other rule is that the winner chooses the next game. My son usually wins every. single. game. We always let my daughter choose first.

She chose Scrabble. I won!

Then I chose Blokus. Surprise. I won!

It was getting late. This time I chose Hail to the Chief. You can now call me Madame President. My son is Vice-President.


Meanwhile we had our phones ready to celebrate the New Year. The kids had their phones set to the New York City ball drop, while my phone played the Hallmark movie Midnight Kiss, where the lovers kiss under the fireworks, at midnight, on New Years Eve, which is the closing scene in the movie. I thought the Hallmark movie was more exciting than the New York City ball drop.

Then my kids set their phones to the celebration in San Antonio, Texas. (our former home) In San Antonio, the numbers of the year is displayed at the top of the Tower of Americas. For the countdown, the new numeral rides up the elevator, joins the new numeral for the year, right when an incredible fireworks show explodes.

The kids were exclaiming that San Antonio's was not only better than New York's, but also the fireworks rivaled that of Washington, D.C. My son said that someone probably counted the number of fireworks in our nation's capitol, then added one more.

My take on this was that New York is pessimistic  about the New Year whereas San Antonio is optimistic.  😉

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The Tastes of Christmas

I think my favorite eats for a festive occasion is finger food...and my kids eat it up!

I think it all began when my mom served finger food one Christmas Eve in lieu of the traditional, regular every day dinner. It got rave reviews, so it became our new tradition. Traditionally Christmas breakfast came to include pumpkin bread and cranberry bread. For dinner, it was always turkey.

My kids have embraced these traditions, but we have mixed it up when it comes to Christmas Dinner. We like to do an Old English style dinner with roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. For the busy days leading to Christmas I get a smoked turkey and make homemade cranberry sauce to use for sandwiches to eat with a pot of soup.  This year I used the turkey for a Tex Mex Soup and for sour cream enchiladas.

The Christmas Eve Savory Course


A few years ago I found these little slates to identify the cheeses. This year I finally remembered to try them out. I put the country of origin on the back, and the name of the cheese in front.








Then one year we heard tamales are traditional in San Antonio for Christmas Eve, and we were all in.


The Christmas Eve Dessert Course




Christmas Morning Breakfast




Christmas Dinner


The kids and I agreed that this year the roast beef was the best ever. It's not often that I have time to just slow cook it in the oven. It all made for great, and short-lived, leftovers.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas, from 1952

Presenting my 1952 Christmas Dress!

1952 Dress

Many thanks to my son for taking the photos. (New Years Resolution: learn how to use the camera timer and tripod)

1952 Dress
Opening my card from Mount Vernon

Sadly I ran out of time to make petticoats, so I only wore the one I had made a few years ago. It simply wasn't enough oompf. The photos taken while I was standing were totally lackluster. My son strategized poses while sitting...the only proof that I have a full skirt! My sewing list for 2019 definitely includes sewing some petticoats to snazz up this dress. (Something to look forward to, next Christmas!)

1952 Dress

This project began with the Gertie fabric I bought from JoAnn years ago. I was highly charmed and intrigued by the windowpane fabric, and loved the bows! The only thing I didn't like about the fabric was that it is polyester. (Natural fiber is much easier to sew with! Many thanks to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation tailors for teaching me that!) Thus I heavily debated with myself while in the store whether I should buy the fabric or not. I finally did, then stuck it in the stash because I had no idea which dress to sew with it.

1952 Dress

Since 2018 was my year of stashbusting, it became paramount in my mind to do something with this. All summer I went through my pattern stash and considered the options. When autumn arrived I put away my summer sewing, and dug out Butterick 6018.  I had decided that the black windowpane fabric with red bows would look stunning as a dress with a sweetheart neckline and full skirt .


Because of the windowpane fabric, I decided to do my first underlining project. I purchased some black fabric polyester faille even though I was tempted to buy black 100% silk. However I thought it best to keep both fabrics a polyester. If one is going to be a bear to work with, both might as well be a bear to work with.

Reconciling myself to this ahead of time helped me endure the agony of the downfalls of sewing polyester....and I survived! Or should I say the dress survived? There were certainly times I felt like trashing it.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

New HSLDA Online Academy Discount for the 2018-2019 Academic Year

Are you looking for more out of your high school curriculum? Online courses are a great way for your students to learn how to prepare for deadlines, develop friendships, and improve computer literacy, all without leaving home. HSLDA Online Academy, a division of HSLDA, offers live, interactive courses online as a way to encourage families to continue homeschooling through high school and help them prepare their students for success. The Academy offers 36 different courses in English, Math, Science, Foreign Language, History, Government, and more.

Each course is taught from a Christian worldview by experienced, Bible-believing instructors and includes a weekly live, interactive session with the instructor. This session allows students to ask questions about concepts that may be difficult for them to understand on their own, while encouraging accountability and self-discipline, and live sessions are recorded, giving your students the flexibility to catch up on any missed work. Classes are filling up quickly, registration ends August 8! HSLDA members save $50-$100 on tuition.
Do any of your students take classes through the HSLDA Online Academy? If so, you can get a discount by typing  PTXVN2G  in the "coupon" field. 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Autumn in the Shenandoah Mountains where we got to see...

From November 4...

Alas, the photos of the big surprise of the day did not come out clearly. In fact there was no hint of a surprise in the photos that I took, just a blur of trees.

My daughter had wanted to hike in Shenandoah National Park to see the colors. I warned my kids that all of Washington, DC would be there too, but they were determined, I was happy to be invited along.

We took the back country route to avoid the DC traffic on I-66 and had the happy surprise of seeing a 1941 vintage auto!

But once we arrived in Front Royal, less than 2 miles from the entrance, we hit the stagnant traffic from DC.

Out adventure in the mountains felt more like our drive stagnant parking lot sitting in New York City a few years ago.

A couple of hours later we finally made it into Shenandoah National Park. Famished we finally got to devour our picnic lunch at the overlook at the Visitor Center. Brrr. It was cold. The coldest day of the season thus far.

By then the sun was hinting at sunset. After all we had gotten a late start and it was Fall Back Sunday. We had two hours to see what we wanted to see. My son was determined to take us on a very short hike on the Old Rag Trail.

My daughter's boyfriend exclaimed that his one goal was to see bears. He's from the city and apparently had not ventured into the mountains very often. While warning him that seeing bears is quite rare, my son drove around the curve and soon slowed down because of all the cars ahead of us, stopped and parked. Many people were out with their cameras.

Alan jumped out, ran to see what everyone else was looking at. Enthusiastically he mouthed to us that there were bears! Just inside the tree line was a mother bear and 2 babies. I barely got to see them, but that was pretty cool. I stayed in the car most of the time, only stayed out long enough to try to take a photo, then jumped back in the car. I know full well that bears, especially mother bears, are not to be messed with.

Finally we traversed on. At the first overlook I asked if we could at least stop at this overlook to take photos of the Shenandoah Valley before the sun set.

10-Shenandoah Valley
Shenandoah Valley

9-Shenandoah Valley
Shenandoah Valley

8-Shenandoah Valley
Shenandoah River

7-Shenandoah River
Shenandoah River

11-Shenandoah Valley
Shenandoah Valley

12-Shenandoah Valley
Shenandoah Valley

13-Shenandoah Valley
Shenandoah Valley

At this moment the kids headed for a very short hike (they promised me it would be very short) on the Old Rag Trail. It had gotten considerably colder and I don't like being on the trails at night, so I stayed to take photos of the sun set.

I was stunned not only by the beauty, but how the view seemed so spot on with a Lexington Quilt Row by Row I had sewed a couple of years ago.
14-Shenandoah Mountains
Shenandoah Mountains

I couldn't capture the glowing beauty of the sunset in the photo below, but I was taken not only by the sunset but also by the layers of the mountains. It reminded me of yet another Quilt Row by Row I had sewn, this time from Winchester.
15-Shenandoah Mountains
Shenandoah Mountains

And yes, the kids quickly returned to take their own pictures of the sunset. Then we drove to another overlook to watch the sun set. My son's goal was to do some star gazing, but by then the clouds had come in.

I couldn't believe all the lights we saw in the valley below. All that had seemed like pasture land by day, seemed to turn to city by night.
16-Shenandoah Valley Lights
Shenandoah Valley

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

1941 Vintage Auto Sighting

From November 4...

While my son was driving us to the Shenandoah Mountains, we happened upon yet another fun vintage auto!

1-1941 Auto Shenandoah

It's amazing how many of these we stumble upon while out and about.

2-1941 Auto Shenandoah

Thankfully I was able to quickly grab the camera, while my son carefully maneuvered us into optimum photo taking positions.

3-1941 Auto Shenandoah

The owners have done an impeccable job of preserving these classics!

4-1941 Auto Shenandoah


5-1941 Auto Shenandoah

I think I'd be content to just slow down to the speed of these vintage memories, and take in the scenery at a slower pace...

6-1941 Auto Shenandoah

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Telegraph Road and the Victorian Internet

While I was at Pohick Church, I discovered that I was at the junction of the oft traveled Telegraph Road. It even made news in the March 1933 issue of Popular Mechanics. Hilariously the caption reads: "Perhaps the only memorial to a telegraph pole line. It stands near Washington, DC."

I've seen these signs for years. They are everywhere! My earliest memories are the days when I first moved to Northern Virginia. They've definitely intrigued me.

Telegraph Road by Pohick Church

After taking several photos at Pohick Church, I ran some errands at Potomac Mills to the south, where I found this sign. Pretty cool if you can find all the signs to trace the route of the telegraph line.

Telegraph Road at Potomac Mills

In the 18th century, Telegraph Road was known as "Back Road" or "Inland Road." And of course the name changed by the mid-19th century because the back road was to pave the way to a highway of information.

Thus I was quite thrilled to find and read this book by Tom Standage, The Victorian Internet who develops that idea. It's an easy and fascinating read into the internet world of the Victorian Era. That is his premise...that the telegraph allowed worldwide instant messaging for the first time. In this book, the 19th century"highway of thought" meets the 21st century "information superhighway."

Through the lens of a telescope parallels were drawn between modern matching making websites and 19th century telegraph operators who fell in love through the sending of dots and dashes to each other while waiting to send commissioned transmissions.

My favorite section was how espionage took on a new twist as codes were ingeniously cracked with the new technology, but I mustn't give any of that away.

Likewise through the lens of a microscope 19th century dots and dashes were paralleled with 21st century bits and bytes.

Presented as revolutionary were the following eras of communication in the history of the world, which I thought was a great summary view:

  • the Gutenberg Printing Press
  • the telegraph
  • the internet

The Victorian Internet

The author does address his critics at his website:

A more justified criticism, in my view, was that I failed to give a sense of what it was like to be online in the nineteenth century — what it was like to use a Morse key and sounder. Another criticism is that I could have gone into more detail about the economics, and in particular the speculative bubble that surrounded the telegraph companies in their early days. But this criticism only surfaced after the collapse of the dotcom bubble in 2000, long after the book was published. Besides, it turns out that Andrew Odlyzko, formerly a researcher at AT&T and now a mathematician and economist at the University of Minnesota (and, in my view, one of the greatest telecoms gurus around), has done most of the econometric research and analysis needed to support my arguments in the book. He was motivated to do so partly as a result of reading it.
By and large, the book has aged well. Its deliberately retro subject-matter has given it a much longer shelf-life than most internet books, and it seems to have become, if anything, even more relevant since the dotcom crash. (It was reissued in September 2007, unchanged except for the addition of a new afterword.)-Tom Standage
Initially I presumed this book, like most books about science, would be dry and boring, bogging me down with "what do I care about that?" type of details. However this book was sheer delight. It is an easy, informative, and fascinating read. I couldn't put it down.