Wednesday, March 30, 2016

March Blooms in my Northern Virginia Garden

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Hyacinths


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Redbud Tree


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Yoshino Flowering Cherry Tree


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Scilla


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Hyacinth
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Hyacinth


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Hyacinth


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Newport Plum


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Tulip near Antique Rose

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Easter Parade, 1912 Fashions, and Research

The other night my husband wanted to watch Easter Parade with Fred Astaire and Judy Garland. Ever busy, I almost pulled out my historical research, or my sewing to do during the movie, but finally decided to sit back, close the laptop, set aside the sewing needles, and soak in perky music, fun story lines and fashion history.
My favorite song is "I'm Just a Fella, a Fella with an Umbrella" and I still wish Hannah had ended up with Jonathan. (sigh)
The story line ended up with a discussion with my husband about dancing styles. Prompted by bits and pieces of Dancing with the Stars that he sees, he has been asking me why all dances weren't ballroom dances. I kept saying with dwts, that these dances were ballroom, those were Latin, etc, but they are all so well executed (albeit some much better than others, but bravo to all those learning on the fly) my husband wasn't seeing the difference. Therefore this movie perfectly illustrated the different styles of dance. The ever so elegant ballroom dance, swirling and flowing to the ease of the musical beat...until poor Hannah attempts the moves. Strangling her dance partner with feathers isn't quite within the definition of elegance. However her perky tap dance and rhythms to her stunning vocals made up for where he dancing heels had to be put to rest.
And then...the fashions. The movie begins the day before Easter in 1911 and ends on Easter morning, 1912.  Fashions of that era were quickly changing and had quite a variety from outfit to outfit. Most notably, they are not everyone's cup of tea, not even mine. However there were a few outfits that I adored. My 3 top favorites are Hannah's kimono, the stunning white blouse with blue skirt towards the end of the movie (and that lovely hairstyle!), followed by the green evening wrap towards the end. The white blouse and blue skirt combination is my absolute favorite!
Most fun for any historically fashion conscious gal is to enjoy the melodious Richard Beavers' as he sings, "The Girl on a Magazine Cover" during a Ziegfield Follies show. On stage are life sized magazine covers (frames) with the names of famous covers of the day (like Vogue and Redbook), with the name of their issue (like Yachting, sports, bridal) and the price (15 cents). Within the frame was a real life model wearing the latest fashion from 1912.
All the while I thought of my 1912 fashions...in a box. A sewing basket actually.Back in 2012 I signed up with The 1912 Project, with the Vintage Pattern Lending Library and got some free La Mode Illustree patterns from 1912. The goal was for us to become fiber artist spies, unlocking sewing secrets of the past. The admins disbanded the project before the year was complete, but I still have my patterns!  So far I've made the princess slip...

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...and the blouse (directions here). Fashion photos (here).

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Since I've been blogging little,I thought I'd share what I've been up to. Apart from spring cleaning, researching A Founding Father Education, and sewing modern clothes for my daughter, I've done a bit of historical sewing too. Some of that can be seen on my facebook page, in the right margin. As far as spring cleaning goes, these baskets are some of what I've been doing throughout the house. My historical sewing has multiplied so much over the years, it was time to stop and organize and purge. These baskets were already done, but I'm fine tuning throughout the rest of the house in the same way that these baskets are done.

I have several large baskets that I got at Target years ago. In each is a different category of sewing, because I have that  much happening at once. I have an 18th century box (as shown on my facebook page). However this is my "other" historical sewing box. I have more 18th century stuff than anything, because of all the great classes I've been able to take at Williamsburg. Also the beauty of homeschooling and packing my kids up in a colonial time machine while wearing proper attire to the colonial capital of Virginia definitely kept me busy.  I used historical clothing to entice my kids to dig into all sorts of books and research. Along the way, I learned more about history than ever before, because of my sewing across all the eras. Therefore I still do a lot of historical research and a lot of historical sewing research. They just seem to go hand in hand for me now.

At the top of this sewing basket is my 19th century petticoat I've been working on. Underneath all that is my 1912 pattern collection!

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My third 1912 project was this skirt. I have so far cut out a toile for fitting. Of course this cotton floral fabric is not historically accurate for a skirt of 1912, but it's a great way to use up old fabric from past projects for fitting purposes!
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Then here are the others, simply waiting to come to life as a corset cover...
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...and a mantle.
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I think I'm starting to settle into a routine now that my homeschool teaching days are over. Mornings are spring cleaning. Afternoons are sewing. Evenings are research/writing/hand sewing during a movie. Busy days are coming though. I'm attending a 2 day seminar at the end of the week on the Constitution at my son's college, that I'm quite excited about!  Then in April I have jury duty. In Texas I only ever had to report 2 days in a row. Virginia is quite different. I get to report one day a week, every single week for an entire month.
Meanwhile I've read stacks of books and have sewn piles of fabric. I hope to share lots about all that soon! I can't very well work on my writing skills if I'm not writing!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Greetings

He is risen!

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He is risen indeed!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

My Daughter's Birthday,Trifle and Daffodils

Last weekend we celebrated my daughter's birthday. I sewed some new blouses for her to wear which I'll share more about later. She also got lots of new bits and pieces to chic up her shabby chic room. I hope to share  more on that too. Since she likes to make jewelry, she also got some jewelry pieces.Oh and the also got a new desk the week before, upon which I placed a vase full of daffodils to enjoy while she did her college studies.

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She's not much into cake, so she asked for a strawberry type dessert. I used to make trifle all the time for our 4th of July dessert, which was always a hit with the family. However I haven't made it since moving to Virginia because we used to go to Colonial Williamsburg all the time for July 4th. As I result I forgot all about the dessert. This time I decided to make the pudding from scratch. 

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I also made the sponge cake from scratch, with a hint of orange flavoring.  After everything cooled I assembled the trifle. First I prepped the fruit: strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries. I sliced the strawberries then added some sugar. This not only sweetens under-ripe strawberries in the off-season, but also creates a delicious syrup.  Then I cut up the sponge cake and laid that in the bowl. After that I poured the strawberries with syrup over the cake, so that the cake could soak up all that yumminess. Then came the pudding, blueberries and blackberries, and finally the whip cream.

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Here's a peak of strawberry. I'm out of practice at making this look pretty. I ran out of the various components. I'm not quite sure how that happened.

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The best part was the strawberry soaked sponge cake. My daughter agreed!

Friday, March 25, 2016

My Daughter's New Desk for a Shabby Chic Room

Last year when we were planning the remodel of my daughter's bedroom, we discussed the priority of getting a new desk. We only have birthday money and Christmas money to work with in the budget. After detailing a list of things that were necessary, the bookcase came first, for Christmas 2014 and birthday 2015. Then for only a small expense we repainted all of her furniture in summer 2015. Would she like a new desk for Christmas 2015? No, she decided to keep her old teeny tiny desk from when she was in elementary school years. Then last month the power went out in her room and the master bedroom until the electrician to fix things. Well, my daughter had quite a bit of college work to do, so she moved into her brother's room, since he was away at college. She got to use his new desk from his birthday 2015. Wow! She liked all the space. I asked if she'd like a new desk for her birthday 2016. Yes, indeed! In white to match the other furniture in her room.
So during her spring break, a week before her birthday, we assembled the desk for her. My husband helped me to get the cubicles in white at Target, just like we got for my son (except his are black.) The turquoise file boxes are also from Target.  Then we went to Lowes to get a sheet of nice aspen for the desktop, like we had gotten for my son's desk. My son had stained his sheet of aspen. I wanted to paint my daughter's white. However, it could be a bear to find the perfect white to match the white of the cubicles. We can't very well go opening various paint cans to find the right shade. The various shades of white aren't even premixed. I hoped to save money by using the can of paint we had used to paint her other furniture. There was half a gallon left. But would "Cream Delight" match?

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Before I painted the aspen board, I opened up the boxes to assemble the cubicles. When I pulled out the white boards, I held them against the furniture we had painted last summer. It was a perfect match! The can of paint in the garage would indeed work! Yea!
My husband had set up the aspen board in the garage, and thankfully the temperatures were nice, as if it were already spring. I painted one coat of paint on the board, then went upstairs to assemble the cubicles while the paint dried.
The cubicle parts included a doo-hickey that was  quite skinny, which I was supposed to use to screw the boards together. That wasn't happening. I was getting awful hand and arm cramps. Nor could I get the screw to turn beyond a few twists. I remembered as a little girl helping my dad with various projects around the house. I was always fascinated by his vise grips. I knew they would be the ticket to success! I went to the garage to find them. I pulled out every drawer. Hundreds of drawers. Thousands of drawers.  Millions of drawers. Hundreds, thousands and millions of drawers of all of my husbands gadgets and tools! Or so it seemed. Finally the last drawer had vise grips. Thrilled, I took them upstairs and put those two cubicles together.
The next day I put a second coat of paint on the aspen board. Then that night my husband helped me assemble the desk in my daughter's room while she was at work. When she came home and saw it, she loved it!
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It was a week before her birthday, but the part of her room I am not showing was a mess because of all the piles that were created, that had to be moved from the old desk to the new desk. My daughter is quite busy between college and work, so spring break gave her a bit more breathing room to spring clean her room and move things around for a new desk!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

New Valences for the Family Room

When we first moved here to Northern Virginia 7 years ago, one of my first tasks was to repaint all the walls in the house. They were awful...and were partly the reason why this house sat on the market for 6 months until we arrived. As soon as I saw this house I had a vision and couldn't wait to get my hands on it. I was rather firm with most paint colors. I conquered the basement and my husband helped me with the living room and dining room. The kitchen was next. And then there was the family room. Meanwhile I was shopping for fabric to sew window treatments for the house.
About this time I met a lady who was a designer. She excitedly asked me about all of my paint colors. She highly approved! She knew exactly which colors I meant when I named them! I told her I was a bit perplexed about the family room, so she volunteered to come over and give me advice. I thanked her but told her I didn't have a budget to pay her. She said she'd come for free just because she likes to give advice.
Everything she saw she liked...except the family room. She didn't like the furniture. However I had no budget to buy new furniture. She liked the greens in the living room and dining room and the yellow in the kitchen. She suggested a golden green for the family room...since everything was open concept, to blend the greens and yellows on the floor.
I had yellow in the stairwell but wasn't sure which color to put where in the mid-section of the house where all the colors came together. She told me exactly which wall would take which color. I wrote notes on each wall...for yellow or green. I even bought the golden green for the family room and my husband painted that on the walls for me. I like that color a lot, especially since it's called "Lafayette"!
However the designer did not like my choice of large floral prints in the family room, with a black background. She highly recommended going with a robin's egg blue for the family room accent color, and for the window treatments. She said it was highly popular, and would help to bring out the blue from the kitchen.
Hmmm...as much as I like robin's egg blue on its own, I didn't know how much I'd like it against my golden green walls with the beige furniture in the family room. However my husband has always wanted professional advice over my preferences, so I dutifully bought some robin's egg blue window treatments. I had trouble locating window treatments that didn't have too much pattern. I bought these long drapes at Target and the valences at JCPenney. I chose not to use drapes behind the couch, because there is an a/c vent on the floor. Long window treatments definitely would not work there. However my husband wanted something creative, and I really wanted some luscious silk fabric to drape on the fireplace wall (where there are no vents) to frame the fireplace. However I couldn't afford the nice stuff. This is used a lot in the Parade of Homes in Texas and we always like it, and it looks French, however it wasn't in the budget. I bought a shantung which was cheap at Target. 

I've lived with this color scheme for the last 7 years. Alas, it has not grown on me. I had some silk hydrangeas that have some robin's egg blue in them that I usually have in the silver urn from Colonial Williamsburg in the far right of the photo. However I hadn't gotten around with replacing my Christmas hydrangeas with the blue ones. I liked my red and cream hydrangeas much better than the blue...

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Sooooo....I did a bit of on-line shopping on February 29. I had received a 29% discount from JCPenney in the e-mail that  day, so I decided to look for valences I might like. I also had a $10 discount that was going to expire that week that I had earned from Christmas purchases. I like the line of Waverly valences, so I looked at those. I found a set that looked quite similar to what I had originally wanted to buy. They had a med-large floral print, almost Colonial Williamsburg style. There were reds and greens on a background of black. They were on super sale. On top of that I applied all of my discounts. I ordered 5 valences for $100! They arrived by the end of the week. (I looked again on-line after they arrived. I forget why, but they were sold out. I guess I bought the last 5 and they must have had exactly 5 waiting for me!) I couldn't wait to put them up! I think everything flows so much better now. (The lamps will likely be replaced someday. They are old. But for now they work. I haven't found any I like at a price I like yet.)
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The new valences coordinate so much better with the window treatments I had made for the French doors 7 years ago.
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Here you can see the various walls in the center of the house, some yellow and some green, as my decorator friend suggested.
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I like how the greens of the curtain pull out the green from the wall.
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Yes, we are all quite happy with the change! My husband said he likes these so much more than the ones the blue color. My daughter agreed! My son is away at college so I'm not sure what he thinks about it.
I reused the blue window treatments in the master bedroom suite. They look better up there.
Since we are redecorating the house on a tight budget, I'm glad that we conquered these window treatments for $100. They can be quite pricey, and I'm really not keen on spending money on something I don't love.
Looking forward to doing another project! This one was fast and easy! Although I've sewn many of my other window treatments, this saved me a lot of time for me to do other projects.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Property Brothers or Bust!

Hopes of spring, space, flowers and butterflies have kept me busy these last few weeks, hence my blogging absence. Gardening, spring cleaning, and primarily birthday preparations for my daughter in the form of painting, sewing and cooking! (...and adding more style to the family room! ...and beginning my Thomas Jefferson inspired garden journal!) Stay tuned because today is the day! Well, tomorrow since she's working today! Reveals of all the projects are forthcoming!

This birthday reminds me of my husband's birthday,  3 weeks ago. Ah, that was an exciting day! In grand enthusiasm my husband decided to celebrate his big day by meeting the  Property Brothers in person! He even wore his best flannel shirt for the occasion (to match Jonathan)! And he brought his camera. And he asked me if he could bring his sledge hammer for Jonathan to sign. Um, I don't think security would like that. And what about Drew? I was excited to meet both of them!!!!

We popped into the van and drove out to the venue in plenty of time...until we came to a standstill on the highway. Why all the traffic all of a sudden? We were near Dulles airport. Was that the issue? Eventually we got onto the ramp...eventually we got  onto the side road...eventually to the next side road...and on and on as we crept and crawled to the venue where zero parking existed. All roads for miles around seemed to be a parking lot as opposed to a traveling road. I told my husband that all these people must be there for the Property Brothers. Time had eroded away and I began to fear for my life to enter the building...if they were allowing anyone inside. Oddly it's a smallish old grocery store looking building. How could everyone fit in there. Masses seemed to inch their way inside. How did they all fit? We gave up and returned home. Sadly, we never saw the Property Brothers. Irked, we vowed never to buy tickets on-line ahead of time ever again. Lesson learned. No refunds for any reason the event admins said. Later we learned that inside everything was enormously crowded beyond belief and few got to see the famous duo.

So what am I doing today? In between the making of homemade trifle for my daughter's birthday (she's not a cake girl but she is a strawberry girl) I am watching...the Property Brothers! I like how Jonathan and Drew know real estate. Buyers will pay top dollar for a neutral updated home. A home that has been repaired I might add. We used all their tips (before we even knew them) when we sold our Texas home...for asking price in 24 hours at the bottom of the market in March 2009. I like their vision on how to space plan and see  beyond walls that they tumble down in order to create fresh new spaces. I confess I'm not keen on their decorating style, which is too modern for me. I am French Country, albeit with a contemporary edge, but the Property Brothers's style is too edgy for me. lol  Even so I enjoy their knowlege...and they fun and creativity in working with the homeowners.

We might not get to meet them in person, like we have other home fixer upper stars, but I'm glad we at least get to see them on tv.  So yes, our proposed meet up was a bust, but learning from them and being entertained by them is a  win!