Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Me Made May 2016-The Evidence

I have to laugh at the title, which is obviously a result of my having recently served jury duty! And I can say that I wore my homemade blue jeans to jury duty with nice (store bought) blouses each day. However that was April, not May, so that evidence is not adbmissible.

After much thought I decided that to organize the photo collection of my Me Made May pledge, and to streamline participation in the group, I'd use one page (this one) for all documentation. Each photo will be linked to sewing details. As I add to this throughout the month, I will change the date of publication so that it will bump up in the queue of posts.

May 1

My daughter wore this retro jumper to church that I sewed for her a few years ago. (Sewing details at the link._

May 1a

I wore my microsuede black pants with this cheerful jacket to church this morning. (Sewing details at the link.)


I wore my refashioned wool coat on this cold and rainy morning. (Sewing details at the link.)


For dinner prep I borrowed my daughter's apron that I sewed a few years ago. (Sewing details at the link.)


May 2

My daughter often wears the blouses I have sewn for her to college. Today she wore her pink and white blouse, that has silver threads running through it. It was such a lovely sunny spring day to wear it. (Sewing details at the link.)

May 2

May 3-While running errands today I wore blue jeans and a blouse that I have sewn. I sewed the blouse before blogging days and sadly no longer have the pattern. It was so quick and simple to sew. I'm not too keen on collars because they are not always comfortable around my neck (most likely due to my need to learn more sewing skills). Details on sewing the blue jeans at the link. 

May 3

May 4

I wore the blue jeans I had sewn to move my son home from college today. In the photo I'm assessing the laundry, where this quilt I had sewn for my son is destined. Sewing details at the links.

May 4

May 5

Today my daughter wore this blouse while working on final papers for college. Sewing details at the link.


May 6

Today my daughter wore her blouse to campus. Turns out I haven't yet done a post to feature it. It was my first try at the pattern and ran into a few fitting issues, hence the tank underneath which really cutens it up! Sewing details for a similar blouse, same pattern, at the link.


Meanwhile I wore my blue  jeans and 100% wool sweater to stay warm on this cold and drizzly day while I ran errands! Sewing details at the link.


May 8

My daughter wore a blouse I sewed for her, which I haven't yet documented  but is based on this pattern.  The fabric came from her first 18th century gown.

Again, I wore my blue jeans! (Details at the link.) It's been so cold this month my blue jeans have been my primary go-to this month.  


Stay tuned for the rest of May when I will bump this up with additional evidence of Me Made May wearables!

Well, we have come to the end of May and I ran out of photos. Actually I got a new camera, my laptop upgraded to Wiindows 10 and life was busy. That was a few too many curves for me to keep up with photo ops, especially when it's difficult to find a photographer. However my daughter and I did meet our goals, and wore clothing that I had sewn throughout the month.
The sewing goals, however, were not met. The second weekend I tried to whip up a pair of shorts...which led to several muslins/toiles to try to get the right fit. That's as far as I got.  I felt a bit defeated this month so we'll see how it goes next year. Why defeated? I have gained weight, not where I need it but in my tummy, hips and thighs. However I have new inspiration to sew this summer for this new pear shaped (that I am aggressively working off, and therefore becoming healthier!) The beauty of that is I will still be able to wear these particular styles when I slim down so will be quite versatile. Stay tuned for that!
Also I learned that I need more "memade" winter attire. May was especially cold so my winter attire became quite redundant. I do have the patterns...
Additionally I realized I need to bite the bullet and pull out all those gorgeous blouse patterns I've been accumulating and make my own blouses!!!
So we'll see what next May brings!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Texas BBQ from a Virginia Deck

My son surprised me with these pictures from our Memorial Day BBQ. Ever since moving to Virginia we have been hungry for the flavors that we miss from Texas, like smoked brisket. First off, it's quite difficult to find brisket up here. Then when it's found, it's sadly twice as expensive as in Texas, so we only get half as much. That is heartbreaking because it doesn't last long, barely two meals, especially for all the cooking  smoking. I never did finesse the smoking of brisket while in Texas because we were in Texas! We always had great places to go for that great Texas flavor. Since moving here to Virginia, I have begun a quest to figure it out. Each year I come a bit closer. The secret is long and slow smoking, which is difficult, since I don't have a smoker or real BBQ pit. I do have a gas grill on our back deck which I labor to keep to a low enough temp without going too low.


I kept dessert easy with these floats.


We also had grilled sweet corn. That is something we cannot get in Texas!

Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery...and a Visit to my Cousin's Grave

Yesterday we made our annual trip to Arlington National Cemetery to reflect and remember those who gave all, so we could be free. This time our first stop was Arlington House, which I shall share more about in a later post.  


Memorial Day began in 1868 to honor those who died in the Civil War. Originally it was called Decoration Day...the decoration of the graves being flowers. These flowers are those of the garden that existed here long before a soldier was buried at this famous place that once used to be a home. This is one of the first graves at this famous home, dug in 1864. The graves were laid first on the perimeter of the 19th century garden, before Decoration Day began.


As we journeyed down the hill, we watched the flowers being laid in Decoration Day memory of each of our heroes.


The journey is solemn.


All gave some...




...gave all.


One each stone was inscribed a story...


...of a hero...


...who risked all so we could be free.


We journeyed to a weeping willow... 


...where my mom's cousin laid with his buddies.


They were shot down near Japan.


Their story is in this post.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Arlington House, George Washington's Step-Grandson, and Gowns

As always my journey to learn more about our Founding Fathers finds their way into summer vacations, and even stay-cations! Of course with my spring-time depth of research on George Washington, visits to the descendants was a must. I'm so glad  my family indulges me. =) One of our yearly trips is to Arlington National Cemetery every Memorial Day to poignantly visit one particular grave at the foot of some weeping willows...the grave of my mom's cousin and his crewmates who were shot down over the Pacific in WWII...and to solemnly remember in gratitude those who gave all...so we could have freedom.

On this day we also visited a connection to George Washington...


...that of Arlington House. I'll never forget my first visit to this cemetery when I was first married.


While walking amongst the graves I was surprised to see this mansion tucked between the trees on top of the hill. Southern Belles in hoop skirts passed by the pillars of the portico. Intrigued, I climbed the steps to a fascinating memorial that George Washington Parke Custis built for the step-grandfather whom he adored.


As mentioned in my previous historical tour blog post, when Washington and his wife passed away Mount Vernon was inherited by a nephew. I'm sure Martha Washington's own grandson would have loved to have inherited the property. He grew up there. His sister grew up there. His father and aunt grew up there. However, the property passed through the Washington side of the family, since Custis was actually a descendant of Martha's first husband who had passed away in the early years of her marriage. George Washington never had children of his own. However he embraced his wife's children and grand-children as his own. Both George Washington Parke Custis and his sister adored their step-grandfather and cherished their years of childhood at Mount Vernon so wholeheartedly,  that they memorialized him in their own homes in adulthood.

Much George Washington memorabilia (papers, clothes, and his marquee tent from the American Revolution) were housed here. The original tent was purchased at auction by George Washington Parke Custis, then often displayed on the grounds. (By the way I've seen the recreation of the marquee tent by Colonial Williamsburg tailors, who have dubbed it "The First Oval Office." My many posts of the process and product, filled with links, can be found here.)

Another historical surprise, to the newcomer of the history of this home, is that George Washington Parke Custis' daughter married Robert E. Lee. (Yes, this is the South's infamous Robert E. Lee from the Civil War.) Below is where they stood for their wedding. 


The book collection!!!! Be still my heart.


When I first toured Arlington House, we were part of a ranger led tour (this is property of the National Park Service). However now there are self-tours where we are free to walk through certain parts of the main floor. Happily there are rangers and staff throughout to answer any questions. Well, I have a fun story (or two). Because of all the crowds that day I was telling my family  all the history I knew of the place (though I know I have more to learn). One of the rangers overheard and nodded that I was on target.

Then after some crowds moved out, my family and I ventured into this room.  We were the only ones there, with one docent. I stopped. One of my favorite people in history was memorialized in that corner niche! I couldn't help myself. I cried out, "That's the Marquis de Lafayette!"


He was a lover of liberty, both in America and France. He was Washington's adopted son. He was granted citizenship to America. He fought in the American Revolution. He was invited by President Monroe to take a grand tour of America and on that trip he was here. The docent was impressed! He told me I needed to go to Colonial Williamsburg to meet a great interpreter who portrays the Marquis de Lafayette. I laughed and said, "Oh, he knows us!" (When the CW Lafayette heard this story he laughed! He was also pleased to have the "shout out" from the Arlington staff!)


After a long discourse on Lafayette (and the CW interpreter) we chatted about the Lee family. This is Robert E. Lee's father, Henry Lee III (aka Light-Horse Harry Lee) who fought under General Washington.


After more discourse the docent invited us to a special behind-the-scenes tour that he was going to give in about 30 minutes, if we were interested, if we wouldn't be bored, etc, etc, etc. We'd love to!!!!!!!! So with one other interested lover of history we got to also tour the basement, the upstairs, the attic and the rest of the first floor...along with all the extra stories!!!!!

I have so many pictures, but being a historical seamstress, I decided to especially share gowns and quilts with all of my historical seamstress friends!

This is an 1860's reproduction wedding gown...


This is thought to have been a wedding dress of Elisabeth Winston Fitzhugh who was thought to be a relative of Mary Custis Lee who was married to Robert E. Lee.



Educating the slaves was important to the Lee family, even though it was against the law in 1831 Virginia. It is commonly thought it was always against the law to educate slaves but not so. In the 18th century many slave owners educated their slaves. Even the Bray School had been founded for them in some places like in Williamsburg. This was partly led by the encouragement of Benjamin Franklin. Slavery was a horrible institution. I am thankful that many slaves were educated. It helped them in many ways...some towards freedom.



Graffiti in the attic...along with the incorrigible legend of the brother who took his sister's dolly, climbed into the attic, crossed precariously over the beams to the head of the pillars (which comprise the portico as seen from the outside in the second photograph shown above) and dropped poor, poor dolly down that pillar never to be seen again. Is she still there?


The view from the portico...



A Civil War grave near the garden. When Lee chose to lead the south, he fled his home...which became a burial ground for soldiers, now known as Arlington National Cemetery.













Saturday, May 28, 2016

My Memorial Day Weekend Plantings

I love summer. I love flowers. I love having flip flops to wear. It's probably all a result of having lived in Hawaii when I was little.


And here you can see my new plants that I purchased Memorial Day weekend which was insanely hot!

The roasting sun was not the best for the tender new plants so I had to do extra watering to help them get established. I water slowly and deeply so that the water can sink into the soil. The first few weeks  I water anywhere from daily to a few days apart, depending on how long the soil is moist. Once the soil dries up, I water slowly and deeply again. After the planting I laid out the mulch in deep layers, so that was a great help in keeping the soil moist. When first planted, the seedlings are in shock so this careful watering helps them to get established. After a few weeks I can pull back on the watering. At this point I water about once every week or two. My plants probably suffered in this heat, but the water bill becomes too large if I water too much. Besides, all that slow and deep watering done days apart causes the roots to grow deeply, where there is more moisture.

It is a temptation to water quickly and lightly, but that barely gets to the roots and keeps the roots at the surface level. As a result, the plant never establishes deep roots. In San Antonio I had soaker hoses to help with the slow and deep watering. I've been holding back on this investment but if we have another summer like this, I may have to do that. Also I try to plant pretty xeriscape plants that do well in the scorching heat with little water. That is what I did in Texas. That is more difficult to do in Virginia because I rarely find those types of plants in the nurseries. Most of the plants I find are too tender for the brutal heat of a Virginia summer. I don't understand why they are sold.

This year I decided to experiment with a couple of popular plants I was never able to grow in San Antonio due to the alkaline soils and brutal sun and heat. I wondered if they'd do well in my gardens that get little shade. I also found a couple of Texas xeriscaping favorites, which I will showcase in this and the next few posts. On to the flowers!

The purple clematis in back I've only grown in Virginia. I like how my mini-roses contrast with them. I grew these mini-roses in Texas too. I get them at the grocery store.  They only grow 6-12" tall. They make a lovely border plant and bloom through the summer. I'll cut these clematis back when they are done blooming in order to get a second bloom in August.


One of my new flowers is the foxglove!


I hope I can get these established so they come back next year!


I deadheaded the lavender phlox that I got from the Mount Vernon garden sale when we first moved here. I think this is the 3rd replanting of this plant. I have about 3 huge mounds of this now.

My foxglove with my early blooming mums. The gladiolas will bloom soon.


Once I get my garden established it should be quite pretty.