Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Secret Sister 2014 from Alabama

This year my Secret Sister was from Alabama! (I think. I'm finally catching up on SS posts, today in 2015 and back dating them. The next day I was very busy picking up my son from college, then the day after that I came down with a severe illness. The rest of December was a blur. However this box of beauty from a lovely Lennelle arrived at my doorstep!

Oh my goodness! I felt spoiled!

This lovely package when beribboned revealed...
...a journal and gift cards! These will be quite fun to use!
Treats! Quite tasty!
A frosted snowflake ornament!
A tatted cross! Since she knew of my interest in historic sewing, she included the history of tatting. I do have a tatting kit because I've been wanting to learn! It's so pretty! 
A dress form/sewing machine ornament! And she made 2 infinity scarves for me which I wore a lot during my illness when I had to venture out in the ice and snow. The frigid air literally took my breath away which I think was caused by the illness. The scarves helped a lot!

Thank you, Lennelle!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Award! Homeschool Blog List!

I've just been notified that I've been awarded one of the Top 30 Homeschool Blogs of 2014 by Top Education Degrees: Your Guide to the Best Education Degrees.  My blog is #26 on the list, the sole blog under the category of Social Studies. Describing my blog they said, "With an invitation to join the author in her garden of life, this blog takes readers on an exploration into history, their homeschooling journey, trips to fascinating places, and their latest projects in quilting, sewing and historical costume design." Then they featued one of my signature posts!

Also listed are 29 other homeschool blogs under various categories such as Charlotte Mason, Classical, Montessori, Art and Music, Science, and many, many more. What a wealth of resources for the homeschool community!

Introducing the list is a documented history of the beginnings of the homeschool movement, which they proclaim is becoming a force in the education world!

Thank you Top Education Degrees for the recognition! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Frank Lloyd Wright's Pope Leighey House at Woodlawn Plantation

Part III of the Woodlawn Plantation series finally brings us to the Pope Leighey House, Frank Lloyd Wright's favorite of all his works.
Part II here.
Part I here.

During the Great Depression, Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural style began to take hold of America. Though famed today for stunningly grand scale of architecture, his true mission was an affordable practical house for the common homeowner. His particular vision for this purpose was called Usonian. But few clients wanted the true vision that was close to Wright's heart.

Meanwhile journalist Loren Pope of Falls Church, Virginia attended a lecture given by Wright at the Hays Adam Hotel. Pope was already familiar with Wright's work and envisioned living in a Usonian of his own. He sent a lengthy letter to Wright which began, "Dear Mr. Wright, There are certain things a man wants during life, and of life. Material things and things of the spirit. The writer has one fervent wish that includes both. It is a house created by you." Wright simply replied, "Dear Loren Pope: Of course I am ready to give you a house."  

And thus began the journey of Wright finally building his perfect dream house, simple and small. All because Pope gave Wright carte blanche to use the budget to make all aesthetic and practical choices true to Wright's ultimate vision. Pope stepped back and watched the truest of Wright's creations be revealed.    

Pope sought financing, which was quite difficult during the depression. Although Pope had a job with the Washington Star, he made $50 a week. He needed a $5000 loan for the house.  Finally he obtained a loan from his employer, who took $12 a week out of his wages. Furthrmore the apprentice Wright assigned to the project was to be provided room and board and $25 a week by Pope. Meanwhile Wright realized the plans for Pope's 1800 sq ft Usonian was over budget, so he reworked the plans to a 1200 sq ft Usonian.

Unfortunately Pope made a slight error in a map he sent to Wright. As a result, when building began, the planned orientation didn't fit the site...but the project had to go on.   

Pope lived in his beloved Usonian for six years at which time he became a free lance writer and moved to Loudon County to a 365 acre farm. He began writing Wright about building another home on his land in the country. While saving money Wright because busy with other building projects, like the Gugenheim and died shortly thereafter.   

Meanwhile the Popes sold their beloved home for $17,000 to the Leighey family who promised to treasure the Usonian equally as much. However danger threatened the house in 1964. I-66 was to be widened and buildings were in the way. By this time Mr. Leighey had passed away. Mrs. Leighey was determined to rescue the home from demolition. She offered the house to the National Trust who moved the house to Woodlawn Plantation at a cost of $70,000. They allowed Mrs. Leighey to have lifelong tenancy. She lived there until 1983. In 1995 the house was moved a second time at a cost of $750,000, due to unstable soil, about 30 feet up the hill.

Last October on a glorious autumnal day, we walked down this period winding path...


...and found a surprisingly teeny tiny house! My daughter, who is 5'6" even commented that she felt bigger than the house!


This was not the original orientation that Wright had planned, but various dilemmas placed it in this space as previously  mentioned.

Classic to Wright's design was to emphasize the horizontal. One way this was achieved was obviously with the flat roof but also with the extension of the line from the cantileevered roofs found here over the carport and later extended outdoors from the dining room. In regards to the carport, he said there was no more need for a garage, now that there were cars.


The brickwork also showcases the emphasis on the horizontal. The grout on the vertical lines were colored the same as the brick, to fade away, leaving the grout of the horizontal as the emphasis.

Even the screws were tightened to the point where the groove was left in a horizontal orientation to the house. In fact, Wright believed in honesty to the point of leaving all building elements exposed. 


Another element of Wright's design is that the board and batten siding is reversed from what's commonly practiced, so that it has a different effect on the viewer.  The previous link takes you to how board and batten is usually laid. One, it appears to commonly be vertical. Second, the thin strip lies on top of the wide plank. Not so here. Obviously the horizontal is emphasized. Also the thin strip is underneath the wide plank.  In the picture below, you can see one use of how the narrow strip functions well under the wide plank.  These Usonians came with it's own furniture. The homeowner was not expected to bring more stuff.  The idea was to live minimally and a few tables were provided throughout the house that appeared to come from out of the wall, as in the picture below. The table top actually fits into the groove and if a large party occured, the furniture could be rearranged and joined into one.      


Also above the table, in the top right of the picture you can see cut outs. These are found throughout the house at the roofline. On the side of the house that has light coming through the window, it allowed for light play which was part of the planned architecture. Also they were actually part of slatted windows that would open that allowed for a breeze to come through to cool off the house (because there was no air conditioning)


You can tell how close the top of the carport is to the guys' heads. I am 5'9", shorter than these guys and I felt a bit claustrophobic.  I know my dad definitely would not like it. He is 6'5". I don't think he could even stand up straight under here. The tour guide told us Wright's goal was to give us an experience of compression, then release. Before we entered the house, we felt compressed.

Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures indoors, so I'm going to try to describe a few more details while linking to other pictures. The house is rather simple, so I think this is doable!

Anyway, while under the carport, we felt compressed. As we walked into the house, the ceiling was the same height (at this link see photo of the vestibule) to the left (which led down a very narrow hallway-see photo at this link-to 2 bedrooms and a bathroom) and to the right (which led to a little office). But in front of us was a deep sunken living room where we experienced release. We stepped down some steps and were told to sit on the chairs to experience the room which the tour guide gave more details. (The seats were exceedingly uncomfortable.) See this link, especially picture #3 which shows the front door and steps down into the living room. The picture was taken in the living room.    

At the top of the photo you can see the fancy cut outs that allow for light-play and ventilation. All the way through, you see the horizontal lines. After some time sitting in the living room, we were gathered into the dining room, seen in the previously linked photo, on the right. You can see the dining room table there, with shelves above it on the opposite wall, and a dropped ceiling. The tour guide squeezed us all in there and asked me (me? uh oh!) how I felt. Um.....I honestly said I felt claustrophobic. (Oops, wrong answer.) She had everyone but me leave the space. Now how did I feel? I still felt claustrophobic. She looked at me in disbelief (oops!) and told me to look out the grand windows, that filled the entire wall from top to bottom. Didn't I feel release because of the beautiful outdoors? Um....I would if I was actually standing out there. (wrong answer.) Well, maybe it's because I'm from Texas where we have huge skies and big and bright stars!

Oh well, lol, I felt "squeezy" as my daughter used to call it when she was a baby, all through that house.  The kitchen was really tight! (at this link see the photo of the kitchen)  The ceilings were just as high up as the living room, since we were still on the sunken level, which one author claimed,  "gives it an expansive feeling despite its small footprint." Hmmmm....I felt like I was in the galley kitchen of a ship, which means it was squeazy!

The bedrooms came with their own beds, which were enormously low to the ground. In fact, it looked like the mattress was set  inside a big box and then laid onto the floor. The closet space was definitely minimal.

Well, Pope and Leighey loved it! =) And Wright loved it! This was one of his favorites of his Usonians. In fact in many of the articles I read, Pope returned to his former home more than once!

Here is another great set of pictures, a slide show:
Photo 8 is of the back of the house.  The two windows on the right are the bedrooms. The bump out on the left is the dining room (that's supposed to make me feel release! lol)
Photo 9 is the level room, with more of those cut outs that allow for lightplay and air ventilation from outdoors.
Photo 10 is the little office. Note the desk top is set into the board and batten, as is the floating shelf.
Photo 11 is of a bedroom with the very low bed, and another table top set into the board and batten.

Another batch of photos from the Library of Congress:
Here you can see some lightplay.
From the dining room towards the kitchen (behind the fireplace)

Although this was an extremely interesting and fascinating tour, I've obviously not been converted. Alas what would Wright think of me? Actually I know exactly what he would have thought of me.

"An irresponsible, flashy, pretentious or dishonest individual would never be happy in such a house as we now call organic because of this quality of integrity." -Frank Lloyd Wright

Pope however (and Leighey) were definitely perfect for this house!

"Spiritually I’ve never left the house. Living in the house has affected my whole life.” -Loren Pope, 2006, age 96

Do be sure to check all the links, which include several articles full of great information, some of which I've shared here.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Quakers, Frank Lloyd Wright and Dukes of Hazzard Moments at Woodlawn Plantation


Woodlawn Plantation, which was gifted to Nellie Parke Custis by her step grandfather George Washington, holds a few surprises. The first surprise, for me, was the entrance!

I first learned of Woodlawn Plantation while on vacation in Virginia from Texas several years ago. I wanted a hotel near Washington DC to see the sites, but not too close to urbanization. I found a hotel on a corner across the street from Woodlawn Plantation which was quite close to Mount Vernon. (Now I'm wondering if this was originally Mount Vernon land. How neat is that?)  It was a great spot to stay and we took the George Washington Parkway (behind Mount Vernon) into Washington DC which was lovely. However we didn't have time to visit the plantation, so I made a mental note of the corner entrance...and then a few years later we moved to Northern Virginia! Eversince I've had this site on our to-do list, but there are so many sites to see so sightseeing so this didn't happen until this past autumn because of my daughter's art history honors class!

My daughter was in a meeting to decide on the class field trips, since the honors classes have the unique distinction of adding visits to local sites that fit in to the class description. My daughter had known of my desire to visit Woodlawn...and my interest to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright Pope Leighey house which is surprisingly on the property. I was intrigued as to how in the world a mid-century modern ended up on Woodlawn Plantation property I was also curiousity about the distinctives of a Frank Lloyd Wright house. I not only had seen some on hgtv but I also wanted my kids to learn too as part of our own art history and architectural studies throughout the centuries. I confess that we are not modern architecture lovers, but I still believed in including it in our homeschool curriculum because it is history and just because it's not our favorite doesn't mean we shouldn't learn about it.

So...my daughter recommended a field trip to the Frank Lloyd Wright house on Woodlawn Plantation and the professor was ecstatic...and an honors field trip was set for late October!

I got to go too and I knew exactly how to get there. The entrance was on the corner across from the hotel...or was it?  I couldn't find it anywhere! I turned on the nearby street, did a u-turn, and came alongside the old entrance as I stopped at the stop light and had time to survey the situation. It was easy to tell it had once been an entrance, but recent construction had covered the short road, the nearby trees opening to the old entrance had grownover pretty much, and worst of all a curb had been built alongside the road, negating any hope of an entrance. Or at least a respectable entrance. This red stop light was pretty long so I sat there in great perplexity. I was in a mini-van. What if I had one of those big 4x4's? Or a hummer? Or...a General Lee. I mean, if Bo and Luke Duke were here, there'd be no hesitation, we'd just zoom and fly in! Um no...surely Woodlawn had a more respectable way of entering the grounds. But where?

Meanwhile my daughter was on the phone with her professor who described another entrance, a brand new entrance that we had passed, which is actually easier to access...if one knows about it, which I would have if I had read their website but I was going by memory! We drove up to that entrance and found a string of cars waiting for the gates to open so that they could respectably drive onto Woodlawn Plantation property.

Hilariously...on the other side of the huge white fence that barred our respectable entrance, were a couple of cars from that found themselves on the other side of the fence. Hmmm, I guess they were brave enough to hazard the Bo and Luke Duke method of entry!

Meanwhile I saw a historic sign near us which stated that Quakers bought the property from the Lewis family. They purposely ran the plantation without slave labor to prove that it could be done! I'm sure Lafayette would have been proud, considering he is known as the adopted son of George Washington who encouraged him to abandon slavery.

Finally the gates opened and we all met up to walk down to the Frank Lloyd Wright Pope Leighey House! So why is this house on Woodlawn Plantation property? Well let me return to the Quakers for  brief history on this land which was originally Mount Vernon. (More fascinating details are here.)

When Lawrence Lewis (nephew of George Washington) died in 1839, Nelly (adopted step grand daughter of Washington and daughter of Marha) went to live with her son, Lorenzo, at his house.  "Desirous of relieving himself from the trouble of a large landed estate," he eventually sold the house in 1846 to some Quakers who supplied timber to ship builders. As previously mentioned, they ran the downtrodden plantation without slave labor. In fact much of their free help came from many of the  slaves that had been manumitted when George Washington passed away. While the Troths lived there this Quaker meeting house was built on the site  The Georgian/Federal house was restored during this time.


In 1850 a Baptist named John Mason bought the plantation. (His wife was a distant relation to Abraham Lincoln.) Interestingly they started Woodlawn Baptist Church in 1872. We always drive by Woodlawn Baptist Church which is nearby, but the afore linked article says this is a different building. This family made no changes to the mansion.

Two owners later, in 1901, Woodlawn Plantation was again in hopeless disrepair. This owner, Paul Kester, renovated and added new architectural details to the estate. Meanwhile his mother's 60 cats habitated the plantation with the family. Although much of the land had been divided among heirs previously and such, Kester restored some of the land to the estate. In 1905 they sold Woodlawn Plantation and moved into nearby Gunston Hall, home of one of America's Founding Fathers, known for the Virginia Declaration of Rights and for refusing to sign the Constitution without a Bill of Rights...George Mason.

The 1905 owner was Elizabeth Sharpe who continued to restore the estate, add more current architectural details and restore more of the land.

In 1925 the new owners were Congressman Underwood and his wife. They too added new architectural details to the estate, in addition to a central heating system.

After Underwood died, his widow leased the estate from 1935-1937 to Harry Hines Woodring who was Secretary of War for FDR from 1936-1940.  Across the street from the mansion is Fort Belvoir. It is thought that perhaps Woodring had the Army Corps of Engineers from the base work on the house.
A private foundation bought the plantation in 1949 to preserve its history and open it for tours. Although they had tours, they didn't have enough funding to restore the home.

As a result they leased the estate to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1951. Although a 50 year lease had been signed, the National Trust bought the property in 1957. Because of the National Trust, Woodlawn Plantation not only has been opened for tours, but it has also been slowly renovated based on historical research.

Thus, it was the National Trust that invited the Frank Lloyd Wright Pope Leighy house to come to the plantation. Alas, this post is plenty long. Stay tuned for part III!  

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Woodlawn Plantation in Autumn

Not far from Mount Vernon on an autumnal day we visited  Woodlawn Plantation, which was originally part of  George Washington's infamous 2000 acre estate, Mount Vernon. In this document I learned that he called it, "A most beautiful site for a Gentleman's Seat." He gifted a portion of his estate to his dearly adopted step granddaughter Nelly Parke Custis and her husband, Lawrence Lewis (Washington's nephew) as a wedding present in 1799.


The house they had built combines architecture from the Georgian and Federal Eras. In fact, their architect was the one who designed the US Capitol.  






















Stay tuned for the later history of the property which is quite the contrast!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Row by Row 2014 Quilt!

Presenting my 2014 Row by Row Quilt!

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How did it happen? This past summer I participated in the 2014 Row by Row Experience. Although the activity started the first week in July, I actually didn't find out about it until the beginning of August. Each quilt store which chose to participate designed a row based on the theme of "seasons." Beginning in July, the quilters were able to visit any participating store in person to receive their free quilt row pattern. Lots of quilters simply collected those that they wanted and created single table runners with the patterns. However there was more to the project for those interested. Any quilter who collected 8 patterns, combined them into one quilt, completely bound it, and then was the first quilter to present her completed quilt at any participating shop, received a prize! Wait, that's not all! If this shop's own pattern was one of her completed rows, she additionally won a bonus prize. So the race was on because each shop only committed to giving one prize (and one bonus prize) to the very first quilter to walk into their shop with a completed row by row quilt.

I was starting a month late. Did I even have a chance? I joined the facebook pages of the Virginia Row by Row and the nearby states' pages, since driving to multiple states are quite easy and quick here in the mid-Atlantic! At their pages I saw all the different patterns from which I made a list of the ones I'd like to own. Then I looked for ways to work in a drive to these stores in our busy summer schedule. Once I received a row pattern, I started following that store's row by row page to keep track of winners. I also kept a master list. I was quite organized!

I also enjoyed seeing all the quilt rows from all the stores and the various ways the quilters creatively put them together. Each quilt store also sold fabric license plates with their own quilt logo, in addition to kits to complete the row. I only purchased one kit. All the other rows were completed with fabrics and buttons from my stash.

 In August I visited a quilt store in Fairfax called The Quilters Studio that I visited with a quilt guild. While there I picked up their Row by Row pattern. Their completed row looked like this. My version looks like this...

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A few days later we went to Charlottesville to visit President James Monroe's house. After a tour followed by lunch at Michie Tavern, we drove to Cottonwood Quilt Shop in Charlottesville. Their completed row looked like this. I wish I had bought their kit. My version looks like this...

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From there we drove to That Little Quilt Shop in Culpepper. Their version was all about summer however I interpreted mine for winter because my kids challenged me to use these rows to tell our story of living in Virginia the last five years. We have experienced lots of blizzards since moving to Virginia in 2009! Besides, this project was about seasons, and I didn't have anything yet that represented winter. I used white fabric with swirls to represent the blizzard. The blue/purple houses were shivering in the cold, yet hopeful for spring, as evidenced by some of their floral patterns.

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The next week I went to Nokesville to Daffodil Quilts and Fibers. (I can't get their web page to come up.) Their charming completed row looked like this. My version looks like this.  While placing the blossoms, I liked the idea of leaving them more loose so that is what I did! I also moved some of the flowers around and added more strawberries, at my daughter's request!

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I changed the robin to a bluebird...

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I also let the dogwood blossoms spill off the row...

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From there I drove down the rode to Manassas to Old Towne Needlecrafts. They offered a block pattern called "hummingbird" in three different methods. I chose the paper piecing method. Their completed row looked like this. My completed row looks like this...

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Williamsburg's Love 2 Quilt and More. Their completed row looked like this. Obviously I had to have this pattern to remember all our trips to Colonial Williamsburg! My version looks like this.
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On another day we made a foray into Maryland to Capital Quilts for the only row I got from outside Virginia. Why? Because I had to have this one too-here is their spectacular completed row! In fact, I had to buy the kit for this one because I wanted that fireworks fabric! It was not available without the kit. However I got confused with the directions and almost ruined the bits of fabric I got. Thankfully I eeked it out!

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Finally we went to Purcellville's WebFabrics for their row. Their completed row looked like this. Mine looks like this. It has quite a history.

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Purcellville is in Loudoun County, the only county in Virginia that has its own flag. The flag is based on the county's namesick, John Campbell, 4th Earl of Loudoun, from Scotland. He was the titular royal governor of Virginia from 1756-1758, meaning that he ruled from Britain. He never set foot in Virginia. He was also the Commander-in-Chief of the Brtiish forces in Virginia.

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I used a damask to represent 18th century textiles. The yoyo in the center of the flag hearkens to the 18th century fabric covered buttons, which I learned how to make in Colonial Williamsburg at a sewing class with the costume design center.  Whereas 18th century fabric covered buttons are all about smoothness, the yoyo is all about the ruffles. Below, I decided to interpret the agriculture block with barns, many of which I enjoy seeing when we drive through Loudoun County. Therefore I designed two sets of barns, one for each side of the row.  I followed their example of the grapes, since they have many vineyards in Loudoun County, however I decided to let the leaves spill out of the row and be loose.

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One by one, all the stores from whom I received patterns, even a couple that I never used, gave away prizes. By the time I was finished in early September, one store from whom I received a row had not given any prizes...WebFabrics in Purcellville. I checked daily, then when I was done with my quilt, I double checked, triple checked and quadruple checked their web page, their facebook page, and the Virginia Row by Row facebook page. No winner. So I drove to Purcellville. I brought in my quilt and showed them but they told me they had already given a prize to a winner in August.  I apologized for coming in but explained I had checked carefully on-line first because I had no intent on wasting their time. One of the ladies took me to her computer to show me the picture on their facebook page but she couldn't find the picture either.  As I went back to the table to reclaim my quilt, the lady told me not to leave because she was going to give me a little something. I told her she didn't need to because that was not in the rules and I was good with sticking to the rules, just embarrased that I came in at all, though I never said that last part but I was certainly feeling it! lol She came back and presented me with this roll of solid fabrics. She said she chose that collection of colors for me because it appeared I liked them since I had a lot of that in my quilt, particularly in the row I interpreted from their pattern. Thank you!


I never got a picture of the quilt label I put on the back of the quilt, but here is a copy of it:

2014 Row by Row Experience

Row 1

Row Houses in Winter Waiting for Spring

That Little Quilt Shop

Culpepper, Virginia

Row 2


Daffodil Quilts and Fibers

Nokesville, Virginia

Row 3

Summer Hummers

Old Town Needlecrafts

Manassas, Virginia

Row 4

Spring Cardinal Row

The Quilter’s Studio

Fairfax, Virginia

Row 5

A Capital Fourth

Capital Quilts

Gaithersburg, Maryland

Row 6

Williamsburg Summer

Love 2 Quilt and More

Williamsburg, Virginia

Row 7

Loudoun Summer


Purcellville, Virginia

Row 8

Fall Along the Blue Ridge


Charlottesville, Virginia


It is now on display in our stairwell.