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.  😉

Monday, December 24, 2018

A Merry Christmas Dress, 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.

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.


Monday, November 5, 2018

Pohick Church as Known by Washington, Mason, and Fairfax

On many a trip to Mount Vernon I have passed by Pohick Church, charmingly tucked away behind a forest of trees along Route 1. Having heard much about it over the years in reference to our Founding Fathers, it has long been on my list of places to visit.

Pohick Church

After my most recent visit to the autumnal Mount Vernon to see the fox chase, I swung by the church on the way home. The winding path continued to peak my interest into my fascination of 18th century history.

Waterways were important to travel in the rugged Virginia wilderness, so that drove much of the history of the area. If you look at a map of Eastern Virginia, you'll see many fingers of land that jut into the Chesapeake Bay. The strips of land are called necks, defined by the rivers on each side, beginning from the headwaters to their destination of the Chesapeake.

This eastern section of Northern Virginia is known as the Northern Neck, located between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers.  That might seem like a stretch of the definition, but for one who lived in 17th and 18th century Virginia, travel along "bridal paths" through the forests were quite rocky. Ask me, I know from all the hiking I've done in the area. The Rocky Mountain trails I've hiked are easier than these rocky trails. Boat travel was much easier...until you came to the rapids which predominated at the Fall Line. This is why George Washington advocated for canals, but that's another story.

This church was originally named Occoquan Church because of its proximity to the Occoquan River.
Pohick Church

Being the first church established north of the Occoquan, Pohick Church became known as The Mother Church of Northern Virginia.

No Parish in the Colony had a Vestry more distinguished in its personnel, or more fully qualified for their positions, than the Parish of Truro. Of its earlier members indeed little has come down to us but their names inscribed on almost every page of the scant records remaining to tell of the settlement of these upper reaches of the "Northern Neck," and the establishment of religion and civilization in what was then but a wilderness. But later her Vestrymen are found ranking among the first gentlemen of Virginia in position and influence. Eleven of them sat at various times in the House of Burgesses. Two of them, the Fairfaxes, were members of "His Majesty's Council for Virginia." Another of her Vestrymen was George Mason, one of the first among the founders of the State and the great political thinkers of his age; while still another was declared to be the "Greatest man of any age," the imperial George Washington.-The History of Truro Parish in Virginia

The area was part of a 1715 land grant, although we don't know the precise date of the founding. The original building was 2 miles south on Old Colchester Rd, where a marker can be seen today.

By 1732 Truro Parish was established by the Virginia General Assembly which included all the lands north of the Occoquan River. Being the only church in the parish, Occoquan Church became the parish church. It was also renamed Pohick Church, named after the local creek. George Washington's father, Augustine, became one of the vestrymen in 1735. (Vestryman-one of twelve elected to serve on the governing board)

In another decade a new generation of vestrymen were elected over time, who either became our Founding Fathers, or greatly influenced our Founding Fathers:

By 1767 the vestry decided that the little delapidated wooden frame church should be rebuilt on a grander and sturdier scale, this time built of brick. Washington proposed a new site on more traveled roads, for the convenience of the parishioners. Mason, however, argued against that, wanting the church to remain at the cemetery of beloved family members. Washington thus conducted a survey, marking the location of the parishioners' homes which he presented to the vestry. Logic overruled emotion in a seven to five vote which determined the decision to move the church to its present site on Route 1.

It was also situated on the highest spot in the area, recalling the biblical image of a "city set on a hill" (Matt 5:14).-Pohick Church History

Despite the building site dispute, the building committee included our favorite trio from the Northern Neck: Mason, Fairfax, and Washington.

In 1771 Daniel French, undertaker (or in colonial terms, the building contractor) died. Vestryman George Mason who was executor of French's estate, became the new undertaker for the remainder of the building project.

In 1772 Mason hired the renown master carver of Alexandria fame, William Bernard Sears to employ his handiwork at the church for all the interior wood carving and decorative gilding. Sears' fame was preceded by a journey from Europe to begin his indentureship to Colonel George Mason at Gunston Hall.

Construction culminated in 1774. Meanwhile the rumblings of revolution were near. On July 18 of that same year the newly built Pohick Church was the site of the Fairfax Resolutions.

Written by George Washington and George Mason on July 17, 1774, at Mount Vernon, the Fairfax County Resolves were both a bold statement of fundamental constitutional rights and a revolutionary call for an association of colonies to protest British anti-American actions.-Library of Congress

Pohick Church

I never knew so constant an attendant at Church as [Washington]. And his behavior in the house of God was ever so deeply reverential that it produced the happiest effect on my congregation, and greatly assisted me in my pulpit labors. No company ever withheld him from Church. I have been at Mount Vernon on Sabbath morning when his breakfast table was filled with guests; but to him they furnished no pretext for neglecting his God and losing the satisfaction of setting a good example. For instead of staying at home, out of false complaisance to them, he used constantly to invite them to accompany him.-Rev. Lee Massey of Pohick Church
"Washington's steadfast faith in God's divine providence undoubtedly sustained him during the long fight for independence from England."-Pohick Church History

Pohick Church

Pohick Church

Pohick Church

Pohick Church

Here is more information on the West family of Alexandria, Fairfax, and Loudon.

Pohick Church

Pohick Church

Pohick Church joins the roll call of colonial Anglican churches and continues as one of the oldest surviving churches in the Washington, D.C. area.

Pohick Church

Pohick Church

Pohick Church

Pohick Church

In the early 19th century, Pastor Mason Locke Weems (of cherry tree fame...and myth) occasionally presided over services here.

Pohick Church


Saturday, November 3, 2018

Autumnal Fox Chase at Mount Vernon

Today I got to attend my first fox chase. I've been quite interested because of all the influence I see here in Northern Virginia.


We heard numerous stories about how the clever foxes throw the dogs off the scent.

It is important to note that during the American Revolution, General Washington was called the "old fox."

Did you know that there is a legend that even the clever George Washington was outwitted by a fox during fox chases on his plantation? You can read about that in Marguerite Henry's book, Cinnabar, the One O'Clock Fox, which I blogged about here.


In the 18th century fox hunting typically began in autumn.


George Washington began fox hunting with the Fairfax family.


Washington did not always kill the fox.

We then after allowing the Fox in the hole half an hour put the Dogs upon his trail & in half a Mile he took to another hollow tree and was again put out of it but he did not go 600 yards before he had recourse to the same shift-finding therefore that he was a conquered (the] Fox, we took the Dogs off, and came home to Dinner.-December 1785


The purpose of the early fox hunt dates to 1534 in Norfolk, England. It was so that farmers could get rid of pests.


The Marlborough Hunt Club demonstrated for us.


Today's event was not a fox hunt, but rather a fox chase.


Actually no foxes were involved, but we were told it would be interesting if a fox were found while the dogs were sniffing near the bushes.


Fox hunting is also quite common in Middleburg, a town in the western part of Northern Virginia. The entire town is decorated in foxes.


Much of the procedure of the chase that was described at this event is detailed in this article.


I stumbled upon mentions of Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette also enjoying the hunt.


Here I read that the British used fox hunting to train their officers.


This excellent article details Washington and the hunt.


And here is more history on fox hunting.


After the American Revolution, Lafayette gifted several hounds to Washington for the hunt. One of them, however, stole the ham off the kitchen table. Lady Washington was angry about that!