Thursday, June 28, 2012

Horses, Houses & Taverns

Forgot to tell you about the horseback riding lesson the other day.  Just the perfect day to be outside . . . cool and breezy.  My BFF's grandaughter is 6 1/2 (can't forget that 1/2) and this was her first time on a horse.  The woman who owns the horse couldn't have been a better teacher for a first timer.  She showed her how to groom the horse, get him ready to ride and explained all commands to get the horse to do what you want.  This woman practices "natural horsemanship" which focuses on knowing your horse and how to communicate with it as close to how horses communicate with each other as possible.  I must say that I learned more about horses and riding than I ever did when I actually took lessons . . . she was amazing!  Our little rider did a fabulous job catching on and communicating to the horse what she wanted it to do . . . no fear whatsoever!  I think it was a day she'll remember always!

Today . . . supposed to be in the mid 90's . . . was not the perfect day to be outside.  I decided I would do a few things before it got too hot and see how it went.  It wasn't too bad.  I headed into Old Town and found a 2 hour free parking space only a few blocks from the Carlyle House.  This house was built by the English merchant John Carlyle for his young bride Sarah Fairfax in 1753.  It's significant for several reasons:  one of the earliest buildings in Alexandria, architecturally unique in Alexandria as the only stone 18th century Palladian-style house, and British General Braddock made the mansion his headquarters in 1755 when he summoned five colonial governors to meet there (the Congress of Alexandria) to plan the early campaigns of the French and Indian War.  Braddock was killed during the battle of his plans at Fort Duquesne . . . the best laid plans, no doubt.  In a correspondence of John Carlyle's he complains of what a poor house guest Braddock was, abusing his home and furnishings.

This would be John himself.  He actually sent the portrait back to the artist asking him to make him look older . . . he added the 5 o'clock shadow . . . I guess to show he was old enough to shave?

The dress to the right is supposed to be a replica of Sarah's wedding dress.  She would have worn her best dress for that occasion.  Some 30 years later her daughter used some of that material to fashion a dress for herself (on the left).

There is a sampler that might have been something similar to what Sarah would have stitched at the time. 

The hand carved moldings in the dining room were stunning!  Hand carved . . . can you imagine!

I walked a block more to have lunch at Gadsby's Tavern.  I haven't done the Museum tour yet . . . had to get back to my car . . . I was already a half hour beyond my 2 free hours.  The Tavern has entertained the likes of Cousin George and Mrs. Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, James Monroe, the Marquis de Lafayette, John Quincy Adams and me!  The Peanut Soop (that's how they spelled it) was delicious as was the bread . . . the crab cake was good, but not as good as the Union Street Oyster Bar the other day . . . I do like me some crab!

It's 95 degrees out and that calls for an indoor afernoon of stitching . . . think I'll start the Mt. Vernon piece!      ~*

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cousin George's House

I am distantly related to George Washington . . . his grandmother was the sister of my (I forget how many greats) grandmother . . . making him a distant cousin I guess (is this where you start the "removed" stuff?  I've never understood that part).  So, of course, I had to visit Mount Vernon with a new eye!  I was last there about 12 years ago and since then they have expanded the gardens and added animals making it more like the working farm it was.

This is really the back of the house, but I think it's the most recognizable picture of Mount Vernon.  The picture below is actually the front:

  It's such a great spot for a house sitting up on a rise  overlooking the Potomac River.

The gardens are very nice and although it was in the 80's today, there was a nice breeze so walking around wasn't too bad.

I managed to spend over 3 hours here . . . there's a lot of land and things are spread out if you choose to see it all.  I bought a few souvenirs . . . including a cross-stitch kit of the house with a shell border.  I'll be stitching it on linen and not the aida cloth in the kit.

So . . . I had to go to the needlework store . . . In Stitches . . . to get the linen AND to see if they would be interested in carrying The Nebby Needle charts.  YES!  They now have 3 of each chart!!!  Thank you Ellen!!!  I proceeded to spend almost as much as I made . . . well, I couldn't just buy one piece of linen now could I.  They are well stocked and I had to control myself . . . two charts, 3 pieces of linen and one skien of thread I needed later . . . it was time to go "home" and walk the dog!!!


Monday, June 25, 2012


 Headed out this morning with 3 places I was going to visit, time permitting, before the Library Special Collections office opened at 1:00 p.m. (that's where I'm hoping to find some information on my grandparents' house and any other genealogy info they may have).  The first place, the Carlyle House, isn't open on Mondays.  I walked around the grounds and gardens and took some pictures.

On to Gadsby's Tavern  . . . doesn't open until 1:00 p.m. on Mondays . . . okay.  On to Friendship Firehouse (my grandfather was the Chief Mechanic for the Alexandria Fire Department) . . . I remember going here as a child.  They're only open Fri, Sat & Sun.  Strike three!  So . . . I walked "upstreet" as my grandmother used to call it and the memories came flooding back. 

I was about two or so when my mother, grandmother and I went "upstreet" one day.  I wandered off while they were looking at something in one of the stores.  Frantically they searched for me and found me outside the store in the lap of the man who sold toy birds strung on a stick.  I remember the man and those birds that would "fly" and "tweet" when you waved the stick.

We used to pass this statue on Washington Street frequently. My father would always say "If you walk around him three times and ask him what he died for, he will tell you . . .  nothing".  We would beg to stop so we could try it . . . until we got old enough to understand the joke.

On the corner of Washington Street and King Street (the center of "upstreet")  there used to be Lerner's Dress Shop.  It had this grand curving staircase and a big crystal chandelier.  I remember we always talked in hushed voices when we were there.  I thought it was so elegant . . . the saleswomen were always dressed so nicely.  Now it's a Banana Republic and a Gap store . . . the staircase and chandelier are gone . . . of course.

Anyway . . . I stopped for lunch at The Union Street Oyster Bar and had an amazing crab cake!  I gave up on going to the library as it started to sprinkle (briefly) and decided it was not meant to be today.  So . . . "home" now doing laundry.  Got a call from my BFF and we're meeting tomorrow at Meadow Wood Stables to take her granddaughter riding and have a picnic.



Saturday, June 23, 2012

Memory Lane

  Yesterday morning I visited the George Washintgton Masonic National Memorial (the Masonic Temple). I had never been inside it . . . didn't know it was open to the public. It was quite interesting . . . never really knew too much about the Masons. If you purchase the full tour, you get to ride the elevator up to the observation deck. The elevators start out 60 feet apart and end up only 8 feet apart . . . you aren't aware that you're riding up at an angle. The view from the observation deck, although quite hazy yesterday, was pretty spectacular. You can see the Washington Monument and Capitol Building in D.C. from there . . . as well as most of Alexandria!

It brought back memories of the day we rode our bikes there and I recalled being shooed off the building steps and we rode down the steps and sidewalks on the lower terraced part . . . still rather dare devilish!
Guess they're still discouraging folks from using it as a playground.

I then drove around the old neighborhoods.  We lived in Del Ray from my 4th grade to the middle of my sophomore year of high school.  Seems to be quite the hip and happening area these days with cute shops and restaurants.  It was just a working/middle class neighborhood when we lived there.  This is the house we lived in.   Isn't it funny how everything from your childhood looks so small now . . . the street looks so narrow . . . the houses smaller.
This is the first high school I attended (freshman year and half of my sophomore year):  George Washington High School.  It was only a block away and I could cut through right across the street.  Yes, I was the last high schooler out of bed in the morning!  The building opened in 1935 (my father attended G.W.) and was a high school until 1971 when it became a middle school.  (That's where we first started riding down steps on our bikes . . . yes, those front steps . . . several times!)

Drove past what's left of my elementary school . . . 12 blocks from our house . . . no school bus service back then . . . uphill both ways . . . three feet of snow . . .  you remember those days.

The first picture is what is left of the school.  The "old" building in the picture above was where my 4th grade classroom was, the library and the bomb shelter.  I always felt safe in that building.  We had bomb drills a lot . . .  it was the late 50's/early 60's and we were just a stones throw from D.C.  The Russians were surely out to get us!

From the middle of my sophomore year to the end of my junior year (at T.C. Williams High School), we lived in this house in the area called Beverly Hills . .  we were "movin' on up"!  Then daddy got transferred to Camp Hill, PA and it was yet another high school. 
Today I got up early . . . somebody wanted to go out and be fed at 6:45 a.m. . . . and made it to the Farmer's Market in Old Town about 9:40 a.m.  Walked down Fairfax Street to my grandparents house (the one from my chart called Nanu's Hankie) until the shops were open.  Nanu's house is on the left in the photo below.  We lived in the house on the right when I was about three years old.  It hadn't been added onto then . . . there was a side yard we played in between the houses.
Here's Nanu's Hankie: 
These houses are right across the street from the Presbyterian Meeting House which dates from the early eighteenth century.   Looks like they were preparing for a wedding!  Alexandria’s memorial services for George Washington in 1799 were held in this sanctuary, and the church bell tolled in mourning during the four days between his death and burial . . . earplugs please!

The shops were now open and I browsed through The Torpedo Factory . . . it really was a torpedo factory at one time.  Now it's a maze of artist's studios and home to the Alexandria Archaeology Museum.  I struck up a conversation with an elderly docent at the museum asking her if she knew where I might find some information on historical properties in town and genealogy information.  She told me there was a genealogy section of the library that has all kinds of records on past Alexandria residents.  She summoned another woman over who copied a page from the Historic Alexandria Survey of Existing Early Buildings on the history of my grandparents' house!  Not exactly the story I had heard from my uncle . . . doesn't seem to have been built by relatives.

Had lunch in Old Town at Landini Brothers (recommended by a friend who loves Italian food!).  I don't know if Shrimp Salad Stuffed Avocado is Italian, but it was good!

Stopped in the Ramsey House Visitors Center and picked up a ton of brochures . . . where should I go tomorrow?


Friday, June 22, 2012


Arrived here in Alexandria Tuesday afternoon to dog/house sit to find there is also a turtle to take care of.  There are pages of instructions for the care of these pets.  My brother and sister-in-law have no children . . . if you get my drift.

The dog is as laid-back and sweet as you can get . . . a gentle giant.  She's 10 years old and has hip problems so moving is in slow motion.  Walks are short . . . meds are a plenty.  She sleeps in the bed with them . . . how cozy.  I chose to sleep in the guest room and she slept in their room the first night, but slept in mine last night.  There are huge dog beds in each room of the house . . . sorry, she's not sharing the single bed with me!

The turtle is said to be "social" . . . seriously?  He didn't even move until I moved him last night.  He doesn't seem to eat . . . or drink . . . or explore his huge aquarium.  Haven't seen his social side yet.

It's been too hot to do anything outside . . . except short dog walks . . . so I've only gone to Trader Joe's, Springfield Mall (which is about to close for a 2 year renovation and is practically deserted), Potomac Mills Outlet Mall, Ikea and dinner with my childhood BFF.  I'm not even a person who likes malls, but I did get a few fast walks in there in reasonable comfort.  The plumber is coming today to check-out the slow sink draining problem . . . we'll see what kind of time I'll have to explore this afternoon.

After dinner with my BFF, she drove me by our high school (one of three I attended . . . we moved a lot).  T.C. Williams High School (of "Remember The Titans" fame) was the "new" high school in Alexandria.  We were the first sophomore class (I was there for my sophomore and junior years) while construction was still going on . . . stepping over power tools in the hallways was common.  I don't remember any "racial tension" when I was there.  The movie was about the time period a few years after I graduated.  They have since torn the original building down and built a new larger one in it's place . . . and I must say it is a better looking and much bigger building.  When I heard they were tearing it down, I thought:  "They're tearing down the new high school?"  It was built in 1966!  Not so new anymore!

Traffic sucks!!!  There is no way I could do this without my GPS.  I may have grown up here, but I didn't learn to drive here and I only returned to live here for one year after I learned to drive.  Growth has been a major explosion!  Alexandria was a small town when I was a child!  At times the GPS is too slow to actually make the correct "off ramp" in the maze of bridges and lanes of bumper to bumper traffic . . . I-95, 495, 395 . . . I never seem to choose the right one . . . RECALCULATE is the word of the day!

 Carry On

Monday, June 18, 2012

You Can't Go Home Again?

I'm heading off tomorrow for a 19 day visit down memory lane . . . the hubs is staying home to work on "train world".  I'll be house and dog sitting for my brother and sister-in-law in my home town of Alexandria, VA.  I grew up there the first 17 years of my life and then lived there again for a year in my twenties . . . last visited in 2005.

About 20 years ago (which was almost 20 years since I had lived there) I attended the funeral of my childhood best friend's mother.  I drove from Cincinnati where we were living at the time with my (then) 2 year old daughter.  The trip took almost 13 hours as I recall . . . many stops with a 2 year old! 

As we got closer to Alexandria I decided to take what I thought would be a less hectic and more familiar way into town.  It was like something out of "Back To The Future" (that movie with Michael J. Fox).  One stretch would look somewhat familiar and then suddenly I didn't recognize a thing!  The mall across the street from my former apartment complex (from my twenties) had been renovated and was very futuristic looking with lots of neon!  By the time I got to the funeral home . . . with only minutes to spare . . . I was totally rattled!

I changed my daughter's clothes in the parking lot and in we went.  As we sat waiting for the memorial service to start I leaned down and told her that we were going to hear some pretty music.  Seconds later, in a not so "indoor voice", my daughter said "Where's the music"?  We spent the entire funeral out in the hallway where she burned off that pent up energy running up and down the hallway.

We attended the wake at the house my best friend lived in during our high school days which was around the corner from where I lived during that time.  I was staying overnight with my brother's girlfriend who lived on the street I used to live on during my elementary and junior high days.  I wanted to leave the wake before dark to make sure I could find my way (this was before GPS).  Well . . . it was dark before we left.  No problem . . . I thought.  I'll just go down the hill and hang a left at the Masonic Temple and go down a few blocks and hang a right and there you are . . . piece of cake!  Can't hang a left at the Masonic Temple anymore . . . there was a Metro station there.  No problem . . . I thought.  I'll just go down to the Reed Theater and turn left there . . . that will get me there.  No more Reed Theater (where I saw A Hard Days Night on my first date).  I did find my way . . . eventually . . . totally rattled once again!

Staying in a strange place after a very long day didn't sit too well with a 2 year old.  She started crying . . . it was too dark . . . it wasn't her bed . . . she wanted to go home.  That brought on my tears and I said I wanted to go home too, but it was too far.  We finally fell asleep . . . totally exhausted.

Speaking of the Masonic Temple . . . we used to ride there on our bikes (a mother forbidden destination) and ride down the steps . . .  yes, those terraced steps down the hill!  Guess we were rather daredevilish!
I hope I'll be able to post pictures of this trip using my brother's computer.  It should be interesting to visit the old neighborhoods and see all the changes . . . with the GPS plugged in . . . and without a 2 year old in tow!  I also plan to do some genealogy research while I'm there.  My father's family lived there for generations and built the family home in Old Town before it was "the" place to live.

Come along and spend some time down memory lane . . .


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Grass Is Greener Over The Septic Tank

Erma Bombeck was right . . . it IS greener . . . at least over the leach field.  Looking out on the front yard from my porch swing (yes, it's finally hung after 30 years) the front lawn has a somewhat striped look.  The grass grows longer and thicker in these areas . . . who knew . . . first septic system we've ever had.

The porch is coming together nicely!  The hubs had to pull down a few ceiling panels from the porch to put up a more substantial beam to hold the swing . . . don't want to be falling on my bum!
We were going to put the hammock on the back porch (which we plan to screen in) but it wouldn't fit!  It used to sit in the side yard at our last house and I guess we didn't realize how BIG it is!  It now takes up the other half of the front porch!  (See the hub's train planter?)
When we decided we wanted to move a couple of years ago, my priority was a porch.  I found a cross stitch pattern from Cross-Eyed Cricket that I thought would be perfect to hang on that porch.  It says: "You don't have to have tickets to listen to crickets" with crickets crawling over a tea cup.  I used buttons from my grandmother's button box to embellish it.  I had them seal it well when they framed it since I knew it would someday be hung outside.  (Love my spider web at the front door window?)
I also have my little "grouping" at the porch rail in case you get tired of looking at the pine grove across the street or the view of the lake peaking through the trees to the right.

Things purchased over time just waiting for that "someday porch".  The yard and porch are looking pretty good . . . the house?  There are still boxes to unpack . . . pictures to be hung.  I did start on my craft room yesterday . . . think I'm going to start calling it my studio.  I've always wanted a studio.  Sounds more "artsy" don't you think?  ; )

So . . . I'll be here . . . sittin' on the porch . . . not getting much done . . . 

just swangin' . . .

Bon  ~*