Gettysburg Battlefield

Ben and I visited Gettysburg in late April. Since we’re a 90-minute drive from Gettysburg, it was an easy day trip.

We started our visit by watching the introductory video for some background on the battlefield. We also saw the cyclorama, which is a painting that wraps around a circular room and lights up during the narration. To be honest, I was underwhelmed by it (I thought it would be digital and more immersive).

We left the visitors center to walk to the battlefield and were surprised at how big it is; it isn’t a distinct piece of land that’s set apart from the town, like at Manassas. There’s very little separation between the battlefield and modern day. We saw a McDonalds as we walked to the cemetery where Lincoln spoke his Gettysburg address.

I didn’t take many pictures of the battlefield, since without a guide or a guidebook, it was difficult to know what I was looking at. I could have downloaded the Gettysburg app, which includes an audio tour, but I’m always hesitant to download apps on my old and storage-challenged phone.

Random Thoughts

  • I’m on the hunt for a new, smaller camera. I rarely have my DSLR with me, because it’s big and heavy. I considered a compact, which have a lot more features now, including manual controls and the ability to shoot in raw. But when I held them at the store, they felt like toys (maybe I’d just need to get used to it). I’m also considering a small mirrorless camera, like the Sony a6000. I could upgrade my phone, but cameras have more manual controls and a better battery life.
  • Ben and I are going to Charleston in July, and I’m really looking forward it! This will be a departure from most of our vacations, as we’re planning to relax instead of going sightseeing. My vacations are usually a sprint from one site to the next, which is fun but exhausting. I’m planning to stock up on books on my kindle and sit on the porch of our Air BnB. And take pictures with my new camera, whatever that happens to be.
  • I finally finished reading Longbourn, a version of Pride and Prejudice told through the eyes of the servants downstairs. I’d tried to read it several times, but the beginning was slow, and I’d put it down before I could get past the boring parts. In the end, it was a unique and interesting read that shows just how much the Bennets relied on their servants. It paints the family in a not-always-so-favorable light, with even Elizabeth coming off as a bit thoughtless at times. It goes well with another book that I’ve been reading, Jane Austen’s England. This non-fiction book covers what everyday life was like for the working classes in Jane Austen’s day.
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The Surratt House & Tavern

I’ve finally crossed the Surratt House off my bucket list. I’ve wanted to see it ever since I learned of Mary Surratt from the movie The Conspirator in 2011.

Mary Surratt was a confederate and an accomplice of Booth’s in the plot to kill Lincoln. In addition to her Maryland tavern (above), she owned a boarding house in DC, where John Wilkes Booth was a frequent visitor. On the day that he was to assassinate Lincoln, Mary traveled to her tavern and instructed her tenant John Lloyd to stash Booth’s pistols. He would come for them that night, after he made his escape from Ford’s Theatre into the Maryland countryside.

The movie leaves it up to the viewer if Surratt knew of the assassination and knowingly committed treason. However, the author of The Assassin’s Accomplice argues that Mary Surratt, who was eventually hung with the Booth’s other conspirators, was a willing participant.

I have to admit that the tour wasn’t what I was expecting. It was more politically charged than I cared for, with the tour guide arguing that Booth was a better man than commonly thought and that Lincoln was no martyr who liked to tell N-word jokes (except he actually said it, which was appalling and uncomfortable).

In his determination to clear Booth’s name (and the Surratts’), the guide left out key details…like where Booth’s gun had been stashed! I realized the omission only after we left.

I can’t tell you whose bedroom this is, because we were given little detail about the house. But, I did manage to find a sewing room:

Random Thoughts

  • While we were at the Surratt House, we bought a map of John Wilkes Booth’s escape route. I’d just read Manhunt: the 12 Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer and wanted to see the route in person. Unfortunately, we’d forgotten about Maryland traffic. It was so bad that we only made it to Chic-fil-A (obviously not a stop on the route, but I was starving).
  • Ben and I moved into a new apartment last Saturday. We’re not completely settled in yet, but the new place has some definite benefits: lots of sunlight, an in-unit washer and dryer (I’m still getting used to being able to do laundry whenever I want), and a bathroom counter (it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is). The cats took to it immediately. Instead of cowering inside cabinets, they laid down in front of the balcony, which has been their favorite spot ever since.
  • I went to Baked & Wired this week, which is commonly cited as having  the best cupcakes in the DC area. It lived up to its reputation. It has a ton of flavors to choose from and the cupcakes are dense, so they’re really filling (I could only eat one, though I had plans for several).
  • Georgetown has an Amazon bookstore! It opened in March but I only found out about it this week. It doesn’t have as many books as Barnes & Noble, but it has the bestsellers. Amazon Prime members pay Amazon.com prices, so the book that I bought about Wallis Simpson was $17 instead of the $28 list price. All books are shown with their Amazon review rating (I’ve heard that the store only carries books with a rating of  at least 4 stars). Amazon prices aren’t listed, but there are scanners throughout the store, or you can scan the barcode with the Amazon app and it will take you to the book’s Amazon page. It was a fun experience, and I can’t wait to go back after I’ve gone through my current stack of books.

A Birthday Celebration

Ben and I celebrated my 35th birthday on Sunday by spending the day in Richmond. Traffic was light, so we arrived an hour ahead of schedule. We walked around the shopping district of Carytown, and I grabbed a hot chocolate at Sugar & Twine (I don’t usually let myself drink hot chocolate, but anything goes on birthday weekend).

Ben had made a noon reservation for afternoon tea at the Jefferson Hotel; he likes afternoon tea as much as I do, ever since we went to England.

Tea is held in the lobby of the hotel, which is beautiful, but the setting was a bit awkward, since we were on display for people who were checking in or just hanging out in the lobby.

We were served Virginia ham sandwiches and a few different wraps (hummus for me). The tiered tray also included chocolate chip scones, spinach scones, pound cake (vanilla and chocolate), macaroons and chocolate covered strawberries.

We finished the tier (the waiter was impressed and said most people don’t), then we were given a piece of cake for my birthday. I was thrilled that it had cream cheese frosting; everything is better with cream cheese, and cake is already pretty good.

After tea, we decided to visit Agecroft Hall, a Tudor mansion that was brought to Virginia in the early 1900s from Manchester, England. Richmond was having a “time travelers” weekend, where historic sites throughout the city offered free admission and abbreviated tours. Agecroft Hall was one of the participating sites.

Our visit started with a ten-minute video about the history of the house. It had fallen into disrepair in England and was at risk of demolition when a wealthy entrepreneur purchased it. The house was taken apart, crated and shipped across the Atlantic. The mansion that was built in Richmond is inspired by the home that stood in England but isn’t a reconstruction, so that more modern conveniences could be included.

As we were waiting for our tour, I practiced taking Ben’s picture in front of the mansion. You can tell from the progression of these photos when his patience wore out (understandably so; these aren’t even half of what I took).

I asked Ben not to give me gifts for my birthday, but he surprised me with a book that I’d been wanting from Paper Source, a book that I’d looked at months ago. It was very thoughtful.

A Walk Through Alexandria

I went to Old Town this morning to meet a friend for brunch. I decided to walk since the weather is warming up after a couple of frigid weeks that made me want to hibernate. The exercise also didn’t hurt, since we were going to a place called Bread & Chocolate (my two favorite things).

It’s a 1.4 mile walk, and Ernie’s is the first business I see when I turn onto King Street (the main street on Old Town). I’ve never been there, since I don’t like seafood.

I’ve also never been to Hard Times Cafe, but it’s distinctive because there’s a horse parked outside.

My favorite sewing store in the area, Stitch Sew Shop, is on a side street.

Killer ESP is a cafe that has nutella-filled scones. Seating is always an issue though, since it’s tiny.

The Majestic Cafe is one of those restaurants where, at the end of the meal, they give you compressed napkins that expand. They place a dish on your table with what look like two marshmallows. They pour hot water over them and poof, there’s your napkin. They have good gnocchi here but it’s only available in autumn and winter.

And that’s the end of the tour!  I should have taken a picture of Bread & Chocolate but it’s pretty unremarkable.

Random Thoughts

  • A sewing store in Maryland is offering the same dressmaking workshop that I signed up for in Nashville. I’m taking the local workshop instead, but the trip to Tennessee is still on for sightseeing.
  • January 25 will be the two-year anniversary of our move to Alexandria!
  • We took the cats to the vet yesterday and Emma needs to have her teeth cleaned. I didn’t know that was a thing.
  • Ben and I signed up for MoviePass, a movie theater subscription service. For $10/month, you can go to one movie a day. We used it yesterday to see Jumanji and will use it again this week to see The Post. I think it’s the best thing that ever happened to Ben.
  • I’m obsessed with the show Velvet on Netflix. The New York Post called it, “the best Netflix show you aren’t watching yet.

Scottish Christmas Walk Parade

This post is long overdue!

Ben and I went to Alexandria’s Scottish parade in early December. The parade is one of several events that celebrates Alexandria’s Scottish heritage (the city was founded by Scottish settlers). We kept an eye out for the MacInnes clan but didn’t see them.

If I ever get a dog, I want it to be a West Highland White Terrier. Look at that face (and he has a scarf)!

However, I’ve read that they’re high energy, which may not work for my mostly-sedentary lifestyle.

Random Thoughts

  • I have a good reason for being delinquent in my blog posts. I started a sewing blog that I’ve been spending most of my free time trying to populate with content. While this blog is for me, my new venture is for an external audience, so I can’t be a schlub when it comes to posting. However, I do hope to get back to a regular blogging schedule on The Photo Habit (it’s one of my 2018 resolutions).
  • Ben and I spent both Thanksgiving and Christmas in town. It felt a little strange, since most of the people I know went out of town. We made good choices on restaurants though. On Thanksgiving, we went to Lincoln Restaurant and on Christmas to Sequoia. Christmas could have been a cluster, because I decided a week before that I didn’t want to make dinner at home and our options for dining out at that point were few. That’s why we ended up having breakfast at Sequoia and not dinner, but it all worked out, because I was back in my pajamas by noon.
  • I’ve gotten back into the habit of doing yoga every day. Ben and I took a private yoga lesson at Refresh Yoga earlier this month. We were both kind of dreading it, because it was on a Sunday at 2 p.m., but it was really helpful. I pushed myself more than I do at home, and I’ve applied corrections to my home practice.
  • I rode a horse at work. One of the Revolutionary War re-enactors offered to take employees around the estate for an hour on a Friday. I was clearly delusional when I signed up. I thought that maybe I’d love it and that Ben and I could go horseback riding on the weekends. And then I got on the mustang, the smallest horse of the bunch. My heart was pounding so fast, I thought I was going to have a heart attack. A saddle doesn’t hold you as snuggly as I thought it would. It doesn’t hold you at all – it was basically like sitting on a blanket on top of a horse. I was so scared and ineffective at managing my horse ( I couldn’t even get him to stop walking in the parking lot), that the owner held the reins for the entire tour. I was grateful to him but also felt like a five-year-old. When the tour was over, I literally ran away. So long dignity.
  • 2018 is going to be the year of classes for me.
  • In January, I’m taking a draping class at a local studio. Draping is when you design a garment by draping fabric on a dress form (like what they do in Project Runway). It’s a two-hour intro class, so I won’t actually be designing anything, just learning the basic principles.
  • In February, I’m taking a one-day pasta-making workshop. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had homemade pasta, and I’m looking forward to trying it.
  • In March, I’ll be taking a dressmaking class with blogger, author and pattern designer Gretchen Hirsch. I’m really excited. The class is in Nashville (Ben is coming too; not to the class, but to Nashville). I’ll have Friday to see the sights and then will spend Saturday and Sunday in class from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.