From the Library Of Amy Kirst

For my birthday, my sister-in-law gave me an embosser for my books. I’ve labeled nearly all of my books and some of Ben’s, which I labeled for practice (I asked first). I found that the trick is to put the embosser on the floor, so I can press down as hard as I can.

Now that I’ve gone through my library, I’m tempted to label my notebooks (and more of Ben’s books – just kidding, Ben!).

My mother-in-law sent me the book above; it’s a fictional book about Mount Vernon that she found at a library sale in Dunkirk. The book is based on the true story of Oney Judge, a Washington slave who ran for freedom when she was living with the president and first lady in Philadelphia. There’s a new biography of Ona’s life called Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge.  Both books are quick reads and really interesting.

Random Thoughts

  • I finally started working on the Clemence skirt, which has been on my list since December. I sewed a test garment today (called a muslin in sewing terms) and was relieved to see that it fits. I was skeptical when I saw how huge the pattern was, but all the excess gathers into the waistband and it actually ends up resembling a skirt, not a garbage bag (whew). Now it’s time to cut out my real fabric.
  • I just learned that the iPhone comes with a built-in pedometer. Determined to hit 10,000 steps, I walked four miles today (two there and back) to exchange a shirt in Old Town. It may have helped my motivation that I was exchanging the shirt for a larger size (apparently a size small is made for a child).
  • This week, I finished an online class called Excel for Marketers. It was four one-hour sessions and was enormously helpful. I learned how to accurately calculate averages in a pivot table and how to use the filters in Excel. It was a lot of fun (I never thought I’d say that about Excel).

Manassas Battlefield

I’ve been making a list of places I’d like to see in the area, and today I was able to cross off one: Manassas National Battlefield Park, the site of the first major land battle in the Civil War (also known as the First Battle of Bull Run). It was an easy day trip, since it’s just a 45-minute drive from Alexandria.

There were two battles here, the first one in 1861 and the second in 1862. The first battle was where the visitor’s center is today, while the second encompasses other areas of the park.

A few things I learned:

  • The battles at Manassas have two names each. The Union army named battles after bodies of water (Bull Run), while the Confederate army used the name of the nearest town or landmark (Manassas). In this case, the National Park Service uses the southern name (Manassas National Battlefield Park).
  • The house at Henry Hill (a reconstruction) was the home of 85-year-old Judith Carter Henry. She was bedridden and unable to vacate her home when war broke out. A piece of Union artillery went through her bedroom wall and tore off one of her feet (!); she died later that day.
  • Civilians thought the war would be easily won and gathered on a hill about five miles away to watch. After this first battle, the country realized that the war would not be won in a single day.

Judith’s grave:

A reconstruction of her home, which burned down in the second battle:

Signs mark where soldiers fell:

Ben thought he saw an eagle:



On June 22, two days before our vacation ended, we took a short day trip to Paris via the Eurostar train. We arrived at 10 a.m. and were met at the station by a friend of Ben’s co-worker, Jennifer, who lives in Paris. She agreed to take us around for the afternoon.

I was grateful to have her as a guide. While many signs were in both French and English, some were not, and  navigating the city would have been difficult without her.

We first went to Notre Dame and then walked to the Louvre (below). We didn’t go inside since our time was limited (we had to catch our return train at 9 p.m.).

We walked down the Champs-Élysées, which was much wider than I anticipated and more modern, with stores like The Gap and H&M. We walked until we reached the  Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile.

We had lunch at Café du Trocadéro, which was thankfully air conditioned, since it was a 97-degree day. I had a cheese plate, which was excellent, but we’re still trying to remember the names of the cheeses so that we can buy them locally.

The restaurant was just a few blocks from the eiffel tower. I wasn’t expecting to be as impressed by it as I was – it would have been stunning to see it when it’s lit up at night.

At about 4 p.m., Ben and I were on our own. We took an Uber to the train station and asked if we could board an earlier train. Changing our tickets would have cost 300 euro each, so we opted to spend the next 4 hours visiting the local restaurants in the neighborhood instead. If the weather had been less intense, we might have explored more attractions, but neither of us was up for navigating the metro or walking more than we had to.

Someday we’d like to return to France, after we’ve taken French lessons. Jennifer recommended visiting Versailles, which she said is just 30 minutes from Paris.

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace was one of my favorite places that we visited on vacation (tied with the Tower of London). We were free to explore on our own, accompanied by an audio tour. You could easily spend an entire day here (or two!).

Hampton Court was one of Henry VIII’s palaces and was where his third wife, Jane Seymour, gave birth to their son.

The apartments of Henry and his wives overlooked the courtyard above.

The Great Hall (below) contained a carving of Henry and Anne Boleyn’s initials. Most of her initials had been removed following her death, but this one remained. It’s in the wood panel on the right side of this photo. Henry’s staff ate in the Great Hall and dances would be held here. The tapestries on the wall were commissioned by Henry himself.

The next room is the Great Watching Chamber, where guards were stationed to control access to the king. The ceiling includes Jane Seymour’s family emblem.

A second courtyard houses a fountain that flowed with wine (it’s a replica).

A room leading to the royal chapel is supposedly haunted by Katherine Howard, who ran through the hallway to try to reach the king and beg his forgiveness before her execution. I didn’t take a photo of that room, since it was fairly plain.

Random Thoughts

  • I’ve lost my sewing motivation ever since we got back from vacation. Today I subscribed to Colette’s online magazine Seamwork, in hopes it will inspire me to sew again. I really like the Veronica pattern in the latest edition. I’m wondering if I should abandon what I’m currently working on and sew the Veronica dress while I’m excited about it.
  • I found a new fabric store! It’s called Three Little Birds Sewing Co. and it’s in Hyattsville, MD (about 17 miles away, or a 30-minute drive).
  • In general, there’s few fabric stores in the area. There’s Stitch Sew Shop in Old Town (it has beautiful, modern fabrics), G Street Fabrics (not on G Street in DC but in Rockville, 45 minutes away), and JoAnn’s (I’ve been there twice and it’s horrendous). I’m hoping that Three Little Birds will give me some more options.

Tower of London

On Tuesday, June 20, we took a ferry to the Tower of London; this is a view of Big Ben from the ferry.

I’d imagined the Tower of London as a single structure but it’s more like a village, with many buildings surrounding a courtyard. In addition to being a prison, it had been the residence of the royal family and was (and still is) the keeper of the crown jewels.

We started our visit with an hour-long tour guided by a beefeater (below). He showed us Traitor’s Gate, where Henry VIII’s wife Anne Boleyn would have entered the tower for her imprisonment, and took us into the church where Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard are buried (no pictures were allowed inside).

Here is the site where both women were beheaded for infidelity to the king:

I just read a book about Henry VIII’s wives. Although it’s likely that Katherine Howard was unfaithful (she confessed), the charges against her cousin Anne Boleyn are dubious. Henry VIII wanted to get rid of Anne because she hadn’t yet given him an heir and he had fallen in love with Jane Seymour.

There’s also a section of the tower called the Medieval Palace, where the royal family would have stayed (usually for a specific purpose and not for very long). They were built by Henry III and his son Edward I.

This is a recreation of Edward I’s bedchamber (I believe the bed is mentioned in Lucy Worsley’s book, If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home).