Monday, April 26, 2010

Countdown to the Kitchen and Garden Tour - Part 2

A few posts back I mentioned that I was going off to the paint store to buy turquoise paint for the shed's door and shutters. Harry loved the old crusty paint but it was a little too rough for my taste. I fell in love with a shutter color of a house I admire on Monument Avenue so I've attempted to put a little of that in my garden. Painting the shed's opening was first on my "to do" list for this weekend.

This was my first attempt:I knew right away it wasn't right - way too light and bright for the crusty shed shutters. Then I decided that I didn't want the door and the shutter all the same color so - back to the paint store again. This is not a chore - I love the paint store and all the people that work there. I've also been influenced by my next door neighbor's screen - I love to look out my kitchen window at it (and my Westie plant bracket which reminds me of my first dog, Lambchop). Here's what I wound up with:Ahhhhhhh - much better. I did the gecko mosaic in a class at my friend Bonnie's studio in Vienna Virginia - Maverick Mosaics.

Another fun chore was hanging the flag pole bracket so that the flag that advertises the event can go up and hang there this week.

I need to make a couple more trips to the nursery for more potted plants. That really could go on forever - I need to decide where to stop.

Our very nice neighbors gave us a load of hostas. Hostas don't really like being transplanted so late in the game - hopefully they'll perk up before Sunday.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Countdown to the Kitchen and Garden Tour - Part 1

The annual Fan Woman's Club Kitchen and Garden Tour is a little over two weeks away and it seems like every time I turn around I add something to the "to do" list - which is only in my head - I'd better start writing it down. One thing I checked off is to get a new light fixture for the Living Room. When we purchased Haven there was a charming 1970's track light with several huge cans hanging from it. I think you could have gotten a tan sitting under it. Back in December while painting that room I got Harry to take it down - leaving a gaping hole in the ceiling.

But what to put there? I've been holding on to this shot of a Darryl Carter room for a while. Darryl Carter, Photo by Simon Upton for Elle Decor

I've been trying to make my Living Room feel more contemporary - not an easy task with great grandma's sofa and chairs, Uncle Dan's secretary and a marble top tea table cut down to make a coffee table. But the basic bones are there - sofa (reupholstered in white linen last year) between two tables, and a fireplace on the adjoining wall with contemporary art over the mantel. Now I just need to find some great old shutters and have Harry make me that table (that's on another "to do" list). Darryl's space doesn't seem to have a light fixture in it so I'm on my own. I went off to Shades of Light to see what they had that could be cash and carry.

Immediately upon entering I see a possibility.
I love a beaded chandelier - but is this contemporary enough? Am I seeing it coming and going too much? Never mind, it's a Niermann Weeks fixture and even with my trade discount I can't go there.
I love this one, too, but guess what - its another Niermann - and here's another:I'm beginning to see a pattern. After walking around and around, trying to ignore the Niermann's, I kept coming back to this fixture: I loved the finish and the shades were growing on me. There is just enough whimsy to make it contemporary without looking out of place with great grandma's furniture. If I grown tired of the shades I can remove them down the road.
Then the sales person told me that a woman who's house is on the Garden Tour was in earlier and was thinking about purchasing it. That did it. It was probably one of those sales techniques that they use on people like me and I hate to say it but it worked. Has this ever happened to you? She told me I could take it home on approval so if buyer's remorse kicked in later I could bring it back. The electrician came last week to hang it so I guess it's mine.

The rest of the interior of Haven is ready except for flowers and a good last minute cleaning. Now the outside - that's another story. Better go write my list.........................

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

More on Why I Love Virginia

After a long week of traveling for work and cleaning the house in preparation for a big dinner I needed a day with nothing to do but walk with my best buddies, Harry and the dogs. I pulled out our trusty volume of 60 Hikes Within 60 miles Richmond and picked a hike in a state park not too far from here - Chippokes Plantation State Park. Chippokes is one of the oldest working farms in the United States and is located in Surry County right on the James River. The pastoral environs of Chippokes Plantation State Park are positively evocative. It’s easy to imagine Native Americans paddling a canoe through the lush wetlands where Chippokes Creek meets the James or to imagine early settlers tending the nearby fields of corn and wheat

We started out on the College Run Trail which is a paved 1.5-mile trail that connects the recreation area with the historic area where you pass by the River House and mansion as well as some Guinea Hens on the loose. The James River and Lower Chippokes Creek trails are dirt farm roads that connect with College Run Trail. This part of the trail led us down to the creek - I wished I had my kayak with me.
The poodle got some off lead time - sorry Harvey - you're not to be trusted.
After a return on the creek trail we headed out on the James River Trail and had about a mile walk along the beach. Millions of shells are scattered in the sand on the shore of the James. I can't ever resist the opportunity to pick up a few.

We only saw six other people the whole time we were at the park. Just what I needed. We thought briefly about returning via the Jamestown Scotland Ferry which is a free ferry service across the James but were fearful of running into all the tourists that stay on that side of the river visiting Jamestown and Williamsburg and therefore causing traffic headaches on I-64. We returned via Route 10 and hardly saw another car. Before leaving Surry we stopped for a country ham sandwich at Edwards of Surry. Here's an except from the New York Times. It was deeelishous. And I'm sure I've now had my salt needs met for about a month.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Week of Wisteria

When we purchased Haven I was so excited that there was a very mature Wisteria vine on the trellis in our back yard. However, when spring came around there were very few blossoms and I was very disappointed and not sure why it didn't really bloom.

About a week and a half ago Harry said - "look at the wisteria" - so I glanced out the window and saw hundreds of blossoms about to burst. According to a neighbor, the previous owner had whacked the heck out of it before putting the house on the market and it needed a year to recover.

Here it is about to burst - the azalea gets the short shrift.
The poodle likes it, too.
Here it is at peak.
Wish I could post the fragrance - it was very strong.

This photo was taken this morning - the petals are dropping and the color seems to have faded. So has the fragrance. I really wish it could stay around longer to keep us company. I love almost everything about it. I love the word, "wisteria". I love its soft shade of lavender, the aroma it lets off is intoxicating, I haven't tried to eat it but the bees sure love it. HOWEVER, how could something so beautiful also be so deadly? Its next door neighbor - the crepe myrtle is being slowly choked to death. Harry is going to have to get up there and save her so that I can enjoy her blossoms later in the summer. Another item on the "honey do" list.

I can almost hear Myrtle gasping for air.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

So Neighborly

Last night the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts invited their neighbors, i.e. people living in the Fan and Museum District in for a preview of the galleries before they re-open their doors after a long renovation.

When Harry and I moved to Richmond last year the museum was getting ready to close for a long period of time, and, unfortunately I never made it in before they did. We had, as a family, years ago come down to see the Egyptian traveling exhibit that they had - never thinking for a minute that some day I would be a neighbor.

So, Harry and I walked the seven blocks down to get a sneak peak. The director gave a slide presentation about the renovation and then turned us loose into the new spaces. Many of the rooms haven't had their art hung yet - the official opening is May 1. I can't wait to go back and take my time in each of the galleries.
Hi Elvis - I'll come back and see you later.

This is a view from above the new entrance. Wow.

Wow again.

This is a view through huge glass windows to "Grove House" - this building will be for research staff.
It is so open and airy - just the kind of space one needs to experience great art.

I hated to leave last night - but I will be back very soon. Admission will be free and they're going to be open every day and some evenings!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

History of Haven

Hollywood Cemetery

One of the questions I've been asked by the committee that heads the Fan Woman's Kitchen and Garden tour is if I know anything of the history of my house so that they can pass that information on to the people on the tour. Who built the house, who were the first inhabitants, etc.? Gosh, I have no idea - but wouldn't it be fun to find out? I was told I could get started at the Virginia Historical Society and so one morning I walked over to start the research. Richmond published City directories nearly every year from 1870 to the present. Beginning with 1879–80, all directories contain a section devoted to street addresses arranged in alphabetical order by street name and then arranged numerically by address. The previous owner left a plaque that states that the house was built in 1905 so I started with the 1905 directory and went to Hanover Avenue but didn't find my number - the numbering stopped in the previous block. So I grabbed 1906 and found my address and learned that it was inhabited by Lucy O. Michaels, widow. J.E. I wasn't sure what the J.E. stood for but hoped that it was her deceased husbands initials. I pulled directories from 1906 through 1920 and Lucy continued living here. In 1921 it transferred to Sarah Tyler - another widow. Hmm. What's happening to the husbands??

The VHS didn't have much more to offer in the way of Richmond building research so I walked back home and got onto the computer to see if I could find out anything more about Lucy. I was hoping that I'd find her at Hollywood Cemetery. Hollywood is the cemetery in Richmond where everyone who was anyone was buried. Not only that it is one of the prettiest places around. Overlooking the James River, it is a large, sprawling spot characterized by rolling hills and winding paths and it is the resting place of two United States Presidents, James Monroe and John Tyler, as well as the only Confederate States President, Jefferson Davis. It is also the resting place of 25 Confederate generals, more than any other cemetery in the country. Included are George Pickett and J.E.B. Stuart.

Its name, "Hollywood," comes from the enormous holly trees dotting the hills of the property.

Hollywood Cemetery is one of Richmond's major tourist attractions. There are many local legends surrounding certain tombs and grave sites in the cemetery, including one about a little girl and the black iron statue of a dog standing watch over her grave.

That's Harvey the Welsh terrier keeping his distance.

I logged onto their website and used the search engine. Not only did I find Lucy but I found her late husband and some other members of the Michaels family. I made note of the plot number and headed back out the door.

My next stop was to the Library of Virginia. The Library of Virginia was created by the General Assembly in 1823 to organize, care for, and manage the state's growing collection of books and official records — many of which date back to the early colonial period.

I sat down at a computer and used their subscription to to look up the Michaels family in the U.S. census records. I first checked the 1880 census and found Lucy and Robert E. living on West Clay Street. She was 22 and he was 32 and it stated that he was a grocer. Also living at that address were Erwin P. - aged 4 and Robert E., Jr. aged 4 months.

In the 1900 census I found her living on 112 Plum Street - it seems Mr. Michaels had passed away by then.

The 1910 Census showed her in my house on Hanover along with Robert E., Luette, Edward, Mary and Lucy Taylor (aunt) and Pellam Johnson (servant).

Now, on to Hollywood cemetery where the nicest gal in the office gave me a map and a xerox of everyone buried in the plot as well as information on the funeral home that handled Mr. Michaels funeral in case I want to find out how he died.

I followed the map and soon found the family plot.

Poor Lucy was a widow in her thirties - did she continue to run the grocery? She had some kind of income in order to support a large household and a servant.

The room that I currently use as my office/studio I'm sure was Pellam Johnson's room. It is close to the back stair case which leads to the kitchen.

The family lived here at Haven until 1920. I hope they were as happy here as I am.

I've contacted the Valentine History Center to see if I can find out anything else about Lucy and Robert Michaels but haven't heard back from them. I would love to know more...........