Renwick Gallery, Washington, D.C. & Great Falls National Park – March 26-27, 2016

Each year in late March, Wayne goes to Washington, D.C. to visit some art galleries and to get together with some friends he’s had since college.  This was my second trip with him, and despite it being Easter weekend (when some of his friends had already made other plans), we had a great time!

From the Charlottesville area, we drove up Rt. 29.  Instead of getting on I-66 towards D.C., this time we stayed on Rt. 29 North until Rt. 50 took off heading east into Arlington.  We stayed at a motel that was within a couple of blocks of a Metro station, got our “Smart Trip” cards, and off we went!

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The Metro system is really a good way to get around the city.  While we don’t go often enough to really *understand* the various routes, we can usually get where we want to go.


From the Farragut West Metro stop, we walked a couple of blocks to the Renwick Gallery on Pennsylvania Avenue.


The line was really, really long, but we decided to wait it out.  Fortunately, it moved quickly and before too long we were inside for the “WONDER” exhibit.  Nine installations were featured in this show, and while I’ll post a few pictures, you can also click here to learn more about it.










When we left the Renwick, I walked a little further down Pennsylvania Avenue to get a couple of pictures of one of the most famous buildings in the neighborhood:



We were meeting a friend for dinner in a couple of hours, plus we were kind of tired from all of the standing and walking, so we decided to return to the motel instead of going to any other museums.  Again I found myself totally fascinated with the interior of the metro station, so I started taking pictures of the changing patterns in the ceiling and wall while riding up on the escalator.  This proved not to be a good thing; more on that later!


Our designated meeting place for dinner was a place we’d been before: the Silver Diner on Wilson Boulevard in Arlington.  I got the Bell & Evans Roasted Chicken Pot Pie (SO GOOD!), Wayne got Grilled Atlantic Salmon, and our friend got the Summer Citrus Salad.  We were ALL pleased with our meals, and we highly recommend this restaurant if you’re in the area.

We left Arlington early on Sunday morning, heading for Great Falls National Park on the Virginia side of the Potomac River.  So funny that you can be in such a large city and then in less than 15 miles you can be at some place like this! It was cool and overcast, but so amazing and so beautiful.




Just after we drove into the Park, two Great Blue Herons flew over the parking lot.  We went to the first overlook of the falls and then decided to walk upriver to see if we’d see any other Herons or water birds.

Before going too far, however, we paused to put a tiny sliver of quartz crystal into the river.  This is a ritual we started a couple of years ago….  Water is so vital to all life on our planet, and yet all too often there are stories in the news about oil spills, industrial waste or agricultural waste that foul this precious natural resource.  Being familiar with (and intrigued by) the work of Masaru Emoto, we say a prayer for the safety and health of the water while holding the crystal, and then we drop the crystal into the river.


But back to the wildlife.  There were Canada Geese everywhere, as well as a variety of ducks and other birds.

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To our surprise, there were LOTS of Great Blue Herons nesting on the far side of the river.  It astounds me that these long-legged birds can roost in trees!

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I had my camera on full optical/digital zoom to get these pictures.  I was pleased that I was able to take them, but of course I always wish for a more powerful zoom–or closer birds!–at times like these!

I spotted another bird across the river, and when I zoomed in, I was delighted to see another one of our favorites!



The two adult Bald Eagles were sitting just to the right of their nest.


We so enjoy being out in woods and along water, and Great Falls National Park is now one of our favorite places to visit.


Apparently a lot of other people feel the same way.  As we were leaving the Park, the line coming in was nearly half a mile long! I’m so glad we got there early!


Now, earlier I mentioned something about taking pictures while riding on the escalator in the Metro station…  I didn’t mention that I was riding up backwards, taking pictures as it rose, and that I got totally lost in and totally distracted by the changing patterns….

I was paying NO attention to how long I’d been on the escalator, suddenly ran out of moving stairs, and the next thing I knew I was–YIKES!–falling backwards!   I managed to break the fall–with my head!

Thankfully, I didn’t lose consciousness and it didn’t split the skin, but almost immediately I had a very large knot on the back of my head.  I sat there for a second, sort of assessing the damage, then Wayne helped me up.  We slowly walked to a nearby restaurant and got some ice in a bag, then I sat down again, continuing to decide just how much damage I’d done to myself.

When we walked back to the motel, we asked the guy at the desk where the closest urgent care center was (almost directly across the street!) and then I used the internet to make sure that I knew what to look for, just in case things started getting worse.  (In addition to the very painful knot on the back of my head, I had a fierce headache and some nausea. Plus my neck, left shoulder and back were starting to hurt.)

I knew I shouldn’t take aspirin, but I also learned that Ibuprofen is a no-no with a head injury.  Wayne went to a nearby 7-11 to get me some Tylenol.

Despite this, we still made it to dinner on time, and between the meds, the delicious dinner, and the great conversations, I started to feel a little bit better.

At this point I’m still sore as the dickens (basically EVERYTHING hurts), but I’m very, very thankful that this was no worse than it was.  And yes, I have laughed and laughed at the total irony of the whole experience:  Um, can you say “Great Falls”?  😉


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Simplicity Pattern 8028

After making a variety of purses by following–and modifying–various online tutorials, I decided to see how I’d do with an honest-to-goodness, traditional paper pattern. I purchased Simplicity pattern #8028 and decided to first try view C, which is the one on the top left in the pattern envelope picture.


Since I still have a lot of the “Whiskers and Tails” fabric I’d ordered a while back, I chose that for the “main” fabric, and instead of the faux leather (as shown in the example on the pattern envelope), I decided to use just black fabric for the bottom band.


I guess I’m spoiled by tutorials–video tutorials, especially, but also step-by-step still pictures, which tell you to cut the fabric this size by this size–because I found the whole process of cutting out the pattern, and then pinning it to the fabric, and then cutting out the fabric pieces to be beyond tedious.  Seriously.

The first piece of the pattern showed it placed on a fold, with the fabric turned right sides facing.  That was the way the pajama pants pattern was written, too, but after cutting out the first pieces for the purse, it made absolutely no sense to have the main fabric open just on one side.  It literally took me a couple of days to figure out that the fabric needed to be folded, but that the pattern didn’t need to be ON the fold… Major “ah ha” moment, so I cut the one really wide piece into two narrower pieces to have a definite front and back.

After a couple more days, I realized that the pattern was written for faux leather, so I had to adjust the bottom band by turning it under at the top before stitching it down.  (Made no sense to have a fabric band with a raw, fraying edge sewn directly onto the front/back of the main fabric!)

The NEXT issue involved my choice of fabric, which has an obvious direction.  A non-directional or all-over fabric would be fine at this stage, but the cats on the fold-over flap would have been upside down if I’d simply followed the pattern.  Maybe there was something mentioned about this somewhere in the directions, but I didn’t see it….

In order to have the cats right side up on the front–and right side up on the back–I had to cut the fabric into two pieces and sew them together where it was supposed to fold over to create the flap. Done properly, I probably should have added a narrow black band to separate the pieces rather than running right side up and upside down cats together, but by that point I just wanted to get on with it!

But with pieces cut out–and finally understanding the basic concept of the design–I put the directions away!!  I also decided I wanted a zippered pocket on the back of the purse, even though that wasn’t part of the printed pattern.

Long story short(er), I think it turned out okay.  Still need to make straps, and reviews said to add at LEAST 6″ to the strap if you want to use it as a cross-body.

Other choices for Simplicity pattern #8028 are for a clutch or wristlet.  Personally, I think it’s too large to be a good wristlet type purse since the finished size is 10″ wide x 6″ tall (when folded over and closed).


Open view of the front.  You can just barely see the black magnetic closures I used.  There’s a zipper that goes along the top edge.


Open view of the back.  You can see where I changed directions on the cat fabric, and you can also see the zippered pocket I added.


I used the main fabric for the pocket lining on the back of the purse.


I used a black and white paw print pattern for the interior lining.  There’s a double slip pocket on the back wall of the purse.


So definitely a mixed review here….  If you’re really good at following traditional printed patterns AND you’re really good at using the materials that are called for in traditional printed patterns, then you’d probably do fine with Simplicity 8028.

But if–like me–you’re NOT necessarily good at following traditional printed patterns AND you’re not planning to use the materials that are called for, AND you want to add other features, you might find it frustrating!

That said, now that I understand how it works, it would actually be very easy to put together another one!  I plan to test this one to see if I like it enough to make another one of the same style.  For my needs, I think this one is going to be too small to use as an every day purse when I carry all manner of things in a purse, but too big to use when out on adventures when I just carry the basics….

I might try to make the larger purse that’s just below (to the right) of this one, and I think it would be kind of fun to do one with faux leather on the bottom.  Personal preference, I’d probably opt to quilt the main fabric, simply because I like the look.  And a back zippered pocket on anything is definitely a must.

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Rainy Day Ramble to Lake Anna State Park – March 20, 2016

With my Spring Break coming to an end, we decided do a scenic, back roads drive to Lake Anna State Park. We were last there March 22, 2014, so it was certainly time for a return visit. We were hopeful when we saw a few peeks of sunshine through the clouds as we left the house, but ultimately we encountered chilly temperatures, rain, and some rain mixed with snow! Much driving, but not much picture-taking this time!

You can view a large,  interactive map  of our trip, and this is a small screenshot that shows our route. The red dots represent the drive to Lake Anna, blue stars mark places we stopped, green dots show the return route, and the yellow dots show a brief side-trip loop!


I took this picture of Wayne at Colling Point on Lake Anna (point 26 on the map).  It was in the upper 30s, breezy, and especially cool by the water, so we didn’t stay long!


Unfortunately, by the time we got to Lake Anna State Park, the weather was even worse!  The Park was basically deserted, and there were no boats out on the water.  Even though it was too wet to get out of the car and walk around, we enjoyed driving through the campground and picnic areas.


Pretty place, even in the rain/snow–and the lake is HUGE.  It’s about 17 miles from one end to the other, with over 200 miles of shoreline:


With so few pictures from today, here are some pictures from March 22, 2014 when we had much better weather:

Sign at the entrance:


Red-tailed Hawk:

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American Coot, seagull, and ducks.  We also saw Ospreys in 2014, but we weren’t able to photograph them.

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Sun setting over the water:


Fishermen at sunset:


When we left Lake Anna in 2014, it was almost dark–and then it was REALLY dark when we tried to find our way home on back roads.  Thinking we were lost, we stopped by the side of the road to look at a map.  Up ahead and on the right we could see some building lit up out there in the absolute middle of nowhere.  By accident, we’d discovered Tavern on the Rail!  It was a wonderful, unexpected surprise, and our dinner was delicious.




The restaurant (in a restored building from 1837) is only open Thursday – Saturday, so we didn’t have the option of stopping for dinner tonight.  We also decided to take a different route home, so we wouldn’t have passed it again, anyhow.

We DID drive through the town of Mineral twice today, and I just learned that the town was named “Mineral” because it was an early mining center in Virginia.  It had as many as fifteen gold mines, and zinc and lead mines operated into the 1970s.  Interesting!

When we drove through Mineral on the way home, we turned RIGHT when we came to this intersection. 😉


Given the history behind the name of “Mineral,” I wondered how the town of Cuckoo got its name. Well, supposedly one of the first cuckoo clocks in Virginia was in a tavern in the little community, so the name “Cuckoo” stuck.

And more trivia: the 5.8 magnitude earthquake in August 2011 was centered near the town of Cuckoo, VA. Not only did I feel it (understatement!) at my school 60 miles away, it was felt in more than a dozen states and into Canada.

We also passed through the town of Bumpass today.  I’ll let you Google that one yourself! 🙂

We’ll certainly visit Lake Anna again–but we’ll try for a day with more warmth and less rain!

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Journey (almost) to Holliday Lake State Park – Feb. 28, 2016

Sunday, February 28, 2016 was beautiful and wonderfully warm, so we decided to go on an adventure.  Wayne suggested a trip to Holliday Lake State Park, which would be a new park for us, given that we have the goal of visiting all of Virginia’s State Parks.  I pulled up a Google map, plotted a “roads less traveled” route, printed the directions, and we pulled out of the driveway at 10:38 a.m.

As we started the drive, I told Wayne to keep an eye out for hawks, and said I thought it might be a “hawk day.”  He said that the day before he’d had a “hawk encounter” when a large one flew over the road in front of him.  Yes, we love our birds.

The first part of the trip directions seemed simple enough: down Rt. 29 South, and then onto Rt. 6 East, and then a turn onto another road.  After a few minutes we realized that our printed directions were actually taking us in a loop!  Worthless!  We made another turn, wound up on Rockfish River Road (always a pretty drive, so no worries) and returned to Rt. 29 South.

We stopped in Lovingston to check a “real” map and adjusted our route.  Where we were and where we needed to be were quite some distance apart, and there was no particularly easy way to get there…


After more than an hour of driving on unfamiliar rural roads, we finally saw a sign for Holliday Lake and made the turn onto Rt. 636.  We’d gone a couple of miles when I spotted something in the road up ahead.  It was a small/young Redtail Hawk!  I stopped, and the bird didn’t fly.  Its head was up and it was looking around, but it was “sitting” on its rump, with its legs extended in front of it and sort of leaning towards its right side.  Not good, not good at all. It was about 1:00 p.m.

Wayne gave me his sweatshirt jacket, and I approached the hawk from the front and then moved behind it.  It was alert and moved its head to watch me, but seemed unable to move, otherwise.  I put the jacket over its head and body, and gently lifted it into my arms while wrapping it in the jacket.  Now what?

We put it in the back of the CR-V and considered options.  We were smack dab in the middle of nowhere with an injured bird wrapped in a jacket.  If it roused up and fought its way out of the jacket, it could be injured further, or it could potentially hurt us.  There were no houses along the road. We had no cell phone service, and we still weren’t exactly sure we were on the right road to the state park.

We decided to keep going, however, because we figured they would have phone service at the park and might know of a wildlife hospital in the area.  We finally saw the park sign and started down the long entrance, but there was no one at the payment booth.  A tornado had come through this area–in fact right through this area–a few days before, and while the park was open, it appeared that no one was around.

Just then a female park ranger drove up from the opposite direction.  After flagging her down, we explained our situation.  She said she’d go back to the office to check for a box (which we’d asked for–to put the bird in) and she said she would call the Wildlife Center of VA to see what they would recommend.

A few minutes later another ranger drove up with a large cardboard box.  As we gently lifted the hawk into the box, we unwrapped it slightly to make sure it was still alive.  It didn’t move, but it did blink.  So far so good.  We gently wrapped it back up, and put it in the box.  We had some duct tape in the car and used that to close the top, leaving a bit of an opening for air.

The other ranger returned and said she’d called the Wildlife Center.  They’d checked and there really didn’t appear to be any wildlife facilities that were any closer than the center in Waynesboro, VA, which was 70+ miles away….

We thanked the two rangers (one of whom, it turned out, is a friend of one of our friends!) and started for Waynesboro.  As we left the park, I snapped a few quick pictures with my phone to show some of the tornado damage….




As I’ve said, we’re used to taking “roads less traveled,” but in this case we really needed to get where we were going as quickly as possible.  The Wildlife Center had said they wanted us to call them as soon as we had a signal for the cell phone, but we were just east of Amherst, VA on Rt. 60 when I was finally able to make the call.  It was almost 2:30 p.m.

The woman at the Center had checked–and confirmed–that they were probably the closest and best facility for an injured raptor, so we kept moving (quickly).  At 2:50, I heard the hawk make a sound–just a small, weak squeak–so at least I knew it was still alive.  We pulled into the parking lot at the Wildlife Center of Virginia at 3:30 p.m.

I asked the woman who met us if there was any way I could get a picture of the hawk, but she said not really, since she didn’t want to open the box in the main area and needed to take him or her back to the treatment area.

While I waited for her to return, I filled out a report on the details of the rescue, and then one of the center “super volunteers” came out with “Gus,” a 22 year old female Barred Owl.  I remembered seeing this bird when the Wildlife Center did an educational program at our school.  Gus is a permanent resident of the Center, and serves as one of their education animals.  You can read her story here.  I DID take her picture.  So beautiful!



When the woman returned, she said that the hawk seemed to have “good energy,” but she cautioned that they wouldn’t know the extent of its injuries until it had been examined by a doctor.  She said I could call on Monday to check on it, and I made a donation towards its care before we left.

We realized we hadn’t eaten anything, so we went to a Chinese restaurant in Waynesboro.  We were seated in a booth, and this, “coincidentally,” was directly to my right:


After we finished our meal, we walked out to the parking lot.  There were several buzzards in the sky, and then I spotted a bird–wait, four birds–with light bellies flying in our direction.  More hawks?!  No, they were …. seagulls!  Four seagulls in Waynesboro, VA, flying west…. That’s different….  And they were quickly followed by two honking Canada Geese (which have special significance to me).  Pretty cool. 🙂

But there’s even a bit more to the story… This evening Wayne called a musician friend to see how his show had gone the night before, and then he told him about our hawk experience.  The friend said that–“coincidentally”–the day before he’d found an old Canadian coin on the ground.  This morning when he really looked at it, he was said he was impressed with the image of a hawk on the reverse side.  Interesting!

Wayne then called one of his sons and started the conversation by asking if he’d had any hawk encounters in the last day or two.  His son said that indeed he had–this morning while sitting on his porch, he saw a huge hawk directly across from his house.  First time he’d ever seen a hawk there–in the city!

I hope that these “coincidental” hawk stories are providing of a circle of healing energy for the one that we found.  Please keep Redtail Hawk #16-0082 in your prayers!

And here’s the route we took. Red markers for the trip to the park; green for our trip back to the Wildlife Center:


Here’s a link to an interactive map:

UPDATE: Monday, February 29, 2016

I called the Wildlife Center to check on the hawk, and learned that it had been humanely euthanized due to the extent of its injuries.  I also learned that it was an emaciated adult Red-Shouldered Hawk instead of a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk.

Rather than being struck by a car, they said it had possibly been hurt by falling–from the sky or from a tree branch–after being SHOT.  They removed 18 BBs from its wing, head and body.  They estimated that it had been shot 5-10 days ago and had probably been on the ground since then (which led to its emaciated condition).

One of the BBs broke the radius in its right wing and the ulna was probably broken when it fell.  Its right leg was also broken, it had multiple bruises, as well as head and eye trauma.  Due to the seriousness of its injuries–most likely all attributed to being shot–the Wildlife Center has reported this to the game warden in the area.

I have no idea how it wound up in our path, given how severely it was injured.  And while I am so very sorry that this beautiful bird could not be saved, I am still thankful that Wayne and I were able to get it to a wildlife facility where it could be evaluated and then released from its suffering. :'(

Posted in Adventures & Travels, Animals & Wildlife | Comments Off on Journey (almost) to Holliday Lake State Park – Feb. 28, 2016

Sewing with Teenagers!

Each year when we return to school after the Christmas break, we have a special “Winter Week of Wisdom and Wonder” (WWOWW) selection of classes and activities.  Kids sign up for one class and one activity (there are so many awesome choices!), and this year a co-worker’s wife and I offered a beginning sewing class.

On the first day of class, we went on a fabric-shopping field trip. Over the next few days, students made drawstring bags, hand warmers, pillowcases, and small stuffed animals.  Such fun!

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It was SO much fun that I decided to add machine sewing to my art curriculum (in conjunction with a sculpture unit), and the kids had a blast.  We did many of the same projects we did during the WWOWW sewing class.

I worked with each student, individually, to show them the basics of operating the sewing machine.  After they practiced sewing straight lines, back stitching and pivoting at corners, they were able to choose a simple sewing project to make.  The boys enjoyed this just as much as the girls did, and as one boy said, with foot on the pedal and eyes on the lines on his paper, “It’s kind of like driving a car….” 🙂




Some made hand warmers, which are small squares of flannel-lined fabric, sewn together and filled with rice.  When microwaved for 30-45 seconds, these are great to put in pockets, as they stay warm a surprisingly long time.


They also made pillows, and self-designed stuffed animals and “monsters,” which they created from their sketches.  Details were added with fabric paint, stitchery, and fabric pastel sticks.



Advanced Art students were challenged to do a multi-step project that first incorporated a painted or printed design.  One student, who wanted to screen print his design, asked if he could make t-shirts for the golf team if he provided the shirts.  Great idea!

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He also printed on fabric to make a pillow.


The kids are very proud of learning this new skill, and I’m very proud of them. 🙂

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More pics are here: Art Students Learn to Sew


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