Making History

On Saturday, my son and I woke up BEFORE the crack of dawn to head to Richmond for the state-level National History Day competition…


At the VMFA, which is next to the Virginia Historical Society and Museum.

For weeks my son and his fellow group members toiled over their entry: a documentary on the Mongolian revolution. I sent up endless trays of food to the three boys, who spent endless late nights working on their project. This was a real challenge for my early-to-bed-early-to-rise 15 year old, who starts to turn into a pumpkin at the stroke of 8 pm. During one all-nighter I could hear one of the boys doing a voiceover at around 3 am.  Right before the assignment was due, a storm knocked out the power for days. The boys were frantic. They ended up spending the weekend finishing up their project at a dad’s office, where the power had been restored. During that blackout weekend, they managed to track down a history professor at the University of Memphis, who had written one of the scant articles they could find on their topic. They emailed him and he agreed to do a Skype interview, which they incorporated into their documentary. Their hard work paid off at the regional tournament, where they came in 2nd place for group documentaries.

At the competition on Saturday, I got to watch the documentary for the first time. As I was congratulating the boys for their impressive final product, they told me their teacher had deemed their award-winning documentary only worthy of a B. What’s more – another teacher called them into her office after the regional competition to tell them that although they had advanced to the state tournament, they really didn’t deserve to. When I expressed shock at this, my son consoled me with an A+ answer: “Eh, it’s ok. It’s good to learn how to deal with things like that in life.”

Good thing those teachers weren’t the judges:


With another 2nd place win, the boys are moving on to the national tournament. We all felt a bit like this:


Willem van Heythuysen, 2006, Kehinde Wiley, VMFA

Weekend Snapshots 38




My favorite part of the museum…

We discovered a Korean restaurant in Richmond. It wasn’t much to look at from the outside…

…but the food was great!

There was a little grocery store attached to the restaurant, where we bought some kimchee to take home.



Weekend Snapshots 13

I spent the weekend in Richmond, Virginia with my best friend…


We met up on Friday and did the Canal Walk:

There are murals all over Richmond. These were right by the water:

We walked along the cobblestone streets in Shockoe Slip and had dinner at The Urban Farmhouse Market and Café



We stopped off at Sub Rosa Bakery in Church Hill for a little snack.


We met up with a friend at The Jefferson Hotel:

There used to be real alligators in the marble pool around the statue of Mr. Jefferson.

We had high tea:

We went to Carytown next:

I love this bookstore…

and this idea:


We spent our last day in Richmond at the fabulous Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The building and grounds are as wonderful as the art inside…



After visiting Agecroft Hall, my friend and I drove on to Maymont. Like Agecroft Hall, Maymont is an estate that has been turned into an historic house museum. There are wildlife exhibits, a children’s farm, and beautiful formal gardens.

The entrance to the Italian Gardens is marked by a stone arch with the inscription “Via Florum.”

The daffodil display garden:

The entrance to the Japanese Garden:

I love photographing people, but I generally try to avoid having them in photos of landscapes. On this day, however, the gardens were so bustling that it was impossible to avoid including them in the photos. Apart from the usual garden visitors, there were high schoolers posing in their prom outfits and a gathering of “LARPers,” (Live-action role-players) dressed in fanciful costumes and wigs. (Believe me, I was dying to take their photos, but I managed to restrain myself with great difficulty…). Looking back at the photos that include people I captured unintentionally, I love the effect. I think the people, dressed in clothing as colorful as the flowers themselves, add rather than detract from the scene.

Here are two garden poems that capture the idea of people as an integral part of a gardenscape:

Amy Lowell’s “Patterns” begins with this stanza:

I walk down the garden paths,
And all the daffodils
Are blowing, and the bright blue squills.
I walk down the patterned garden paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
With my powdered hair and jeweled fan,
I too am a rare
Pattern. As I wander down
The garden paths.

And here are the beginning and final stanzas of Adrienne Rich’s poem “Design in Living Colors.” Perhaps she had Amy Lowell’s poem in mind when she wrote this?

Embroidered in a tapestry of green
Among the textures of a threaded garden,
The gesturing lady and her paladin
Walk in a path where shade and sunlight harden
Upon the formal attitudes of trees
By no wind bent, and birds without a tune,
Against the background of a figured frieze
In an eternal summer afternoon.

And the final stanza:

The fleeing hare, the wings that brush the tree,
All images once separate and alone,
Become the creatures of a tapestry
Miraculously stirred and made our own.
We are the denizens of a living wood
Where insight blooms anew on every bough,
And every flower emerges understood
Out of a pattern unperceived till now.

Agecroft Hall

This Saturday I was very happy to catch up with a dear friend, who moved from Charlottesville to Richmond years ago. Even though Richmond is just a little over an hour away, it’s just far enough and we are both so busy that we don’t get to see each other very often.

My friend took me to Agecroft Hall, a 15th century Tudor estate originally built in Lancashire, England. By 1925 the house had become the victim of industrialization and had fallen into disrepair. The last living heirs were forced to sell it at auction. Thomas C. Williams, Jr., a wealthy entrepreneur in Richmond, bought the house for $19,000 and had it dismantled, crated, and shipped across the Atlantic. Over the course of two years and at the cost of $250,000, he had it reassembled as his own personal estate in the Windsor Farms neighborhood, on a hillock overlooking the James River. Sadly, Williams died only one year after moving into the house of his dreams.

In honor of William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday this Saturday, Agecroft Hall hosted a “Bard’s Birthday Celebration” with singing, games, dancing, acrobatics, and other performances.

In the grassy lawn as you approach the house is a stone that bears the identical inscription that is on Shakespeare’s tombstone at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon:

The English gardens, designed by renowned landscape architect Charles Gillette, are a marvel. We caught the peak of tulip season:

The Knot Garden:

We were so taken with the lovely gardens, we decided to go on to Maymont…to be continued tomorrow.