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Virginia Is For (Colonial) Lovers

  At the beginning of June I was lucky enough to be able to travel to Alexandria, VA. to attend a conference at Virginia Theological Seminary. It was a fantastic experience, and I learned so much--- but I was also really excited to be staying in a city so rich in history--- so after the conference was done for the day, my friend and I drove down the road to Old Town to take in the sights--- and also went on a night tour of the monument of Washington D.C., which was literally just down the road!

  Ah but let me back up; like any good history lover, I hit the library before I even left the state for some reading to get me good and inspired. And as luck would have it, I happened upon the book "The Mistress of Tall Acre" by my lovely friend Laura Frantz, who I've been reading for years since I found her first book "The Frontiersman's Daughter."
   I always enjoy Laura's book because she is a passionate history lover, and has a great way with weaving historic detail into her wonderful stories. She also has the amazing talent of exploring her characters' faiths in ways that dont feel heavy handed or preachy. In short, she's an amazing talent.
   But this book I had yet to pick up, and so I was glad to see it and thrilled to see that it takes place in post-Revolutionary War Virginia!
  The story follows the character of Sophie Menzies, the impoverished daughter of a Tory who has fled to Scotland, leaving her to manage an estate that's in shambles in a community that hates her because of her father's political leanings.
   The story opens with the recent arrival home of a neighbor and decorated war hero General Seamus Ogilvy and his young daughter. Sophie's deep friendship with little Lily Cate Ogilvy (isn't that the sweetest name) soon entangles her with the plantation across the field from her--- Tall Acre--- and its widower owner. So much happens--- all against the background of a newly forming nation--- it was such an enjoyable read. And thrilling too because some of the travels of the characters go right through Alexandria and the surrounding area, it was the best book to pick up before my travels.

   And what travels they were! We were lucky to be there in summer when there was still hours of daylight to explore the town after our conference was done for the day. The seminary (which was beautiful and special in its own right!) was just a few miles away from old town, so we were able to travel down and see some beautiful historic sites and pretty shops.
  First on my list of places to visit was Christ Church, George Washington's home church-- and also the home church of Robert E. Lee, who was a local boy.
  Christ Church is still an active parish and is also Episcopalian, so it was wonderful to feel so at home there.
  The church is open during the day and there is usually someone on hand to give you a tour, or you're welcome to just walk in, take a seat, and say a prayer.
   I love too that it is still very much "Early American" in it's feel. Its so easy to imagine the Washington coming in to worship, and amazing to think of how many generations of people and how much history has happened within its walls and in the streets outside of it.

   There are several wonderful historical sites--- like the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothocary Shop and the Carlyle House-- to visit in Old Town, but perhaps my very favorite was The Gadsby Tavern. The first time we walked by it was during the very last glimmer of dusk, and the whole place was lit up with candle light and you could see the waitstaff in the windows in their colonial period dress. It was simply magical! We were also lucky to be walking by on a Tuesday evening, when their gift shop was open later than usual, and I was able to get some treats for the kids.
  We went back later in the trip when it was still light outside and enjoyed some fabulous food and got a peek at the rooms in the museum--- including the ballroom upstairs where George Washington celebrated his birthday with a 'birthnight ball' and Thomas Jefferson held his inauguration banquet!
  Dining in the tavern was also so special--- complete with pewter plates and drinks in glass goblets. If you indulge in one treat in Alexandria--- a meal at Gadsby's is what I suggest!

   And ofcourse, being right outside of our nation's capitol, we had to go take a peek! We went with a new friend we met at our conference who came in from South Carolina and went to William and Mary College in  Williamsburg, Va.--- so you know she soon found out about my undying love for Colonial Willamsburg ;)
   We ladies boarded one of those two tiered buses and toured around the monuments Washington D.C.--- and had a grand old time even if the "90 minute tour" stretched into more of a "three hour tour." I think we saw every angle of the Washington Monument possible ;)
  My favorite view, though, was The White House all lit up at night, with the big statue of Teddy Roosevelt on a horse in the foreground.

    But before we knew it, it was time to come back home--- and now I'm back in Oklahoma, working on book projects and thinking about Christmas art! I really fell in love with Virginia though, and hope to go back one day!

  How about you? Have you traveled to Virginia? What is your favorite place to visit? If I'm able to return one day to Alexandria, I'd love to visit Mount Vernon. We just didnt have the time to do it on this trip, but I'm happy to have another place to explore if I'm able to return!~

Giveaway Winner!

Thanks so much to EVERYONE who came by to enter the giveaway and shared the post on social media! I appreciate you all so much!

And the winner is....


Congrats, Sarah! :D I need to get your mailing info and the print will be on its way!~

Thanks, friends!~

Giveaway: Born At Home

     Here we are at midsummer, and its time for flowers, the windows open, light airy color and new beginnings. It's also time, I think, for a good giveaway!~

   "Born At Home" is one of my newest pieces-- the original is still available in my etsy shop and I also have prints. I thought this piece would be perfect for a giveaway---- and can be given in many different contexts--- a family with a new addition, to a nurse or midwife, a family celebration, a birthday....it's really up to you and why it may catch your fancy!

  So I'd like to offer an 8x10" print of this painting for giveaway here on the blog--- all you have to do is leave a comment here on THIS post! Let me know why this painting speaks to you :)

  Giveaway is open through the week and winner will be announced on Friday JUNE 24.

Share on social media for multiple chances to win--- comment again to let me know where you've shared and increase your chances of winning!

Thanks so much!~

For The Love of Dad

    Just wanted to take a moment to say "Happy Father's Day!" to all the sweet daddies out there. I am very lucky to have a husband who is such a good daddy, and a great Daddy myself. They are currently both out enjoying their day on the golf course ;)

   I count it as a great compliment to have many guys out there who enjoy my folk art and from what I can tell--- they tend to have one important thing in common; they are great dads. So if you're a dad reading this---- I hope you're enjoying your day and know you're treasured and appreciated! Your families love you!~ :D

  And if you know of a good daddy--- even if he's just 'dad' in actions more than biology--- tell him how much you love him and appreciate him!

Happy Father's Day!~

Book Review: Life From Our Land

     I have a bit of a contrary relationship with technology. I do enjoy using my phone and staying connected to friends and family online--- and I conduct a majority of my art business through the miracle of the internet. However.
   There are often times when I feel like what I need most is a break from being so connected--- where I feel like my mood and my time are being sucked into this online world and I need to literally disconnect, be outside, take things slow, enjoy peace and quiet that only nature can give. More often than not, its the perfect tonic for what ails. 

   That's why I was so intrigued by the concept behind the book "Life From Our Land" by Marcus Grodi-- a book about shifting away from frantic business and material progress to a more nature centered and God centered existence. 
   What I liked so much about Grodi's book is that it is geared toward everyone--- you dont need to be living on a homestead of rural bucolic acreage to relate. His meditations revolve around our relationship with God andstewardship of the Earth, our responsibility to nature and to each other, of not trying to subdue our surroundings, but live in harmony with them. Things that can be done no matter how large or small a patch of earth you live on!
   "There are many things that being created in God's image means," Grodi writes. "One is particular is that we are to be like Him and act like Him. Mankind has been created to have 'dominion' over this world, and because we have been created in God's image this means a dominion of love, humility, and selfless giving. Likewise, this is how we are to carry out our responsibility to 'subdue the Earth.' The way God loves, cares and provides for all creation is to be our model."

   Grodi also points us towards meditations on nature as a salve for our mixed up priorities, to ease our anxieties and keep our perspective. Which is, as Grodi admits, hard to do in a culture insistent on being constantly connected, constantly over-scheduled, and constantly in cars, in cubicles and indoors. 
   "Life From Our Land" is one of those interesting books that can be read cover to cover, or in isolated chapters, depending on the issues that are tugging on your heart at the moment. A bit of a memoir, a bit of a farmer's advice column and a lot of Biblical Roman Catholic musing, this book can be approached in many different ways.
   I personally enjoyed reading it in small pieces as there is so much information to meditate on, often with accompanying scripture, that there is something to deeply ponder in nearly every paragraph.

   Grodi, as you may know, is a founder of The Coming Home Network and hosts a series called "The Journey Home" on EWTN about people joining the Catholic Church. So it should come as no surprise to see that Grodi's deep Catholic faith is very evident within this book. 

   I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a connection to nature founded in spiritual, specifically Christian, practice and philosophy. If the ideas of faith inspired stewardship, connection to the real world, and preservation are important to you, then this must be just the book you're looking for.

   Because there are many 'back to the land' books out there, but very few take a stance on this lifestyle is a spiritual way. That said, as someone who lives in a town well within city limits and no farm to my name--- there is plenty I can still get out of Grodi's story. Because, ultimately, no matter who and where we are--- we are all connected to nature-- life from our land. How we live within it, shape it and let it shape us--- is dependent entirely upon us.

   What are some ways you like to get in touch with nature? Or how has your faith been shaped by your experience in the natural world?  Let's chat in the comments!

  And if you'd like to get your own copy of this book, it is available through Ignatius Press, Amazon, and other book retailers.