Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Historic Inns of Orange Tour

Mayhurst Inn
Sunday we traveled 30 miles north of Charlottesville to Orange Virginia for the annual Historic Holiday Inn Tour, sponsored by the Dolley Madison Garden Club. I don't get to Orange often but with each visit, I like it a little more.

Inn at Westwood Farm

The tour featured three historic Inns decorated for the Holiday Season.  Our first stop was to the Inn at Westwood Farm which has been completely restored since its original construction in 1910. Located just down the road from James Madison's Montpelier in a rural farm setting on 15 acres.

Relaxing on the back porch at Inn at Westwood Farm
Warm and inviting, we enjoyed sitting on the back porch overlooking the barn and scenic Virginia farmland. This would make a wonderful weekend retreat for city folk, relaxing and peaceful, complete with hens, a garden kitty, and lovely porch views.
Historic Holladay House

After making several stops at local Thrift Shops and visiting with a few Guinea Hens and Ducks at the Barboursville Gift Gallery, we made our way to our next Inn in downtown Orange, the Holladay House.
The top of the darling Owl Tree.
We received a warm welcome at the oldest Inn on the tour, enjoying the creative decorations and a cute Owl Tree in the expansive Dining Room. A stay at this Inn would make a sweet weekend retreat, conveniently located to downtown shops.

Mayhurst Inn
Our last stop was to the 1859 Italianate Mansion, the Mayhurst Inn. This historic home was originally part of a 2,500 acre plantation. The proud owners were on hand to talk about the fascinating history of this lovely property. We were romanced by the beauty and we felt transported to the Victorian era. It's no secret that this is a popular Wedding spot - beautiful.
The Kenwood Players
We especially enjoyed the live music in the parlor performed by the Kenwood Players.

Indian Runner Ducks at Barboursville Gift Gallery
We're looking forward to going back to Orange in April for Historic Garden Week tours in Gordonsville Virginia! Spring is just around the corner.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Monticello Levy Lions

Enhanced from Library of Congress
The interesting book Saving Monticello by Marc Leepson piqued my interest about Lion Statues purchased by Jefferson Levy around 1900 when he owned Monticello. Additional details provided by Marc on his blog encouraged me to explore the history of these four life-size Lions. Apparently three had been accounted for but one Lion's current location was unknown. I live in Charlottesville where the Lions were auctioned off in 1928 so how hard could it be to find one massive Lion...

Is this Charlottesville Lion really from Monticello?
My research began with the Lion Statue reported to be one of the former Monticello Levy Lions that is in a yard in Charlottesville. I shot this photograph from my car window a month ago for my blog post about Marc Leepson's book, Saving Monticello so I had not viewed it close up. I went back to the Lion's location last week and no one was home but I walked right by it to get to the front door so I took a closer look. This Lion Statue is special, it is massive, heavy, and obviously old (no obvious maker marks were spotted). I left a note on the door and no one has contacted me.

1905 photo magnified West Portico Entry, Library of Congress.
To verify that this in fact was a Levy Lion from Monticello, I began searching online for photos pre-auction.  To make this mystery more fascinating, in Marc Leepson's account, there were a total of four Lions auctioned.  Two were on the West Portico or back non-public entry at Monticello and two were on the South side pathway leading up to the front of the home. The statues were pairs of different sets.  It is not known if the same artist created all four statues or even the name of the artist.

1914 Levy Lions w/ Shields South Path, Library of Congress
I was more than excited to find some really wonderful photos of all four Lions online at the Library of Congress. I have cropped or enhanced the photos to get a closer and clearer view of the Lion details. The Levy Lions with foot on ball that were located on the West Portico are on the backside of the oldest design of the $2.00 bill but I needed a clearer image. Apparently the bill was engraved from a photo so I began googling.

1905 South Path, Library of Congress
I never dreamed that I would find a photo of the two Lions with Shields engraved with "L" since they were on the South Entryway on a side footpath but I hit the jackpot and found two photos.

According to Marc's book, one pair of Lions was donated to Cheekwood Gardens in Nashville, Tennessee. It has been reported these were the Lions holding shields but Sarah Ritter at Cheekwood has confirmed that they have the West Portico Lions and they were donated to them in 1971. She explained that the Lions are reported to be copies of the famous statues at Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence Italy and may have previously been at Belle Meade Plantation. Cheekwood's documentation indicates the Lions were purchased in a Charlottesville Junkyard. Imagine, such beauties being dumped! The story goes... a resident of Charlottesville purchased them to give to his sister who lives in Nashville and eventually they ended up being inherited by three sisters who donated them to Cheekwood. Marc Leepson shared a historic newspaper article that read, funds were needed to restore the Lions because on transfer to Cheekwood they were damaged. It's absolutely amazing to me the journey these beautiful statues have taken ~ if Lions could talk!

Images found on google of the Cheekwood Lion Pair
Examining historic photos and online images of the lions at Cheekwood, it appears the location of one Set of Lions has been confirmed. If that is the case, then the statue in Charlottesville is not one of the Levy Lions from Monticello.

Not quite saturated, I found this interesting photo of similar Lions purchased around the same time,  http://www.libraries.uc.edu/liblog/2011/12/13/the-estimable-mr-hoffner/. It appears it was popular to reproduce these famous Lions as they stood for courage, majesty, and strength.

My research leaves me with many unanswered questions. Where are the Lions with the Shields? Where did the Charlottesville Lion come from? Did any Lions go straight to the Junkyard from an unsuccessful auction? Did Belle Meade ever have any Lions and if so which pair? Who is the artist?

If anyone has any information about the Levy Lions, please leave a comment on my blog.  I would love to know more.

Otherwise it may be time to forward to the History Detectives...


Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Levy Family and Monticello

I just finished reading an interesting book, Saving Monticello, by Marc Leepson. While visiting the new Crozet Library, the book caught my eye because of the forlorn image of Monticello on the cover. I'm a bit embarrassed to say that this is the first book that I have read relating to Monticello. Why is it that if something is nearby we tend to ignore it? Actually, I visit the gardens of Monticello each Fall during their Heritage Harvest Festival but I haven't toured the home that Jefferson built for probably 30 years.

Poplar Tree that had to be removed in 2008
As referenced in the book, Monticello changed hands many times after Thomas Jefferson's death. The first sale of Monticello, reluctantly, by the Jefferson heirs was in 1831 for $7,000 to a local Charlottesville druggist. After a short period, Monticello was sold to Uriah Levy and for 9 decades a Levy family member owned the property but not continuously as at one point during the Civil War the Confederacy seized Monticello. 

Monticello Heritage Harvest Festival
When one sees the current condition of Monticello, it is hard to believe that it almost fell into total disrepair and could have easily been lost forever. Very few of the property owners kept Monticello as their permanent residence and this mountain retreat was used as a vacation home or place to entertain dignitaries. Years of feuding over Monticello and a constant stream of tourists left the estate sad and weary. Property owners often left it up to a hired Farm Manager to oversee the house and grounds. Interestingly, at one point livestock lived in the basement and feed was stored upstairs!

A bit of detective work scored one of the Levy family Lions.
When funds were available the Levy family infused money into the upkeep of the property. During one such period, two life sized Lion statues were placed on the front entryway of the house. In the 1920's when the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation took over ownership of Monticello all of the Levy property was sold at auction. I was fascinated to read in the book that one of the Lions was still in Charlottesville on Canterbury Road (which just happens to be my favorite neighborhood in Cville) so I decided to take a drive to see if it was visible. I was so surprised to find the Levy Lion!

This fascinating book reveals that without the Levy family there might have not been a home standing at Monticello for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation to preserve.  This estate which has so much meaning to so many, could have been lost forever.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Cutting Corners with USPS Shipping

A good day of sales for Forsythia Hill Vintage. 
One thing I have learned about shipping with the USPS - there are always changes. From postage stamp increases to Priority Insurance there is a LOT to keep up with.

In 2012 I paid nearly $700.00 in shipping fees operating my two online Vintage Shops. There was a big jump in international shipping rates early in 2013 which put a serious dent in my international sales. I can only hope the exchange rate is in the favor of non-US countries to help ease the burden of higher shipping fees. The biggest increase was to Canadian customers - the rates nearly doubled.

It hasn't been all doom and gloom. First Class within the US is the cheapest route if your package weighs up to 13 ounces. For heavier packages, Parcel Select is often the best shipping option for me but I've figured out that sometimes you can ship Priority for less. It's all automated through Paypal and Etsy. If you don't ship commercially, you can still print labels at home for your personal packages and I've found that online rates are always less expensive than the Post Office and tracking is included. The quick link to creating your package label is paypal.com/shipnow. There are several steps before printing so you can view how much each option costs before you buy. After you finalize your shipping method, print a label on paper and completely cover it with clear shipping tape, adhering it to your package and you are done. No need to buy expensive stick labels.

Bigger mailbox finally installed - still not big enough!
The USPS just included insurance up to $50.00 with Priority Mail and tracking also is included. But beware, the maximum shipping time of 3 days is not guaranteed - it can take longer. I often pick the lower shipping rate and only buy insurance if it's something breakable. In three years of shipping hundreds of items, within the US and internationally, I've never had a package lost.  In the end, that's what is most important to me.

If you are a commercial seller, you can get super inexpensive shipping insurance through shipsaver. I've had one breakage and they covered it so it actually works!

I recently discovered Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelopes that can save you half of shipping Priority in a box. Padded costs a little more so go for the unpadded and wrap your item in bubble wrap. You can order the envelops online and they will be delivered to your house, free of charge. The postage amount is set and you pay when you ship so you always know how much it's going to cost. I would ship in an envelop if the item is heavy and non-breakable.

4 Bushel Baskets - my heaviest and largest item!
I just shipped my largest and heaviest item from my front doorstep. It was nearly 17 lbs and I had to combine two boxes to make it tall enough. I found detailed instructions on how to do this correctly and I also added inexpensive insurance through shipsaver, just in case.

Get to know your mail carrier, often they will just pick up a package straight from your mail box or front step. I leave a note in the box if my items won't all fit - that my packages need to be picked up from my front porch. I love my mail carrier! I've saved hundreds of dollars on gas from not having to drive to the post office, not to mention TIME.

My 1st lesson to pack WELL - Cast Iron actually damaged!
The last tip is how to package against damage without making the package heavy. I am a big believer in 1) saving money 2) treading lightly. I have never purchased any packing materials for the exception of small mailing envelopes and tape. Free boxes and packing materials can all be had on freecycle or through local businesses. It's good for the environment and your wallet!

When wrapping breakables I bubble wrap first then stuff with plain white packing paper leaving 2" between the item and the box for movement. I often start with a 1" layer of recycled packing peanuts in the bottom of the box. Light clothing gets pretty tissue paper and is inserted into a mailing envelop.

Just a few tricks of the trade. Happy shipping!


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

For Love of Lamb and Life

The July-August edition of Martha Stewart Living Magazine has published a wonderful feature article about a Charlottesville area Yarn CSA.  Each year you buy your very own share of hand sheared fleeces straight from the farm. Most often the term CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) refers to the purchase of produce throughout the growing season. Buying into a CSA before the crop is harvested helps farmers plan and pay for the coming year. In 2007, Susan Gibbs, owner of Juniper Moon Farm, began the first Yarn and Fiber CSA in the United States where individuals can pay a set annual fee and receive in turn lovely yarns. For economic reasons, Susan relocated her 8 year old business from Martha's Vineyard to Virginia giving her the opportunity to expand.

Sally, one of my hens on Forsythia Hill.
To raise livestock or crops as a business, one must have a deep commitment and love for farming. It always sounds so romantic, to uproot yourself from the big city to live among nature in a rural farming community, but it's also a lot of hard work. Animals have needs and get sick or worse get killed by predators and crops fail due to unpredictable weather and pests. Farmers have to juggle family and health while keeping one eye on the animals living off the land. It's never easy but once farming gets in your blood, it's there to stay!

Photo by Gabriela Herman. Courtesy of Martha Stewart Living. Copyright ©2013.
Originally, Susan worked as an executive in New York City and farming piqued her interest so she bravely tossed in the towel and began raising sheep!  She has a deep love for the animals that she raises applying personal principles and values as part of her decision making.

I appreciate the fact that all Lambs and Goats live out their full life in a pasture and are not eaten or disposed of once no longer useful to the business. Also, processing of the wool is provided by a small family owned mill.

It sounds like Susan has certainly found her niche and has continued to expand her business in positive and meaningful ways. Her website is interesting hosting a LambCam, beautiful knitting patterns, and a peek into life on the farm.  Nearly 80% of past years shareholders resubscribe... something or someone is definitely working at Juniper Moon.

Many thanks to Martha Stewart Living for providing several photos for this blog post.  All photos are copyrighted.  Pick up a copy of this months Martha, it's only available in newsstands until August 16th.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Christmas in July Deals on Etsy

Avon Reindeer Ornament use CIJ20 Coupon Code
Beginning today through the end of July, Etsy shops are discounting vintage, crafts, and supplies for the annual Christmas in July Sales Event.  The best way to discover these deals is to use the Etsy.com Search box and enter the acronym CIJ along with the keywords that describe the item you are looking for.

Not only can you find great holiday decor items during Christmas in July but also shops have discounted non-holiday themed items as well so it's a BIG annual sale.  Thus far over 115,000 items are being advertised on Etsy as on sale during this event!

If that seems overwhelming, then have select items served up to you through the CIJ Twitter Feed, Facebook Page or check out the CIJ Pinterest Board.

Snowman Candle Holder use CIJ20 Coupon Code
Forsythia Hill Vintage has knocked off 20% on several non-holiday items and is offering a 20% Off Coupon Code to be used at checkout for holiday themed items.

Some shops have discounted items already for you and others require a coupon code - check the shop announcement to determine exact requirements for you to get your item discounted.

Haeger Art Pottery Bowl already discounted in my shop
Don't dally - I know that many vintage items are one of a kind so what's here at the beginning of the sale may be gone before the end of the month!

Happy shopping.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

New York Manhattan Gardens

View atop the Metropolitan Museum of Art
A recent trip to Manhattan in New York City gave me the opportunity to see so many wonderful gardens.  My last trip to the city was in the 1980s and Manhattan seems to be cleaner, warmer, and a little greener.

Riverside Park volunteers keep the flower beds beautiful.
I stayed a few blocks from Riverside Park with a longtime friend that I'm selling items for in my Etsy shop.  We took a quick stroll my first night in the city to this lovely waterfront park.  It has a historic feel to it as many monuments and older apartment buildings dot one side of the park.  The other side is on the Hudson River which divides Manhattan and New Jersey.   Several large flower beds containing an array of colorful and often unusual species are maintained solely by local residents.

I had read online about the transformation of an elevated rail bed into glorious gardens. I couldn't wait to go check out the High Line.

It was wonderful.  We walked for probably 2 hours on a Saturday and it became more and more crowded as we strolled. This project, which was probably once looked upon as a little crazy, has shot life back into the historic Meat Packing district. There are housing and retail projects popping up all around this popular walking trail.

Battery Park Flowerbeds

Another green area that is in the process of being transformed is down on the southern most end of Manhattan.  Battery Park is experiencing a lot of construction but the parts that were open were beautifully landscaped and the park also offers a side view of Lady Liberty. I could have stayed in this park all day, sitting among the gardens with a view of the water.

Unitarian Church sweet Statue.

As we explored Manhattan, I found myself trying to discover little secret gardens.  There was a welcoming respite from the city traffic at the 1819 historic Unitarian Church of All Souls. I also enjoyed spotting the balcony gardens that I so wished I could see closeup. Beautiful entryways are often landscaped as were the small beds around trees on sidewalks.

Of course there is "the park" of Manhattan and that would be Central Park. I only had time to explore the section around the lake near Columbus Circle.  I encountered, of all things, a Heron!  I never expected to see that in Manhattan.  The Elderberry, wild Raspberry, Daylily, and Bottle Brush Buckeye were in full bloom.

I was so impressed with the few gardens I visited over 4 days.  I know there are many more.

I LOVE NY - the city of GREEN.


Friday, May 31, 2013

Charlottesville Newcomers Club Tours Innisfree

Happy Newcomers Club Members during tour.
Yesterday members of The Community Outreach Committee of the Newcomers Club of Greater Charlottesville took a trip out to Innisfree Village in Crozet, Virginia.  Innisfree is a wonderful 550 acre community where intellectually disabled adults (coworkers) live with full-time residential volunteers and support staff.

The Community Center
Even though it was a sweltering day, it's just a little bit cooler at Innisfree which is located near White Hall in the foothills of the Shenandoah Mountain range.

Herbal Soaps wrapped in felted Lambs Wool.
We were greeted by Nancy who took us on a tour of the village and introduced us to some of the residents who were busy weaving beautiful blankets, placemats, and scarves or preparing to plant 1,000 Sweet Potato starts.  It's not all work and no play, there is a really nice pool and many residents were preparing to jump in to cool off.

A cooks dream, Bloggett Ovens.

We visited the Bakery where Granola and Bread is baked.  It's complete with two massive commercial pizza ovens.  We also toured the wood shop where beautiful handmade wooden utensils and cutting boards were being assembled.

I'm always drawn to farm animals and herbs so I enjoyed seeing the free roaming Lambs and Chicken Coops complete with lots of Chickens.

Eggs and Granola can be purchased at Rebecca's Natural Food in Charlottesville.  We toured the Herb House were soaps are made and cut flowers are bundled to resell at the local Grocery, and the smell was divine.  Residents grow crops and flowers to enjoy and also to sell (some items can be purchased online).  Innisfree is quite a busy place.

Beautiful Peonies ready for the market.
The organizational purpose at Innisfree is "...to acknowledge the reciprocal relationship between human and health and the natural environment."  I guess that's why I'm so impressed with Innisfree, the environment is respected as are the human beings.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Online Shopping from Virginia Etsy Sellers

From my shop, Golf Greats Coasters
There are some really wonderful items to be found on Etsy.  If you have never purchased an item from an Etsy Shop, let me provide you with a little background information.  Etsy basically provides a central online storefront to individual shop owners that exclusively sell vintage, handmade, or supplies to crafters.

Some really unique items can be found on Etsy... just about anything old or a unique new handmade item.  Etsy sellers are known to have a high customer satisfaction ratings.  My personal experience is that Etsy sellers are professional and eager to please.  I'm featuring a few items from Virginia sellers that I've met through selling on Etsy that sell unique items.

I love this set of 5 oil cans from Billie with Vintiques and More.  Put a little sand in one and it would make the cutest paperweight.  Add a little wooden "L" shape stand and it would make the best bookend.  All sorts of things can be done with these shabby chic cans.  Hard to find the days but made to last, a great Industrial find.  Billie and I opened our shops around the same time and chat often.  She runs her shop from Radford, Virginia and one of her items may be published soon in a major publication.  How neat is that!

Truffle Pig Vintage is a local Charlottesville Etsy Shop owner that specializes in beautiful silver and turquoise Jewelry pieces.  Diana is coaching me on how to improve my Facebook Business page (and boy do I need coaching in that area).  She has a lovely shop with vintage items that would make lovely Gifts!  What a memorable and cute shop name!  A special offer just for my readers, FREE SHIPPING through 5/12, use coupon code FHFSHIP on checkout.

I just love the imaginative Oh So Smitten on Etsy who creates wonderfully quirky invitations and art.  Christina is also a local Charlottesville artist that participates in our Cville Collective pinterest Online Shopping Board.  Created for local shoppers to find wares, saving you shipping fees. Live local, buy local -  meet the seller - see your item before purchase and shipping is FREE.

Lastly, Vintage Renude offers a mix of collectibles and a little bit of this and that but I especially like her clothing and linens.  I just dare you to try and find a black top with a feather neck!  Another participant in our Cville Collective pinterest Online Shopping Board, Pam is on the prowl for bringing finds to you.

Etsy offers such a wide mix of items so the next time you need a gift, funky find, invitation, or party wear go to Etsy.  I go here first to support fellow small business owners creative minds.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Historic Garden Week - Richmond VA Gardens

Whimsical garden on Kanawha
This week during Historic Garden Week in Virginia, we spent the day visiting 8 homes in Richmond, VA. The beautiful gardens and homes kept us entertained so we didn't notice the chill in the air.

Garden Club of Virginia Headquarters
We started our tour at the Garden Club of Virginia Headquarters at the incredible Kent Valentine House. Located downtown nestled in massive Southern Magnolia Trees that predate the house (1845)! This antebellum mansion was saved from the wrecking ball by the club in 1971 and spurred preservation in that part of Richmond. Completely furnished by members, it hosts wedding receptions and events.

The bulk of the tour focused on the historic secluded Chatham Hills neighborhood located just minutes from the Country Club of Virginia.  Most homes were built in the 1920s so there are many majestic trees in a park like setting with plenty of privacy. This time of year offers Spring colors of pastels with touches of fresh green growth. It's a beautiful time of year to celebrate a new season.

Richmond's version of a "pool house" - WOW.
My favorite garden on the tour was the whimsical 7 Kanawha Road. We spent over an hour looking at the statuary, wall of masks, and plantings located right on top of the Kanawha Canal and behind what once was a pool house for a nearby mansion. We had a good laugh over Richmonders definition of a pool house as this was most definitely the biggest pool house on the planet.

Red Poppy w/ Pansies in the background
The last garden that we visited, 129 Brookschase Ln, obviously belonged to a plant collector because of all the plant varieties in the yard. I loved the shrub collection, Poppies and herb bed.  My favorite, must have plant, on the tour, was a Sinocalycalycanthus or Sweet Shrub Hybrid.  I also fell in love with a beautiful Holly that was planted at several homes along the tour coated with big yellow spring pom pom blossoms.

Rear of home on Kanawha Road.
The icing on the cake are the breathtaking Floral Arrangements designed by Club members. It was a beautiful tour and garden club volunteers were welcoming and kind.  I can't wait to see where next year takes me!  More photos will be posted on my tumblr blog.


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