the september story.

Photographic evidence of where I’ve been this September.

Watching Dad blow out all 50 candles on his birthday cake.

House hunting.

Gardening, and hanging out with the weird creatures I find in the backyard.

Making snack-treats for our church City Group, which is now hosted at our house each Tuesday.

Catching up with old friends and making new ones at Laurie’s bachelorette party.

Taking Polaroids, much to the delight of the kids at Children’s Worship.

Hitting the antique store mother lode.  Even better than the board games were the piles of costume jewelry for a fraction of the cost at most stores in town.

Making cupcakes for Silas’ birthday, and hanging out at Avalon and McCormack’s Whisky Grill.

Finally visiting the Virginia House.  Highly recommended!

Stepping out on the Eerie Nights Ghost Tour.

Skype-ing with Mia and Lianna.

Celebrating my birthday with cake, flowers, more house hunting, balloons, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi on Phil’s roof, and the best Picnic of Doom yet!

Photo by Nick Kessler.

Photo by Nick Kessler.

Photo by Nick Kessler.

Celebrating Phil’s birthday with the most amazing event this year: a Star Wars costume dance party.  Dan was awarded honors for making the best costume, and we partied with stormtroopers until last call. I love the annual Tess-and-Phil-birthday-weekend-extravaganza.

Later this week we’re heading to Sacramento for our friend Andre’s wedding, and I’m really looking forward to getting away for a while.  I’ve been asked to take photos at the wedding and related festivities, so watch Flickr for some left-coast fun!

of floorboards and flashlights.

We’ve been casually looking at houses for a while so that we can hopefully stop feeding money to the black hole that is rent.  As a monthly payment we can only afford exactly what we pay in rent now, so we’re primarily looking for something that we can fix up and restore to its former glory.  As historical house tour geeks we already have a working knowledge of period furnishings, and since Dan’s worked in construction for 12 years, he knows how to do most tasks or knows someone else who can do them.

With each house we step into, the dreaming begins.  We talk about each room and what it could be, and point out ways to return the house to more period-accurate shape in great detail.  But for me it’s way too heartbreaking to fall in love with a house and then find out that you can’t have it because they won’t accept your offer, or it needs too much work.  This part kills me.  So for now I’m just trying to be minimally involved in the business end of it, instead just enjoying our walkthroughs of crumbling old mansions.  This, my friends, is true fun.  As a lover of abandoned buildings as well as a lover of photography, I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot.  I think everybody should look at old houses.  And they should also do so with Kelly Blanchard, the best friend and realtor you could ever ask for.

Here are just a few highlights from our adventures in the world of flashlights, creaky floorboards, and fire damage.  You can see the rest of them here.

key surprise.

a perfect blue.


3 floors of awesome, 1810 - 2010.

yes, that is an antique Singer sewing machine.

what appears to be a tiny balcony used to be the entrance to the dry goods store next door.

this one's perfect just the way it is.

the basement and 1st floor of this house pre-date the city's record book, circa the 1790s.

sunny summer kitchen.

look, this one already has an S on it.

pepto pink in the attic!

Dan says the cactus painting is worth the price of the house.

where's a state-of-the-art wallpaper preservation team when you need them?

do prominent area families always leave their mansions to crumble?

Kelly was not terrified of this basement AT ALL. Not at all.

check your basement for trees every 27 years or so, guys.

carriage house / Dan's fantasy electrical workshop.

of Monroes and meritage.

There are good days, and then there are good days.

Yesterday we breakfasted at 821, drove to Ash Lawn-Highland to check the last presidential home in Virginia off of our list, and picnicked at Blenheim Vineyards.  Back in Richmond, we had dinner (I. love. fritatta.) with our friends Erik and Sarah.  After dinner I played Barbies (well, she played and I tried to affix heads to bodies) with their daughter until she had to go to sleep, and then we stuck around for TSG (The Small Group).  Today I was refreshed and ready for a full day of work.

Front steps of Ash Lawn-Highland.


The view from our picnic at Blenheim Vineyards. So much blue sky.

And on Monday, Dan built a fire and we had Mia and Manon over for good talks around the fire pit.

Ladies and fire.

Also, white roses are my current favorite.  Soon, though, I hope to be spending more time elbow-deep in the garden and surrounded by our home-grown varieties of mostly pink and red.

Saturday, in case anyone missed it, we went to the Pump House for a bit of a ghost hunt and some exploring.  You can read my account of it at

of ups and understatements.

Still snapping. Image by the charming and talented Phil Bowne.

Lately we’ve been on a little bit of a Richmond-area history blitzkrieg, and I’ve also been writing a lot and running a lot, and all the usual commitments.  And there have been masquerade parties, and dinner parties, and arcade birthday parties, and whiskey-and-a-movie nights with Dan, and hangouts with Jess and her Dan.  I’ve started a new babysitting gig helping to take care of twin babies, and I’ll be teaching Children’s Worship (rather than watching the nursery) for the first time this week.  Last night I tried a new recipe.  I get to hang out with Jenny O F tomorrow night.

ye olde Spin-n-Win at Dave and Buster's.

This morning on my run, I saw a cute yellow cat lying in the street next to the curb, lying in wait for me in exactly the same manner that Gozer lies in wait under the top step in our house (and jumps out at Sophie when she walks by).  As I passed by I went to say “O hai kitteh” but only got to “hai” because it jumped out with its arms in the air, LOLcat-style, and ran after me, and chased me for like half a block.  Then I stood in the middle of the street and cracked up by myself.  It was amazing.

I love this guy.

Something new every day, something challenging every day.  Happy is an understatement.

these are days.

I keep having days where I’m like “this is the best day of my life!”  Festivities designed to make me say that have succeeded admirably.  And also, ones not designed specifically for my pleasure have done the same.

Last weekend the amazing guys from Spires stayed with us.  They’re the kind of band which could be an unstoppable supergroup if only they played catchier music…but then perhaps I wouldn’t love the music as much.  They’re almost too perfect — each attractive in a different way, all good conversationalists, enthusiastic board game players, healthy and grateful eaters, and terrors on the dance floor.  I think there were some pleas of “Aw Mom, can we keep ’em?” but we already have too many cats and too much long hair clogging up the vacuum cleaner.

Everybody knows I weep openly as soon as the opening credits come on for any period film, but I never thought I would be the kind of person who weeps openly at bridal showers.  I think some brides dread their pre-wedding events as a seemingly endless parade of painful and awkward exchanges designed to torment them, but mine have been heavenly.  My friends shower was last Saturday in the dimly-lit comfort of my own home, filled with delicious foods and fresh flowers.  As if just having all the food, flowers, and females together wasn’t enough, I was showered with the most beautiful gifts this world has produced.  The best part wasn’t getting stuff, it was seeing the thoughtfulness and love that was put into getting stuff specifically fitting for me.  I wish I could mention every single gift here, but it would take forever and be a bit excessive…just let the record show that I was impressed with how well my friends actually know me.  I was ecstatic to receive some things which were exactly what I had registered for, which reflected consideration for my specific wishes.  And I was ecstatic to receive some surprises that were perfect gifts for me, which reflected wishes I didn’t even know I had.  And I was ecstatic to receive gift cards, because gift cards are free money and everybody loves free money.

The best part was when everybody wrote down advice for me on little cards, and we read them.  I was going to read them out loud but had to pass the stack around because my sentimental eyes weren’t up to it.  I’ve transcribed these pieces of advice and well wishes into a Google doc and I’m going to blog some excerpts maybe in a separate post once things calm down.  I think that’ll be a good way to start post-marital blogging life.

Today we took some of my favorite things, rolled them up into one thing, and called it a bachelorette party.  Those things included: day trips, picnics, driving past farmhouses, fancy cheeses, the ruins of formerly grandiose buildings, historic sites that nobody knows about with no waiting and no lines and no other humans for miles, small Virginia towns, antique store owners with raspy voices, costume jewelry, handkerchiefs, champagne, pieced-together artifacts from archaeological digs, period garb, GPS, photo ops, and parasols.  Not included on the list of favorites is the cloud (and I do mean cloud, like in cartoons when someone is being chased by bees) of mosquitoes which feasted on us like it was their first meal in months.  But Rosewell is so beautiful…it really is like a dream being there.  A crumbly, historically relevant, slightly goth dream (huzzah!).  Everything was perfect except for the bugs and we have all sworn many solemn oaths to bring the vengeance of Deep Woods OFF! next time.  But seriously the only thing that could have made it better would be if Thomas Jefferson himself stepped out of the ruins and refilled my glass of champagne.

I feel like things have been all about ME lately, and I know that’s kind of the point.  But it’s been interesting to try to accept gracefully so many gifts and so much praise and love lavished, when I’ve spent the past couple of years trying to find ways to make my focus not be so much about ME ME ME.  I think a lot is lost when we get swept up in the All About Me Party, so I’ve just tried to take a deep breath and love every minute of it without forgetting how lucky, blessed, and forgiven I am.  I think part of the blessing here is seeing how small compliments and considerate gestures from my friends and family can weave themselves into a blanket of encouragement and good feelings for me.  Now I hope I can employ these methods on others, to equally great success.