Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Montpelier on Dolley's Birthday

     The kids and I were recently invited to visit Montpelier for Dolley's birthday on May 20.  The afternoon before, I got an e-mail from a friend asking if we'd like to join them for a drive to Montpelier. Her daughters wanted to wear their colonial costumes and they hoped my kids would wear theirs too.  Costumes?  Oh yes!  The kids agreed.  My son deliberated on whether to wear his "farm boy" costume or his General Lafayette costume. I suggested he wear his "farm boy" costume. Lafayette visited Montpelier in 1824, years after he wore his Continental uniform.  Also, I told my son I was a bit hesitant for him to wear the Lafayette costume since I put a lot more work into it, mainly the epaulettes. I told him with the "farm boy" costume he could play all he wanted to,whereas with the Lafayette costume he'd have to be more careful with it.  As I dug the costumes out of the closet, I found my daughter's empire dress.  That would be more appropriate to what Dolley wore at Montpelier, but that is a fancy dress and I'd rather her play in her cotton colonial dress.

     It was a beautiful day and a lovely drive.  I love driving through rolling hills, farm land and old barns. 



     This was the first length of time our kids spent with each other and they got along well!  Once there, my kids couldn't wait to show them a few of their favorite places. (This was my friend's family's first time there.)



     The kids and I got to visit Montpelier last Aug, when the final touches of the renovation were underway for the grand opening in September.  When we were there, a few rooms were shut off, there was no fence and no grass.  This time fence and grass were there. What a difference.



     I wasn't expecting any furnishings, because last August our guide told us it takes a year for the plaster to cure so the house wouldn't be furnished for another year.  Surprisingly, we did find a few furnishings in the rooms and paintings on the walls. 

     We ate our picnic lunches on the patio and enjoyed the lovely view. During lunch we were served birthday cake and lemonade.

     Everyone was impressed with the kids' costumes. When we went to the temple, my friend and I stood there and talked and the kids ran up and down the hill. They were really fun to watch, running around with their costumes on.  My friend's oldest daughter sent me a picture she took of my son and her sister running down the hill.  Doesn't that look like fun?



     At one point, when they ran down the hill, a car stopped and the driver asked them to pose for a picture.  Throughout the day, other tourists took their pictures too.



     While we were there, this sculpture was installed behind the house. We were wondering if it was life sized.  We've always heard that James Madison and his wife Dolley were on the small side and this statue was definitely on the small side.  I checked the web site when we got home and indeed it is life sized.  The only other statue, recently, I have stood next to is of George Washington and he was a big man compared to James Madison.   Nevertheless, Madison was big on ideas and is known as the Father of the Constitution.  In fact, Jean Fritz has written a great children's biography about him, called The Great Little Madison



     The kitchen on the Madison's side of the house now has great interactive displays on cooking.  I think that is their best museum display. The kids went to the tent to work with the different tools of the era.  We also went to the archaeology dig which is now on the temple side of the house.  We asked lots of questions and learned a few new things.

     Sadly, one the Cedars of Lebanon on the other side of the house is doing very poorly.  When Lafayette visited during his grand tour of 1824, he gave the Madisons three Cedars of Lebanon. They are now huge.  But one is dying because the archaeology dig was taking place there last summer. The roots do not like to be messed with and it stresses the tree.  One of the other Cedars of Lebanon nearby is doing very well. Surprisingly, we saw some men drilling into the tree and digging around it.  My son asked if they were installing a lightening rod. Yes!  I was thinking that would ultimately be good for the tree, but is the drillling and digging going to stress the tree and cause more trouble? 

     We spent a lot of time in the garden. Turns out I'm not the only one who loves the flowers!  One of my friend's daughters took took lots of pictures.  I wonder if she took more than me?  While walking through, my friend found the other Cedar of Lebanon. We could not find that one last August.  Those trees are huge.  Since my friend was so helpful in identifying the flowers in my garden, I asked her about all the flowers in the Montpelier garden.  Later in the gift shop we found a Mid-Atlantic gardening book. I've been telling my husband since we arrived in Virginia that I had to get a local gardening book.  I had a green thumb in Texas.  However there are a lot of plants in Virginia I am not familiar with. Also the growing seasons are significantly different.  I am now enjoying putting a name to these flowers' petals!

   





Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My New Virginia Garden




     You've asked what things are looking like these days. My peonies are blooming...



Aren't they gorgeous?  





      Another problem caught during inspection was that the gate had no latch.  My husband fixed that. I'd like to get one of the ball and chain weights from Colonial Williamsburg. What are those called? Isn't it neat I have a picket fence like CW?  My son thinks we should paint the fence white. I don't want to be repainting it all the time, especially with an HOA to please.  The rustic look works for me. However I've teased "Tom Sawyer" he can get the white wash out and get started. He replies this should be a group project! (He has no idea how funny he is!)  My goal is to ultimately build beds along the fence line. I'd like to plant my seeds from Monticello gardens there.  I'd like to even try bluebonnets! I think it's too late for seeds. I've decided to use the time to research which plants grow here and what the bloom time is. (I got a great book on Mid-Atlantic gardening at Montpelier, to get me started.) So far there is always something blooming in Virginia, though not as many now as there had been.  While I was at Montpelier with a friend I kept saying, "Virginia smells sooooo good!"  I tell my husband and kids this every time we go to Colonial Williamsburg too!  



 Here is a close up of the fuschia that is hanging under our deck.

Monday, May 25, 2009

What Does the Civil War Have to do with Memorial Day?

     A few days ago one of my friends told me she couldn't wait to hear about which exciting place we would visit this weekend. We didn't go anywhere exciting.  My husband spent the weekend dodging raindrops to fix rot on the back door. 

     I would have grilled this weekend...but our grill never made it from San Antonio. It never got tagged or inventoried. One day I was cooking in the kitchen on a cold and rainy day, while I was dreaming of grilling.  Hmmmm, where was the grill?  My husband called the movers and they knew there was an unidentified one out there. The driver still had it and said he'd pay us for it. In the meantime we continue to be grill-less. 

     I considered the family making hand crank ice cream. I had a feeling my husband would be too busy for this, and he was. This would have been fun and tasty, because we've yet to find tasty ice cream in Virginia. We miss our Blue Bell Ice Cream made in Brenham, Texas "where the cows think it's heaven."  We stayed with friends in Maryland in March and every time we had ice cream, we raved about Blue Bell.  They thought we were crazy!  Then they went to Texas for a few days and had some Blue Bell. Now they know!

    So what to do to make the Memorial Day weekend special?  I forgot all about it (shame on me since we now live in the Washington DC area).  My husband reminded us about the National Memorial Day Concert at the US Capitol in Washington DC held every year that is shown on PBS.  No, we did not go in person because my husband was busy and I've already done the metro during the Cherry Blossom Festival. There is no way we are going to do that for a major event again! We are perfectly happy to watch from the comfort of our living room, especially when there are storm clouds in the area.  

     While I sewed the Civil War costumes for our upcoming unit celebration, we watched the Memorial program on PBS.  To our surprise, they talked about the Civil War.  Did you know that Memorial Day first started a few years after the Civil War?  This is one of the best programs we have seen from Washington for a few years. It was patriotic and touching and prepared us for meaning behind Memorial Day. Thank you to everyone who has served our country!  You have sacrificed family and personal interests to allow us to keep our freedoms!  We appreciate you!     

Sunday, May 24, 2009

HELP!-Damaged Sewing Machine Doing Me In-Advice Needed for New One

     I purchased a Pfaff Tiptronic 2020 nine years ago. Over the years things have been going out but I they did not significantly impede my sewing. The machine has been professionally cleaned on a yearly basis. Alas, the needle threader and reverse button only work a couple of weeks after cleaning. The power supply is intermittent.  I've been told that would be next to impossible to fix. I've always had trouble with button holes and discovered that this is a problem with the model.  I can never remember exactly how the ladies at the store are able to override this problem. All of these things I've been able to deal with, until now.



     Sadly, the machine did not survive the move from Texas to Virginia.  It is now lopsided.  When I attempt to sew on it,  the arm of the machine bobs up and down. I am spending more time fixing the machine's numerous issues than I am sewing on it. I cannot take it anymore!  My husband agrees, I may have worn out the mileage of this particular machine and I need a new one. I'd like to get a dependable workhorse, so I am asking for advice. 

    I use my sewing machine for various purposes.  I sew window treatments (especially for our new house) and contemporary garments. However, whenever I have sewn skirts or pants, the seams are puckered.  I have been careful to use an appropriate sized, fresh needle.  Also the Pfaff has dual integrated feed, which is supposed to feed the fabric evenly.  Yet seams still get puckers. 

    I sew lots of costumes.  Currently I sew costumes for our own use in school. Previously I have sewn costumes for children's choir.  I'd like the machine to handle various types of fabrics well...tapestry, denim, cotton, silk, polar fleece, etc.  Ability to handle thickness of fabric is essential. I had to sew part of my Elizabethan costumes by hand because the fabrics were too thick. I'd also like to have a great button holer.  At this point I am tempted to do them by hand. I have promised my kids, now that we are in Virginia, that I'd get real colonial patterns at Colonial Williamsburg for real costumes.  My son, in particular, is looking forward to real breeches.  Do you realize how many button holes are on those things? And on the vests? And the coats?      

     I especially enjoy quilting.  Piecing fabrics on this machine has been a dream.  However free motion quilting has been troublesome.  I am not looking for a long arm.  I used to be able to start some free motion quilting on past pieces, but towards the end the threads would get jumbled up no matter what I did.  I had to finish the wandering look by hand.

     We have recently moved into a new house and I have several things to sew for the house like window treatments, cushions, pillows, etc.

    I am not looking for a machine that does embroidery. If I ever want to do embroidery, I prefer to do that by hand.

     Thank you for any ideas! I admit to being overwhelmed with purchasing for a new sewing machine in an unfamiliar area.  I don't know any of the sewing stores' reputation around here in Virginia, since we recently moved here. 


Friday, May 22, 2009

Gardens of Colonial Williamsburg-Mid May

While waiting for Drummer's Call to begin, we walked through town, enjoying all the sights and petting the horses. One of these days we hope to get in on the Bits and Bridles Tour which is always filled! In the meantime, the kids try to pet all the horses they can.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lantern Shopping at Colonial Williamsburg

Between events at Drummer's Call I did a bit of shopping. It was almost time for the stores to close and I was rushing to find this one item we needed. We got to the Greenhow Store right at closing time. We were told (with a smile) that if we didn't leave by 5pm, we'd become indentured servants for the next seven years. I love all this colonial teasing, but they don't realize that for me, that is no threat. It's an invitation! A chance to live at Colonial Williamsburg and work for good masters would be incredible! =)
I ended up finding the perfect lanterns at the Williamsburg  Craft House in Merchant Square. My daughter will use one for the history presentation in which she will portray Florence Nightengale. I looked for lanterns which would work well for her as well as looking nice in our new Virginia stairway.





After eating delicious sandwiches from the Cheese Shop (I got a Virginia Ham sandwich with watercress because Virginia Ham is definitely a treat.) we went to the Tatoo, the evening program of Drummers Call.

Learning from Loyalists and Patriots at Revolutionary City

After seeing the Grand Review of Drummer's Call, We were hungry! We went to Raleigh Tavern Bakery and sat on some benches out front where Revolutionary City takes place.

While finishing our lunch, "someone" came to visit us! It was "Heckler #2". I found out his character name was actually Mr. Hardcastle. (Uh oh...I think he's the one who will get tarred and feathered later on.) When the kids and I came a few weeks ago and booed the govenor with the rest of the crowd, he was the one who told us we sounded like a bunch of cows!  He's my favorite to stand next to during the governor's arrival at the Capital.  He makes the time very interesting. He talked to us as the actor for a bit and asked where we were visiting from. We always find ourselves stumbling over the answer to this, since we have very recently moved to Virginia from Texas, yet we don't feel qualified to say that we are Virginians yet.(When do we become Virginians?) 

He moved on and then "Heckler #1",who heckled my husband last month, came by to talk. I found out he was the character, Capt. Ennis.  He spoke to us from the persona of Mr. Ennis. We learned more about the other viewpoint before the war, that of those who were uncertain about heading into rebellion against the king. We talked about this amongst ourselves later, and everyone thought we'd surely be Patriots. I'd like to think so, but I reminded my family that it's easy for us to choose sides now that we know the outcome. But what would we have decided back then, in the days of uncertainty and difficulty? As many times as we've seen Revolutionary City, we continue to understand the history more and have new memories.
Soon Mr. Nicholas came over to talk and later Mr. Peyton Randolph came to visit. It was a lot of fun!

Revolutionary City got under way and this time Mr. Nicholas and another man taught us some songs. We were taught some refrains to sing at the appropriate time. I hope this type of interaction never leaves the programming!  It's why we come!
Then it was time to head down to the Capital for the arrival for the angry Royal Governor Dunmore.  We hadn't planned on doing this, but the interaction with the actors pulled us in. This time my son wanted to stand next to Patrick Henry so we did that!

     Later when the tar and feathering scene was done, sure enough, just as I thought. There was Heckler #2, Mr. Hardcastle, paying his dues for all his heckling.



He was accused of speaking against the Patriots and for the King and had to stand an impromptu trial with Capt Ennis and Mr. Nicholas.



A few men from the audience were asked to serve as jury.



The jury found him guilty so everyone decided to tar and feather him.



Finally, Mr. Hardcastle agreed to retract his previous statements.






Wednesday, May 20, 2009

French v English Cooking at Colonial Williamsburg

Since Drummer's Call started around noon, we decided to leisurely make our way to the Capitol. We went to the Governor's Palace kitchen and smelled delicious aromas. What a history lesson we got! 



There was the Virginia ham, which was a colonial specialty of Virginia. Even Thomas Jefferson, a connosieur of the best European foods, made sure he always had a Virginia ham on the table.

Most funny were the dueling meats, sitting side by side...the beef cooked English style and the beef cooked French style. The cook said it was to represent the rivalries between the two countries that had lasted for years. We laughed, because it reminded us of my son's Hundred Years War question to Lafayette last summer! The cook went on to explain the difference in cooking methods. The English are known for roasting. Then he asked what the classic ingredient of French cooking was. I said wine. Correct! Then he asked what they did with that wine. The guests really got into that one. They drunk it!  He laughed. He meant how did they cook with it. Saute? No. He told us they cook meat wet, as in a braise. Of course. I have lots of recipes like that and had never made that connection.

I asked what he planned on doing with the crab.



I couldn't believe all that crab he was cleaning. Sadly it would never be eaten. Crab is one of my favorite foods. He said he was going to add some orange and wine to it, add a little nutmeg, and create a filling. Oh I was getting hungry. I'm going to have to try creating a recipe like that.I had never thought of those food combinations before. The goose was roasting and making the room smell delicious. The hand crank rotisserie was working.


Everything looked so tasty!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Drummer's Call 2009

Saturday my husband planned on doing more work on the house. (gasp) I was ready for a break and I knew hewas too, even though he didn't realize that. I knew he'd enjoy a day at the Drummer's Call. Last autumn, he found a video sample of it at the Colonial Williamsburg website and enjoyed it immensely. He could only see a portion of it and was greatly disappointed he couldn't find more of the video clip. We talked about a dream of living in Williamsburg someday and being able to go to special events throughout the year like the Drummer's Call. The next best thing was to order the Drummer's Call DVD for him for Christmas.   Surprisingly, here we are now in Virginia with a golden opportunity to see the Drummer's Call for ourselves! I convinced him that the house projects would wait and he would be refreshed going out for the day. It turned out to be an incredible day!!!!



Finally the moment we've been waiting for! The drum and fife corps started arriving...



and arriving...



Patrick Henry said a few words about Armed Forces Day.



I confess, I didn't catch much of what Patrick Henry said. (gasp)Even though he's one of my favorites, I was trying to get the perfect picture of him.  Anticipation was in the air as the first drum corps took it's place. Each corps unit took turns playing music and marching down the Duke of Gloucester Street from the Capital to Market Square. At Market Square an announcer gave us the background of each corps.I tried to remember the details of each and sadly I have forgotten some of the information. I will do my best to tell some interesting facts on each one.

This group led off. I think they are the Colonial Williamsburg Junior Drum and Fife Corps. They are dressed in regimental costume. The youngest is about 10 and in their later teens they can advance into the Senior Corps. I would love for my son to be part of this corps, which is one of the reasons I've always wanted to live in Williamsburg. Even though we have recently moved from Texas to Virginia, we are still too far away. Only the local kids can join the corps. I taught my son to play a flutophone several years ago. In 2004 when we visited Colonial Williamsburg, he bought a fife which he has since learned to play. He had a lot of trouble at first. He couldn't even produce any noise when he blew into it. One of the Senior Corps members gave him some tips to get started. Then when we got home in Texas, he compared the fingering chart for the fife to the one from the flutophone, and from there he's been teaching himself. He now does a period piece for each of our hisstory presentations. He gets frustrated because it still takes him a bit of effort to get started blowing a note. He wants to be as good as the Colonial Williamsburg Corps.



This group was fun to see, since we are preparing for our Civil War history presentation now. I'm always analyzing costumes and I definitely paid close attention to the drum major for ideas for my son's costume! My son was too! Because of our recent research, we were able to pick out important details to the uniforms.



I think this is the Drum and Fife Corps from Yorktown. They were great!  I'm going to look for them at special events in Yorktown.



This is the First Michigan Drum and Fife Corps from Detroit.



This group attracted a lot of attention! They are the Colonial Williamsburg Drum and Fife Corps Alumni!; This drum major is also the drum major for The Old Guard, which will be described next. He was stupendous! He was definitely the best drum major of the day!



This is The Old Guard, which dates back to General Washington. They are part of the US Army and perform for the president and dignitaries from around the world. They even perform in San Antonio for Fiesta! They were always our favorite at Fiesta.They are incredible to watch.



  I think this group was from Massachusetts?



Finally, the Colonial Williamsburg Senior Drum and Fife Corps played. They attracted a great deal of attention too, being a hometown favorite!



Since they were the last, we all followed them. As we walked further down the Duke of Gloucester Street, more and more people followed. The crowd was huge. Whenever we follow the fife corps, I always feel like we are following the Pied Piper of Hamlin. We weren't told to follow. We are simply drawn and fall in step behind them.



After we arrived at Market Square, the Colonial Williamsburg Senior Drum and Fife Corps played the National Anthem. Today's American flag was flying. The guys had the cannon ready to go off at the end of the anthem.



Midway through the Corps' presentations of music and marching, the Second Virginia Regiment came on the field.We learned about them in the Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trip: Soldier of Liberty.



They showed us how they loaded their rifles...



and after the firing, they showed us how they practiced with their bayonets. Huzzah!



We had a terrific time!My husband, especially, was in his element! He told me more than once how glad he was that we had come. I told him they were performing again that night for the Tatoo. Oh? He decided we had to stay for that!

     The Tattoo marked the end of the soldiers' day. Starting at the Governor's Palace, each drum and fife corps would march down the Palace Green, then the Duke of Gloucester Street to the Capital, with torchlight.



Although the day had been warm, I was getting cold as the sun was going down. It felt good to stand near those warm torches.



 We were all getting fired up with the different tunes!



You just can't help getting involved...



Our enthusiasm kept building...



The Colonial Williamsburg Senior Drum and Fife Corps were last and once again, we followed them, as if they were the Pied Piper of Hamlin.  It was so much fun and the crowds were larger than earlier in the day. Finally we reached the end, where cressets were burning. I had seen pictures of these and I think they are great! I was wonderfully warm around them! 



; Then one of the drum majors led the drummers in some fast and furious beats. It was amazing to hear the different corps play in unison. I loved how the kids shared drums!



What a day! I hated to see the day end.  Homesickness which had been forgotten when we arrived, started to creep back in as we prepared to go home.

We walked back to the visitor center and walked by the pond. When the kids and I were here a week and a half ago, we were delighted to hear Mr. Bullfrog. We heard him every night we left CW last August. Well tonight we heard a chorus of bullfrogs. It was a cacophony! We laughed and said they must have wanted to participate in the Drummer's Call.