Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Books Galore! How to Afford Them?

One of the challenges of doing a book based homeschool curriculum, is affording all the books that are read. It's quite the treasure hunt locating exactly what I want on a budget.

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The library is not an option, timewise, for us. Besides we reference our books so often, and we now have space, so I'm happy to build our library. We have been able to budget for the books, but I always attempt to find them at lower prices. I'm always up to the challenge to save money, to maximize the budget for other things. Here are some of my tips.
  • Check my bookshelf for on-topic books that I've collected over the years.
  • Check a used bookstore.
  • www.booksalefinder.com You sign up and get e-mails on used booksales in your area. 
  • Friends of the Library booksales at public libraries. Check your local schedule.
  • I have a lot of friends who use paperback swap. 
  • I've used coupons for Family Christian, Lifeway and CBD. 
  • Yard sales can turn up options too.
  • When I've exhausted all of those resources, I go to Barnes and Noble.  I have a teacher discount card at Barnes and Noble, which gives me 20% off!  On top of that, I often order enough for free shipping, tracking and speedy arrival to my doorstep!  If I decide I don't want a book after all, I can easily return it.  Periodically, there are teacher appreciation weeks where a 25% discount applies!

Happy treasure book hunting!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monticello and Michie Tavern

Last Saturday I suggested to my husband that we go somewhere.  Not too many of my ideas appealed to him, until I mentioned lunch at Michie Tavern. This his eyes went b-o-i-n-g!  We had seen the tavern before, on visits to Monticello, but had never eaten there.  This was our first time to the Monticello area since moving to Virginia a year ago.  The drive through the foothills of the Blue Ridge was gorgeous!  Due to the recent heat wave, some of the scenery reminded us of Texas...open fields of brown grass and cows standing under shady trees!

Michie Tavern is located on the road that takes you in to Monticello.  When we met Thomas Jefferson one time at Colonial Williamsburg, someone asked him about Michie Tavern next door to his home of Monticello. In shock he asked when it moved!  He said Michie Tavern was 13 miles away!  I knew there was a lot to learn on this trip.  First we had lunch.

Lunch is in a separate building.  First we went through a buffet line and chose where we sat. Most of the interior is in a dark cabin like atmosphere. We chose the sunny and cheerful garden room with a view overlooking the University of Virginia. At the web site I found a discount coupon for my son, young enough for a child's price and the discount. We all laughed because this growing boy ate more than the rest of us.  (I didn't think I'd ever see the day that would happen!)  I only nibble food, so actually I think the child's price went to me and the adult price went to him!

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After lunch we took a tour of the tavern. Because we ate lunch next door, we got a discount on the tour. There are lots of interactive activities, including free costumes during the tour, for children.  My kids were considered adults for the tour. (I guess my son ate enough to prove he was a man!)

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First on the tour, we were each offered some red punch.  It was delicious! I quickly jotted down the ingredients. We're going to try to figure out the proportions so we can use this for our drink on our next American Revolution Y2U4 Celebration.  Then we went inside for the tour.  Michie Tavern was located 13 miles away during the 18th and 19th centuries. Shortly before the Great Depression, it was moved near Monticello to help to preserve it.  The story within the tour is as much about the preservation process as about the former history. Many items seen are not actually period correct, since they are actually mid-twentieth century innovations.  Some items are artifacts of the Michie family, instead of artifacts of items that would be seen in a tavern.  The Michie family was wealthy and lived in a separate house nearby.  The tavern was run by an overseer.  While upstairs, we danced a colonial dance.  The last room to tour was the kitchen, where there were lovely period antiques, not that they were historically in the tavern previously.

The center trestle table is huge, with two leaves and a huge drawer for storage underneath. On the left side of the picture on the back wall was a smaller trestle table, with the table part flipped back and a bench (with drawers underneath) available for sitting.

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My camera does not do this corner hutch justice.  When you open the doors, you see that each of the shelves are curved in a semi-circle, making it easy to even reach items on the back of the top shelf.  The guide proved it to us.

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Of course the fireplace needs little explanation. Doesn't the room feel cozy?

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When you exit the tavern, you can see some outbuildings higher up on the hill.  Isn't the view great?  The white building is the back of the tavern.

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My favorite outbuilding was the spring house.  I assume/hope the water dripping down actually comes from a spring.

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Then we went to Monticello.  We got a great deal on season passes. Only my husband and I each got one. The kids enter free on our passes up to the age of 18. Wow! Had I known that I'd have taken them to Monticello last year!  First we went to the movie about Thomas Jefferson's influence on the world through the Declaration of Independence.  Thomas Jefferson was portrayed by the Colonial Williamsburg actor who is reknown for portraying Jefferson.  I thought we were going to do the brand new museum that day, since we had never seen it before.  Even though my husband prefers to do new things, he chose to do the house tour.  So up to the top of the mountain we went.  We've been to Monticello in August 2004 (during the remnants of Hurricane Charley) and August 2008 and both times the floral gardens were stunning. Sadly the 2010 East Coast heatwave has tortured the poor plants.  Obviously Cockscomb survive drought the best.

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One of my favorite inventions of Thomas Jefferson's is this sundial which is connected to the weathervane on top of the roof. While I took this picture, the arrow spun in a different direction!

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My other favorite invention is the day marker inside the door.  No pictures are allowed indoors.  There are many neat gadgets designed by Thomas Jefferson inside the house.  His architectural design is fascinating.  The foyer has Lewis and Clark expedition artifacts on display, like a museum.  There are art objects galore.  In 2004 we took the children's tour, which I still consider the best tour available. In that tour the kids got to handle special interesting objects like a handheld globe. Also it was there that I heard, again, about the Marquis de Lafayette. On that trip I had already heard in Colonial Williamsburg that he shows up in October for Prelude to Victory. (That's before he started showing up other parts of the year for Revolutionary City and Nation Builder programs.)  At Mount Vernon I heard more fascinating stories about him. Now here he was again at Monticello.  Although Thomas Jefferson chose to hang portraits of many historic people 0n the walls, as well as display Houdon busts, I don't think there are as many of any single person than Lafayette!  There is an 1824/1825 portrait of him in the "homeschoolroom," where Jefferson's daughter, Martha, educated her children.  I love that Lafayette's portrait is over her desk!  The parlor is full of portraits and the tour guide pointed out nearly all of them.  As we were leaving, a guest near me told his wife who the man was in the large portrait that wasn't mentioned. The guide had already left, so I excitedly told him, "That is Lafayette! There's also a Houdon of him in the next room."  He smiled and said, "Oh, I knew that military coat couldn't be British."

In the evening shadows we walked around the gardens.  There were butterflies galore wafting around the lantana, sipping the sweet nectar.  They didn't pose long for pictures, so we were all challenged to get clear shots!

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Overlay Maps-Growth of the United States under each President

My kids made an overlay map project on the growth of the United States.  First I made a base map, printed out on paper.  Then each time we studied a new presidency, in which the term of office new states were added to our nation, the kids added another overlay to their map.  To do so, they'd three hole punch a transparency and lay it in the three ring binder on top of the base United States map. Then with a Sharpie color of their choice, they colored the appropriate states. At the side a key was made, listing the states in order of joining the union. Next to the name of the state, the year of entry was added.  At the bottom the President's name was labeled. This project was finally completed earlier this year. Following are excerpts from my son's overlay map project. 

Original 13 States that Ratified the Constitution...
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Growth of Union under President Washington...
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Growth of Union under President Lincoln...

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Growth of Union under President Theodore Roosevelt's Presidency...
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Growth of Union under President Eisenhower's Presidency...

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg-Special Palace Tour

My kids have received a nice chunk of  change from the grandparents  for great schoolwork this year. My daughter is saving her money for another CDC sewing class in August.  My son, however, had plans to spend money at CW that day. First stop was to the Silversmith Shop.  On the way, we passed the Orientation Interpreter who was distributing broadsides for Revolutionary City which was already in progress.  She told us since the kids were employees, we could go on in.  Shocked, we sort of looked at her and told her we were only guests. She was surprised! She said the kids carried themselves so well, she thought my son was part of the fife and drum corps. We all laughed.

 On the Fourth of July, my son had talked to the master engraver about possible options to have his fife case engraved.  He had elaborate designs in mind, but after hearing the 3 digit price tag, I was able to convince him that a scrolly monogram, at the price of $9, would be extremely colonial and timeless.  He listened!  He submitted his order, with plans to pick it up after 4pm. While paying for his order the employee began to give him an employee discount. She thought he was part of the fife and drum corps!  He explained he was just a guest and she told me she assumed we were employees, since she sees us all the time. I said no, I am always booking an inexpensive hotel room. She told me to look on the CW job postings. LOL  Well, I have been for years, but that doesn't mean our house is down there...yet.

Later that afternoon  we went to the Palace because I had heard there were now special tours given by the Actor Interpreters.  We got on a tour with an actor with whom we were familiar.  He did an incredible job!  He wove a fabulous story with his job as a steward. I think his name was Mr. Woolsey. One thing I liked about his tour, was that he even embraced the heat within his presentation. The setting was in January and he explained that it was an unusually balmy July-like day in January, hence the covered fireplaces!  He gave a great geography lesson with the map in the entry room. He noted that my kids were well dressed, whereas the rest of us looked like we came from the Western frontier! As we walked through the Palace, servants were all about and a few commented on my kids' proper attire.

Mr. Woolsey explained that the royal governor's family were at Bruton Parish Church for the christening of their daughter, so he could show us around.  When talking about the coat of arms, he mentioned the symbols on the dextrous side and the sinister side. Normally I would have thought he was pulling our legs with those terms, but I've been studying Latin with my kids and my daughter and I learned those words a few weeks ago.  Dextrous is "right" and sinister is "left."  At the time I learned them I had to laugh. It is a reference to the fact that in the ancient days, right handedness was definitely seen as better than left handedness, which carried into the 18th century.

Although Mr. Woolsey was not allowed to take us above stairs, you know how things go.  Since the family is out the mice will play, I mean he could let us go as long as we don't touch a single thing! We entered a bedroom and this gorgeous gown was laying on the bed, in preparation for the ball that evening.  You might be able to notice the shimmer of the blue and green. That is done by weaving blue silk threads in one direction of a loom and green silk threads in the other direction. As the gown moves under the candlelight, it shimmers in a lovely changing array of colors. Mr. Woolsey said he preferred the cream gown but oh well.
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At the end of the tour, we were in the ballroom where there were giant paintings of monarchs. While describing the deeds of the man on the back wall, he asked if anyone knew who he was. My son said Charles. Mr. Woolsey was impressed. He asked which Charles. My daughter said the II. Mr. Woolsey was impressed again!

After the Palace Tour we went to the Capitol, which is also doing special AI tours. However we just missed Patrick Henry! Oh no!  Can you imagine taking a tour of the Capitol with him? Does he stand in the exact spot where he stood in the House of Burgesses to give his infamous Caesar Brutus speech?  I'm now on a mission to get on his tour!

After that my son picked up his fife case, handsomely engraved with his monogram, then we went to see General Lafayette review the troops!  We weren't sure how long this would last, since the sky was getting heavy with rain clouds. Everything seemed to be holding out. After the first couple of volleys, the deluge of rain began.  As we ran for cover, the fife and drum corps had to leave because the rain can ruin the drums.  Finally I told the kids we needed to go and head to the van.  First I had to stop them from getting trampled by the militia who marched out in formation in the downpour! I put on my rain poncho and the kids shared the umbrella. They managed to only be damp while my poncho leaked and I was soaked! Well I certainly didn't feel roasty toasty anymore!

The next day was clear, sunny, and again hot and humid.  We went to the sewing class and the kids were great, watching all the action of needles going through satin!  After the class my kids, who had been exceedingly good and patient for me, were anxious to see Lafayette at the Tucker House. 

Off we went to see Lafayette, who is always fun, encouraging and always charges me up!  I tried ever so quietly to open the front door, because we were late.  We slipped in after I signed the book, and as expected, it was a wonderful presentation. I think the heat had gotten to all of us because of all the things that made us laugh. My son's question this time had to do with last week's podcast on "The American Hercules".  That had caught my eye, so I read the transcript. What a fascinating story that includes the Marquis de Lafayette!
After the guests left, my son wanted another picture with Lafayette, because there were no pictures of them together in these costume sets. The actor was so kind to give us  his time after the program discussing various things. I finally had an opportunity to express to him my thanks for how he's been a huge encouragement to my kids. I can't even begin to describe how he's turned the tide towards a positive viewpoint in many pursuits.
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Afterwards the kids and I ate lunch under the huge tree in front of the Tucker House. This massive tree has a canopy of branches that swooop to the ground, providing a leafy veil of shade and privacy.  Whom should scamper over to  join us but a squirrel!   He casually leaped to the top of a nearby bench and stretched out, nonchalantly glancing over at us...and our lunches.

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Then he'd sit up and implore us for a morsel.  I don't ever feed the CW rare breed animals, but I did toss him a potato chip, which he politely nibbled and licked. Then I gave him one more.  As much as he enjoyed those two chips, he definitely seemed willing to not get any morsels and merely keep us company.  He even seemed perfectly content to have us stay there and talk to him.  I told him we'd be back.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Timeline

For Dialectic level of history, I decided to have my kids do a timeline through the eras in a bound book from Knowledge Quest.  I considered using clip art for them to cut out and color but they were never coloring book kids before and they certainly aren't now.  They gave the idea a huge thumbs down. However they did like the idea of using colored gel  pens. They chose exactly how they wanted to use them.  They made a key of colors, one for each culture. Then each week they added to their timeline. After 4 years of studying eras from Creation to the present, they have finished their timeline book.
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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg Sewing Class-Stomachers

The kids and I spent two great (as always) days at Colonial Williamsburg, so that I could attend another sewing class Saturday morning.  For the 75th anniversary of the Costume Design Center, sewing classes have been offered each month this year.  These have been great and I am already saddened that they are nearing the end.  I have attained a greater appreciation and understanding for the costumes in the historic area, gained a deeper understanding of  history, learned how to actually sew many 18th century elements of period clothing, learned how to dissect historic prints to gain clues into accurate costuming, and met incredible people behind the scenes who help to bring history alive in the historic area through the venue of costumes!

This time the focus of the class was on decorated stomachers.  These are bodice panels that were pinned on gowns in the 18th century.  They could be plain, but for a lady dressing for the ball, she wanted to look her best. Times haven't really changed much.  Stomachers could be highly decorated in a variety of ways. They could also be easily interchanged because they were simply pinned to the stays or the bodice.

When we arrived in class, we received our kits full of directions, patterns, and silk ribbons galore.  We practiced various techniques, and even punched holes with a mallet for trim.

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We learned to make pistachio flowers...

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And we practiced floss flowers...

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Friday, July 16, 2010

My First Attempt at French Heirloom Sewing

When I first met one of my neighbors in San Antonio several years ago, she found out I had a Pfaff sewing machine. Oh how her eyes lit up with delight. She decided she had to teach me how to do French Heirloom sewing. She was a huge Martha Pullen fan who teaches this. (I can't find it now but I think she teaches with a Pfaff.)  My neighbor taught me how to sew tucks into these pieces of cotton and how to ruche those pieces of cotton. With an assortment of various laces, she taught me to oh so carefully stitch into each teeny tiny hole of the lace, to join them to each other. Then we combined the laces, tuckings and ruching. At the end she said I had a night gown. She didn't use a pattern and oops! It was way too huge on me, so I've never worn it.
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This art she taught me is called French Heirloom Sewing, which is the use of a sewing machine of that which used to be done by hand in France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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If I ever try this again I am doing it by hand. No more trying to agonizingly fit my machine stitches into each hole perfectly in my lace! That drove me crazy!  Let's see, I'm considering a turn of the century heirloom blouse...

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Playbooth Theater and Rehearsal

During Fourth of July holiday we attended several plays presented by the Playbooth Theater in a couple of different formats. The first performance we watched was at the Playbooth Theater stage on the Palace Green. First they presented a program of Shakespearan skits. The next show was a program of the skits George Washington enjoyed, proven by journal entries which he had written. It's quite interesting because they prompt us in the beginning to not be a quiet audience (like today) but to participate by being like a rowdy 18th century audience yelling "Encore!" or "Boo! Hiss!"
Later we went to the Raleigh Tavern to meet with them again for a special program I had never seen before, called "The Prompter." This was basically a rehearsal for new skits they were devising. We got to learn about the process, the difference between 18th century theater as compared to modern, and about the 4th wall. My daughter and I have studied a bit of this in our literature. One scene rehearsed was from "Cato", one of Washington's favorite plays. It was bold! They were "off book" for that, meaning they knew their lines thoroughly and didn't need any prompts. The second one was a bit more fresh, which was fun because we got to see more of the rehearsal process instead of the polished stuff. This play was written by famed 18th century playwrite David Garrick and has lots of tongue twisting contortionst type lines in it. I kept thinking of Jefferson's use of the word, "twistifications." It will be great once they get it "off book" but it was fun now working through the tongue twisters!
With all the work my kids do with history presentations, they learned a lot from watching this. Once in performance, the actors make everything look so incredibly easy. Now my kids have had a glimpse into the work that goes into a polished performance!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Fourth of July at Colonial Williamsburg

We arrived in the middle of Revolutionary City.  My husband beat us to the scenes and we lost him in the crowd. My son had had several buttons pop off, so we grabbed a bench in the shade at Weatherburns Tavern to watch all the action. Then we went down the street and simply rested under a tree at the Palmer House, near the Capitol, when we saw Thomas Jefferson walk by!  That was our only Thomas Jefferson sighting  all weekend, but the kids and I thought it quite appropriate.

Then we saw Revolutionary City's "Resolved, Free and Independent States."
July 3 Resolved
In this scene, it is May 15, 1776. Several representatives from Virginia, like Patrick Henry, have stepped out of the capitol behind them, to share the resolutions for Virginia's own declaration of independence.  (These resolutions were actually written by the men represented here in this place! ) These are sent on to Philadelphia, where Thomas Jefferson is prepared to take quill to parchment paper...

July 3 Resolved

The next morning, July 4th, we went to Market Square for the fife and drum corps salute to the original 13 states. While waiting, a man in a colonial kilt costume came over to ask to take pictures of the kids and to thank me for making the costumes to give my kids a great experience. Then when he found out that I homeschool, and that I do so without a history text but with real books, he thanked me again!  Obviously we really enjoyed talking to him.

The fife and drum corps salute is a wonderful way to open the 4th of July! A special song is played for each of the original 13 states, followed by a cannon volley. Of course they saved the best for last, Virginia!  The tune chosen for Virginia is thought to have been played at the surrender ceremony at nearby Yorktown, the last major battle of the war. The tune is "The World Turned Upside Down."

July 4 Salute to States

July 4 Salute to States

July 4 Salute to States

At the end of the program, some new costuming friends showed up! We made introductions of my husband to her family. Then we walked to a quiet spot to visit.

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Soon we followed the crowds to the 4th of July version of Revolutionary City! My favorite! I hope this program never changes!

July 4 Declaration of Independence

July 4 RC opening

Then we saw Patrick Henry do his famous "Give me Liberty or Death" speech.

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Benedict Arnold arrived.  The audacity of him to arrive on the 4th of July!

July 4 Benedict Arnold

The entire time there was electricity of anticipation in the air! How exciting to see none other than General Lafayette and General Washington on the 4th of July announcing the certain victory to come at Yorktown!  Because Cornwallis was cornered and seriously outnumbered, his fate was certain.

July 4 Washington Lafayette

Then we went down to the capitol, watched the fife and drum corps march in tune, then listened to the reading of the Declaration of Independence, another electrically charged anticipated event. It was obvious that these hundreds of people wanted to be here, appreciated CW, and appreciated the history represented! Despite the intense sun, this is where we wanted to be, to hear the foundational document that opened the door to freedom for not only our country but setting the tone for freedom around the world.

After this, the families split ways for the afternoon, with plans to meet again later.  We went to lunch under the trees, then attended another music program at the museum.

Then we went to see Lafayette behind the Coffehouse! We got there early, knowing there'd be a crowd, and there was! My husband and son speculated whether he'd arrive from the street on the left or the street on the right. I said I thought he would come from the gardens behind us.  Indeed he did arrive from the gardens behind us! I was wondering if he would add 4th of July elements to his presentation. He definitely did! The setting was 1784, after the American Revolution had officially ended. America was now celebrating it's birthday as a free and independent nation!  He alluded to some of the audience who fought with him in battle or had sent him and his wife the lovely wedding gift! He hilariously alluded to our traditional burning of the meat over an open fire!  During the question and answer time, he even alluded to the greatness of George Washington, foreshadowing that he should be called the Father of our Country!

July 4 Lafayette

After talking to Lafayette for a bit, we all headed towards Market Square to meet the rest of our families for dinner. My husband had gone to the car earlier to get the quilt for us to sit on. Our families got dinner and left our blankets next to each other in the hot sun while we sat in the cool shade of the huge tree nearby.  We had a great time, meeting and visiting and just getting to know each other better. Once shade descended, we settled on our blankets. Soon the fife and drum corps arrived and then the fire works started.  It was a wonderful show!

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Afterwards we spent quite a bit of time saying goodbye to our friends. They were leaving the next day.  Finally the dad asked if we preferred to hug or shake hands. Well, if he was offering, and since they felt like family, I melted into hugging each of the family members and everyone followed suit!  We are still corresponding and planning on our next visit to CW to see each other.

The next day was more slowed and subdued and roasty toasty hot and humid. The heat wave had returned. Undaunted, after all we did move here from Texas, we persevered to see a lot of great programs. After repairing more busted buttons on my son's costume, we went to RC. My husband had not seen the Monday program for nearly a year, so it all seemed new to him.  We watched the junior interpreters do delightful colonial dancing on the stage.  Next I was expecting to see more of the actors performing bits and pieces of patriotic pieces before Lafayette  came. Well to our surprise, Lafayette came before the patriotic pieces!

July 5 Lafayette

As often as I see Lafayette, I was struck by a gesture I don't recall seeing before.  With his sword brandished in the air, he galloped away with his horse, proclaiming it would not again be sheathed until the final victory at Yorktown was achieved! After this scene, my son joined us with his eyes aglow. He said he got to have a special behind the scenes opportunity regarding the Lafayette scene!

July 5 Lafayette

After the patriotic pieces, we got to meet with Lady Washington behind the Capitol.  She was escorted by a soldier. I did not realize he had a name until one of the kids told me later. Revolutionius!
July 5 Revolutionius and Lady Washington

This is a great story about Lady Washington visiting the town of Williamsburg, after the horrible winter at Valley Forge.  On a side note, I loved the use of the workbag (purse) she is using.  They are not often seen in town, but is something I learned about in one of my CDC sewing classes. I have one for myself in the works.  I had wanted to meet with Lady Washington afterwards to see her bag up close, but I didn't get that chance. I also love the coloring of Mr. Randolph's costume. I not only get caught up in the history, but also the sewing applications around town.

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