Thursday, December 30, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg EFT: Founders or Traitors?

The latest Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trip was terrific! Founders or Traitors focused on three signers of the Declaration of Independence: John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, and Edward Rutledge of South Carolina.Today we think of them primarily as great men who electrified the world with a revolutionary document, when they signed the Declaration of Independence. Being a familiar story, our imaginations usually stop there. The EFT, however, went deeper...to relate the discord, the discontent, the danger.

Due to a busy week, Tuesday we immersed ourselves fully into the EFT. First we watched the broadcast. Even though this EFT could have been loaded with impending doom, it was interlaced with humor. We watched impatient John Adams become increasingly disgruntled as he attemped to walk the streets of Philadelphia. Instead he was continually hindered by townspeople who wanted to voice their opinions to him, some in favor of the Declaration of Independence and others not. Then we watched Benjamin Franklin, full of whitty remarks, be accused by a loyalist, nearly run over by a carriage and then accosted by 2 patriotic supporters. Finally we viewed the calm, cool and collected Edward Rutledge politely deal with those who felt led to offer him free advice. One lady tried to concern him about his precarious position, claiming that he could be captured (which was true). He calmly, yet slyly,rebutted, "But they have to catch me first."

We also met British Admiral Lord Howe, who tried to take advantage of the lowered moral of the patriotic cause, due to Washington's retreat from Long Island. Lord Howe was determined to convince the patriots to surrender. He met with Adams, Franklin and Rutledge, trying to talk them into renouncing the Declaration of Independence. Unwilling to yield, they walked out of the meeting. As the delegates fled the Philadelphia State House, Rutledge read the inspiring words of Thomas Paine's Common Sense:
"THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value."

In essence, we remember these men today as Founders. Had the war been lost, they would have gone down in history as traitors to the British Crown. This theme ran throughout the EFT video, lessons and activities. After viewing the video and question and answer segment from a few years ago, we read through the lesson pages provided for the teachers, to get background information. Then we went through the activities.

The first one was pretty interesting. We had cards of different people who actually lived during the American Revolution. For the ones my kids would know, like Abigail Adams and Samuel Adams, I read them aloud, allowing them to guess who it was. Then they placed them under the correct category: Patriot or Loyalist. The rest I divided between my kids to read aloud and place in the category they thought it would go. After that we read follow-up cards which told us "the rest of the story". One I found interesting was a slave woman who was so large and strong, she brought her basket of dirty clothes to the jail where the British were holding her patriot master. He hid in the basket and she carried him out in it, without getting caught by the guards! So what do you think she was? Patriot or Loyalist?

Then we analyzed primary souce documents, a collection of prints, political cartoons, poetry and essays, to determine of they were patriotic or loyalist in nature.

After that, my kids went to their computers to do the on-line vote, participate in the message board with CW historians, and play the two computer games. They said in the one game, they were *forced* to turn in patriots to Lord Howe, something they didn't want to do! My daughter also got to e-mail John Adams! She wanted to know what inspired him to be a lawyer. My son didn't have any questions.

On EFT live broadcast day, we happened to be in Colonial Williamsburg for a special program (unrelated) later that afternoon. We got to view the broadcast at Bruton Heights with some of the CW actors! That was fun to hear their reactions to the movie. As we watched the EFT, we also watched the question and answer segment with Benjamin Franklin, Lord Howe and a 21st century historian. Benjamin Franklin answered all the questions as if the signers of the Declaration of Independence were Founders. Lord Howe answered all the questions as if these men were traitors. The 21st century historian constantly reminded us that those indeed were the two viewpoints during the war.

After the broadcast, we got to take a tour behind the scenes. Our first stop was the broadcast studio. On the way in, we got to see Benjamin Franklin, Lord Howe and the 21st century historian! We actually got to meet the actor who portrayed Benjamin Franklin (as a different character) last winter. I waved to him as we walked in and he followed us in to say hi! He remembered my kids! Also one of the executive producers came in to say hi to the kids, because he remembered they were the first EFT Skypers! The tour guide even remembered the kids!

After a tour of the studios, we went upstairs to meet "John Adams"...all of them behind their computer monitors answering a million e-mails from EFT students across the nation! We got to peek at some of the questions and answers and chat with a few "John Adams". They do a lot of research in preparation for "the part" on broadcast day, so that they can answer the questions "in character." I asked if they were so in character, that they felt catankerous like the original John Adams and they said they were. Actually I thought they were all nice and their e-mail answers looked spot on to me!

Where else can we bring history to life but through a Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trip coming to our homeschools, made available to us through Homeschool Buyer's Co-op? At the end of the broadcast that day, we got to see the preview of the next EFT: The Amazing Trade Shop Science Race starring Professor Eddie! Professor Eddie happened to be sitting behind us and he and his friends were all laughing to see his amazing antics in the preview, even flying through the skies like Superman! It will be a great way to let the kids combine science with 18th century architectural history, through the building of the historic Charleton Coffeehouse. See you there!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Quantico's National Museum of the Marine Corps-American Revolution to Civil War

Today I took the kids to Quantico's National Museum of the Marine Corps to see one of their recently opened exhibits, showcasing the early years of the Marine Corps.

The Marine Corps was established in 1775 by the Continental Congress and their first mission was to invade the British colony of the Bahamas for gunpowder and ammunition! Walking in we saw a great display of quotes from the Declaration of Independence. There were two quotes from the historic document, written from opposing parameters, that were intertwined with each other, reflecting great depth of meaning and moving the emotions. I saw many visitors stopping to interact with the quotes in some way. There were great life sized displays and moving modern day paintings representing the marines enagaged in 18th and 19th century events.

Feeling as though we were walking through the belly of a ship, with light filtering down from apparent gridded windows above, we walked through the early years of the Marine's history. We "sailed" through various military amphibious landings during the American Revolution, to the quelling of the Barbary Coast Pirates in Tripoli, to the War of 1812, to the Mexican War. From there we traversed through the Marine's victories and struggles in the Civil War.

Most enlightening in this gallery, was learning about all the traditions of the Marine Corps. We have visited this museum several times before, learning about the Marines' bootcamp, then walking through their boots in WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam.Over the course of these visits, we picked up on many Marine traditions. Today we learned the roots of those traditions!

We learned that they are called Leathernecks from their leather collars that the Marines wore in the American Revolution. Hmmmm, leather collars? I've sewn plenty of regimentals for my son after doing quite a bit of research. Could they possibly mean black leather military stocks? From looking at pictures, that is what my son and I were thinking. In fact, we spent a lot of time talking about it over lunch. The European and American soldiers of the 18th century wore these military stocks. I have no idea how far back they go. But we found it interesting that the Marines took them for their nickname. I found more information here, that explains that the sailors gave the nickname to the Marines! It also explains how the military stock evolved into an actual leather collar, to the symbolic high collar seen today in the dress blues.

We "visited" all the important phrases from the Marine Corps service song..."from the halls of Montezuma"......"to the shores of Tripoli....."...the origins of the phrase..."on land and sea" (a hundred years later the phrase "in the air" was added.)

We learned about the tradition of the ceremonial marmeluke sword carried by the officers. The first one was given to a Marine officer in 1805 by a Marmeluke chieftan.  We got to see an/the original from Egypt/Persia! By the time of the Civil War, NCOs were honored to be allowed to carry the 1858 Calvary Sword.  These traditions are unique to the Marines, represent their heritage in serving as protector of America, and continue today. You can be certain I'll be looking for them from now on!

The dress blues the Marines wear today�have their origins in the 18th and 19th centuries.From the buttons, the to blood stripe to the high collar,�I'll be looking for all the details next time I see a Marine dress blue!

Now that we have learned the origins of the Marine traditions, we'll have more understanding and certainly emotion while singing the Marine Corps service song, when seeing a Marine in uniform and learning about how the Leathernecks have served our country!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Military Stock-18th Century

Historically military stocks were made of black leather or horsehair. Due to expense and comfort for my young son, this will be made with fabric!

Tonight, ummmm, I mean last night, Christmas Eve  I made a new stock!  This time I used silk and left over wool from my son's new cloak.  Then I made the eyelets, attached the buckle and ta da!

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I can see where some fixes are needed but right now I am thinking about bed. Perhaps after I package it and put it under the tree. I know my son will be thrilled to add the buckled version to his regimentals!

Geography with NORAD'S Santa Tracker!

One of my favorite ways to teach geography is with NORAD'S Santa Tracker! NORAD is an USAF agency in Colorado. Military personnel have contributed their voices to audio clips in humorous stories of Santa's jaunts. We usually don't get to it until evening, but I'm bringing it up at noon and even my kids were surprised to think that Christmas has indeed begun in parts of the world. It's more sophisticated than ever, using google maps and a little Santa icon showing where he is now. Icon gift boxes show where he's been. Merely scrolling over shows the location name. We are leaving the page up, which automatically refreshes, showing the latest location. Also his ETA for his next location is shown with a count down timer. We are currenly learning the locations of places in Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan! The audio clips combine with video features of Santa's sleigh passing through Sydney, Australia, the Taj Mahal, Big Ben and other historic sites.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

18th Century Mitts of Red Wool

After our last snowy trip down to Colonial Williamsburg, my daughter asked for mitts to keep her arms warm!  I did some research at the milliners.  Then I came home and drafted the pattern from Costume Close-Up, a Colonial Williamsburg publication of extant garments.  Imagine, a year ago I had absolutely no idea how to use that book.  Now I think it's one of the most wonderful sewing references I have!

These mitts are completely hand sewn.  Although a thinner wool should be used, I used leftover broadcloth wool from making my daughter's cloak.   It is lined in red silk.  I sewed the seams with red silk thread and embroidered a herringbone and daisy stitch with white silk thread.  I haven't embroidered since college days. The herringbone stitch is new to me and is a bit of a struggle to get "the look."  Nevertheless, here they are!

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Food Network for Science, History and even Napoleon!

I have recently discovered Food Network, which has been surprisingly entertaining and mindless (gasp) while I sew 18th century costumes at night.  As mindless as I claim it to be, it must be seeping in unconsciously. If my husband asks what time dinner is ready, I have caught myself answering..."as soon as I'm done plating!"  If I am working with my kids in the kitchen, I now find myself exclaiming, "Behind, behind, behind!"  (You have to watch The Next Iron Chef to get that one!)

We know if we need a good laugh, wait for Alton Brown!  My husband lives for his show each night.  One night Alton Brown was sweetly chasing the ladies out of the living room, so that he could secretly teach the husbands how to cook a romantic breakfast in bed for their beloved wives.  I looked at my husband and said, "You'll never do that for me. I'm staying to get a few laughs!"  Well, Alton Brown had no plans to cook anything special for his wife either. Once all the wives (apparently) left the living room, he became a real he-man and told the guys they were going gadget shopping for he-man cooking equipment for he-man food!  I knew it!

A friend of mine talked about how we not only laugh with Alton Brown, but our kids learn a lot of science too!  I am sad to say that I can't even begin to tell you what that man teaches on the scientific front.  However his props are both ingenious and hilarious!  My son, Mr. Science Brain, probably has every detail memorized!

On top of humor and science, Alton Brown teaches a little history too.  The one that sticks out in my mind is the background of Chicken Fried Steak.  He admitted that is definitely Texan cuisine!  But what about the origin?  Well anyone knows that...it dates back to the cattle drives!  Well yes, but he told us it goes further back!    Chicken Fried Steak is derived from the German traditional dish of Weiner Schnitzel!  Ohhhh!  In the 19th century, many Germans immigrated to Texas and settled in San Antonio and the Hill Country, where many ranches developed and became the base of operations for many cattle drives.  Look up any recipe for Weiner Schnitzel and Country Fried Steak and you'll see the similarities!

One of my favorite shows was Chefs of Beverly Hills where a pair of chefs were hired by a lady who ran a murder mystery mansion.  Everyone was coming in Renaissance costume and she made the chefs dress up in costume too! It was hilarious watching them fuss about the l-o-n-g sleeves and l-o-n-g skirts, etc, all of which are awful for wearing in the kitchen while cooking.  I agree from all my experience of our unit celebrations!  When I was Queen Elizabeth I knew I absolutely could not move around in the kitchen, so I sat around like a queen and let the kids serve me!

The other night my son caught something that I missed.  Iron Chef was on.  I was sewing and mindlessly listening.  Alton Brown (he pops up everywhere, hmmmm, sort of like the next guy I'm going to mention) was opening the show with a famous quote: "The battlefield is a scene of constant chaos. The winner will be the one who controls that chaos, both his own and the enemies."  My son exclaimed with a smile on his face, "Hey Mom, it's Napoleon!"  I had to laugh.  Napoleon, who used to bring a frown to my son's face years ago, now brings a smile to his face.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg Milliner: Muffs, Mitts, Quilted Petticoats, FlyFringe, Work Bag

A visit to the Colonial Williamsburg milliner to escape the snow yielded a delightful visit of learning about 18th century sewing techniques and an opportunity to admire reproduction garments.

When we entered she was talking about this quilted petticoat. 
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As we talked about the quilted petticoat, I asked about types of wool. She was wearing a wool petticoat, another option I have considered for my daughter to keep her warm, since I still have 2 yards left of her cloak fabric.

However, my daughter is now asking for one more thing...mitts! Her bare arms are a bit cold.  So I asked the milliner about mitts!  She produced these pieces, similar in style yet different in fabric.  The white pair is the leather one from Costume Close-Up.  I plan to recreate the embroidery detail for my daughter. The sage green pair is made of silk, whereas the blue pair are wool!  My daughter definitely wants wool!  It was fun to handle each one and see how they go together. 

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Then I asked about muffs, my choice of arm covering.  The milliner got this one out, recently recreated from a painting. You can see photos of the construction of it at their facebook page.  I slipped my hands in it, to see how firm the padding is inside. Ohhhhhhhh...how soft...how silky...how luscious!  The white fabric is a luxurient silk and the trim is velvet...a feast for the hands.  I commented that they weren't afraid of color back then and she laughed and said definitely not!  Doesn't this color combination look especially fun for a teen? How can anyone feel gloomy with this in their hands?

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Then she showed me this one, made differently, so that I could decide which way I'd like to make one!  This muff coordinates with a hat and short cloak to make a lovely trio.

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I made two visits in two days in all, and while waiting my turn to ask questions galore, I found many lovely items on the countertop on display!

I loved the display of all this fly fringe set against the blue/pink changeable silk gown.  I took a class with the CW Costume Design Center last winter, on how to make fly fringe.  The process is quite tedious, so my admiration is definitely full for those who made these lovely pieces.

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I also took a class on workbags.  Mine is not yet finished.  I'd like to do some embroidery on it.  I found this piece in the display case.  This workbag has not only embroidery work, but also fly fringe around the edges. That's a thought!

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The milliner's current sewing project was trim for a gown that will be shown at the symposium in March.

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg, Meeting George Whitefield, and Snow Galore!

I've been waiting for years to meet George Whitefield, the dynamic Great Awakening preacher of the 18th century. Did you know that Colonial Williamsburg reenacts his December 1739 sermon once a year?  The kids and I had studied about him 4 years ago, though they don't remember much about it. What an incredible opportunity to cement his massive importance and influence into their brain cells!  In preparation, we huddled in a hotel room the night before and read his biography in Christianity Today and then we listened to the podcast of the actor who interprets him at Colonial Williamsburg. (For the podcast, scroll down to April 10, 2006.) I was enormously thrilled beyond comprehension to go and was on pins and needles all week in grand anticipation!

Guess what? It snowed!  The 21st century town of Williamsburg shut down whereas Colonial Williamsburg, itself, remained open.  Huzzah!  George Whitefield would be preaching at Bruton Parish Church, in Colonial Williamsburg, recreating the actual sermon the evangelist gave in that very church in December 1739.  The event would be at 2pm.  The kids and I looked for ways to fill our day until that incredible  moment!

First we went to Bruton Heights, where we could view the Electronic Field Trip being broadcast that day, Founders or Traitors.  Before the program, a lady came in to give some background, and she recognized my kids!  After the EFT, we got to go on a behind the scenes tour. First we went into the boadcast room and there was Benjamin Franklin!    While in the broadcast room, one of the executive producers came in just to say hi, because he recognized my kids as the first Skypers! I was quite impressed because that was over a year ago and Skype feeds are not always that clear.  That week, my kids got to e-mail John Adams for the EFT experience. Well, we got to meet "John Adams!" all of them,  upstairs, as we saw how all the EFT e-mails and phone calls were processed!  I asked one of the "John Adams", all of whom study for his part in preparation to answer all the e-mails in the voice of John Adams,  if he was so into "John Adams" that he was feeling a bit catankerous. He laughed and said, "Yes!"  Can you imagine a room full of "John Adams"? Actually, none of them seemed catankerous to me at all, but we got to read some of the e-mails over their shoulders and the voice as John Adams contained within looked spot on!

We left Bruton Heights and it was snowing!
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 Being lunch time we went to the Raleigh Tavern Bakery and got some hot soup and cider. Thankfully there was a table available and we watched all the snow falling outdoors.  I couldn't believe we were actually in Colonial Williamsburg with this much snow, and it was still falling!

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After lunch, we aimlessly walked around, looking at all the snow and decided to go into Tarpley's Store to visit a friend and keep warm. We told her all about getting to meet George Whitefield! Finally it was time to go and get a good seat at Bruton Parish Church.
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The town was beautiful, as was the historic church.  We walked up to the gate but it was locked.  The sign said the sermon had been canceled!
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We were devastated!  The one reason why we came, braving the snow storm and it was canceled?  I was absolutely heartbroken. The church is an active church and does not belong to Colonial Williamsburg.  CW was open, but everything else was closed, which I completely understood being a Texan gal. This was my first time to be out and about in snow away from home and I was a bit nervous I confess! lol

Plan B...why don't we go to the Tucker House and see Alexander Purdie? We've never had the chance to see him there before. We'd be late but it would be something great to do and we'd explain our tardiness after his talk.  We walked to the Tucker House...and it was closed!  The Tucker House is CW property but it is run by volunteers.  Employees still report to work throughout the historic area, but volunteers don't have to.  Well, I did understand why the concern about closing these places and perhaps their roads were not attainable for driving. After all I was a bit nervous about driving back to the hotel. lol

Plan C...Mr. Burgess had told us to go to the Subscription Ball that afternoon, at Raleigh Tavern.  We had been planning to go, we just went far earlier than expected.

Now everyone might have a great laugh right now when I remind the gentler reader that we are Texans...who have only experienced snow in movies, books and on Christmas cards. You know, those idyllic scenes where everyone is comfy cozy while romping about 5 feet of snow? Well we learned really fast that Texan shoes, not even Texan boots, do not suffice in snow. They get wet even when walking on the sidewalks and streets...which are covered with as much snow as the grass. lol
 What do I know? I've lived in Texas and Hawaii all my life and have never in my life spent so much time walking in the snow.  My boots were soaked and were becoming mini icy swimming pools to my feet.  There was nothing I could do about it. I worked very hard with the mind over matter idea to simply enjoy all the charming beauty around me. On the outside the historic area took on a tranquil charm blanketed in accumulating pristine whiteness. On the inside I was frozen!  lol Who knew snow was that cold??? lol

Truely, how can Colonial Williamsburg be more picturesque, than with snow!

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We arrived at Raleigh Tavern and what do you know? There was George Whitfield and Alexander Purdie!  I was so despondent I just had to cry on their shoulders.  I walked up to George Whitefield. "The kids and I drove down ahead of the snow storm just to see you!  I taught them all about you last night!  But you're canceled!" I wailed.  You know, he had just found out he was canceled 5 minutes before!  Then I looked at Alexander Purdie and said, "We decided to go see you at the Tucker House because we've always wanted to see you there, and you were canceled too!"  They were so nice to put up with my disappointments. We had a nice chat, a bit of teasing and an encouragement to stick around for the ball...then they split to get warm. They were cold too!  ;)
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Meanwhile we watched some of the actors  snow ball fighting, which was the most fun thing we had seen all day!  My son joined in the snowball fight, making a snow ball with which he smacked Will Duncan from Scotland (the CW fellow with his back turned to the camera)  right in the side!!! Wow! A bullseye! Alas, he never noticed. He was too busy going after another actor with his own snowball!  See the pile of snowballs at the feet of the CW fella looking for trouble? He has a snowball in his hand. There was a lot of bantering between them and the actors on our side of the street at Raleigh Tavern!
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We soon got to warm ourselves inside the tavern at the Subscription Ball where there was some singing and dancing of the townsfolk having a grand time of merriment.
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After a bit of dance we returned to the snow to ponder how we might fill our time.   Oh, lets see the tailor and the milliner!  So we went in and I asked the milliner lots of questions about pleating hoods, specifics about how to quilt a petticoat for my daughter and a few other things about fabrics. That was a great visit! I'll share more in another post, since this is long enough.
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We left and now what?  Well, we had lots of time to walk around and see all the snow. I knew I'd never be there for this to happen again, so I had to seize the moment! Carpe diem!

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Hmmm, he didn't seem too cheerful about all the cold and snow...

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However my children were a bit warmer than me and had a grand time being colonial kids in a colonial town with colonial snow! After all, even the snow had to pass through the time machine before falling on colonial ground, right?

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Then we started walking through the shops and trades, all of which were open and warm! Some even had roaring fire places! Hmmm, how long am I allowed to stand near one before someone scoots me away?

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 We met a very nice Orientation Interpreter who recognized us. She said she had seen us walking in that morning and was glad to see us.  I asked her how safe it was for us to stay that evening. I told her about George Whitefield and Alexander Purdie being canceled. Would "Illuminations" and "Caroling" be canceled as well, being in the evening and when the weather would start to turn for the worse?  I told her I completely understood if they had to cancel.  But I'd hate to stick around in all the cold to find out they had  canceled. Should we give up and leave? She told me to check at the Lumber Ticket Office and that I should be safe driving to the hotel, which is close to the historic area.  Just to not stay out too long, like til midnight and drive slowly. (I hear you laughing but I'm a Texan gal and had never driven in the snow before. =)  The Lumber Ticket Office told me the events were not canceled.

Some of the trades were closing up but finally we hit upon a winner...the weaver!  I walked in and a group was standing there listening to the lady at the spinning wheel and the lovely warm building. The lady motioned to a guest with a basket to hand it to me to look at. She handed it to me and the spinner said with a grin, "That's where the color red comes from." I very matter of factly said, "Cochineal bugs."  The spinner said, "Oh you've heard of them.  Do you use hypo-allergenic cosmetics?" I replied that I did.  The bugs supply the red coloring for blush and lipstick.  Then she asked if we eat Skittles. Not me, but my kids do.  That's how the candy becomes red.  I replied that I knew M&M's used that too. So that is where all that discussion went to, but she was surprised that I already knew about Cochineal bugs.  Oh we go way back..my first visit to Colonial Williamsburg years ago and I never forgot!  I did learn that Cochineal bugs are all over Texas, in the prickly pear cactus.  Texas was New Spain in the 18th century, so the Spanish traded cochineal bugs with England for use as a dye.  Funny how I knew more about cochineal bugs than I did about snow! lol

It was 430pm and we decided to look for dinner. My son wanted pizza so we went to Merchant Square. Everyone and I mean everyone told us Merchant Square is one place that would definitely be open.  We walked to the pizza place and guess what...they were closed! Sheer panic began to set in.  Oh dear. For health reasons I have to eat dinner. Now what?  Wait, I think I saw lights on at the Cheese Shop. Guess what? They were open! For five more minutes!

We ate our sandwiches at their bar in front of the big picture window and cozily ate our yummy sandwiches while watching dusk fall on the snowy scene. When we stepped out I started slipping and sliding but the kids were fine.  My boots are definitely awful for this weather. 

We made it to "Illuminations."  The fife and drum corps were there with the militia.  This is a narrated tour where there is gun firing and lighting of the cressets with a bit of history of each tavern. It was quite nifty to watch in all the snow. Afterwards we stood in front of Weatherburn Taven for some Christmas Caroling with a modern choir from the 21st century Williamsburg. Burning cressets were all about us as we sang, helping to keep us warm.


The next morning everything was dry and the roads were in excellent condition although the parking lots were ice. Have I mentioned this was my first time to ever drive on ice? Slowly....

Later we stood in a frozen, crusty snow covered garden behind the palace to listen to the fiery Patrick Henry emphatically spew forth his strong rhetoric against the British empire.  The snow started melting.  Icicles shattered down from tree tops.  Icy covered leaves crashed to the ground.

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After his talk, off we went to the Raleigh Tavern Bakery for soup and cider at a cozy warm table overlooking the glistening snow in the garden...this time boots were dry!

Then we went back to the milliner and talked about all sorts of lovelies!  Muffs, mitts, etc, etc, etc!  My questions for current and future sewing projects grew and grew and grew and she was really open to helping me with information. She was the same milliner as yesterday, friendly and helpful, which really chirped me up!
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Then my son wanted to go to the blacksmith shop, where he got to ask different questions.

Next my kids wanted to do the Subscription Ball again.  Before that, Mrs. Randolph saw us and was absolutely delighted to see the kids. She wrapped them in her arms with a big hug. We had a lovely chat.  She told the reverend that I had come into town to see George Whitefield. He gave me a bit of information about Whitefield's background, then informed me with the sad, sad, sad news that he had passed away a few years prior.  Oh no!  I had just come into town to meet him, to which he responded,  "He is quite dead, Madame." Whitfield had visited Williamsurg on December 16, 1739. The Subscription Ball, however, was set in the 1770's!  lol (I love it when they tease me like that!)

Then Kate got the reverend and several of the kids, including mine, to play "Thread the needle!" Doesn't that look like fun?

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ancient Greece: Extra Books from my Bookcase and Comparing The Odysseyto Apollo 13

An avid book collector, I pulled from my bookcase applicable books  for much of our study of Ancient Greece. Not Classical Greece, but Ancient Greece. Classical Greece is later.

I preread and selected applicable pages on Ancient Greece for history discussion from The Story of Civilization II: The Life of Greece by Will Durant.  Written in 1939, I found it at a used bookstore for $4!  It covers every aspect of Ancient Greece: history, literature, art, geography, mythology, Battle of Troy, archaeology, etc, etc, etc.

The Ancient Greece of Odysseus by Peter Connolly.  This intersperses the story of The Iliad and The Oddyssey (at a junior level) with aspects of the geography, archaeology, and artifacts from the Battle of Troy and other locations and items in the region of Ancient Greece and the Great Sea.  The colorful pictures incorporated throughout the story line and the history bring Ancient Greece to life!

We read the actual 100 page version of The Iliad and the 300 page version of The Oddysey and they were great!  To get a feel for the rhythm of the poetry of both the original Greek and an Engllish translation, I found this site, where a Greek scholar reads aloud a sample  the Greek and the Engllish.

As we had our literature discussion, off the top of my head I started comparing Odysseus with the ill fated crew of Apollo 13.  Both Odysseus and the astronauts met every life and death challenge they faced with ingenuity, striving to return home. After discussing some of those challenges, we looked at how the ones Odysseus faced were purely fictional whereas the ones the crew of Apollo 13 faced were realistic!  When many first saw the movie, Apollo 13, they thought the coincidences of the string of bad luck was typical "Hollywood" add-ins to make for more sensational drama.  I've watched interviews with the director, Ron Howard, the actors, like Tom Hanks,  and even the astronaut he protrayed, Jim Lovell, who declared that all those unbelievable elements really happened.  We had a long discussion about that!  Then I suddenly had a thought!  What was the name of the spaceship that was part of Apollo 13?  Surely not  the Odyssey!  What are the odds?  I asked the kids if they remembered.  As they furrowed their brows, trying to remember, I did  a quick bit of research and indeed, their space ship was called The Odyssey.

For extra background research for me, because I want to learn more history and literature to back up my teaching, I referenced two literary background books which cover the works of Homer.  I mark up items of interest to bring into the discussion.  I also do that with the curriculum notes.  I read through and mark the items I most want to bring out in discussion. The literary background books I referenced are Invitation to the Classics Edited by Louise Cowan and Os Guinness and Realms of Gold by Leland Ryken.

Now my kids are deciding on their approach to a literary analysis paper.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg's Grand Illumination 2010

Ahhhhhh, Grand Illumination weekend, that wonderful time of year to stroll around Colonial Williamsburg at night with crecets burning, snow falling (really!), naturally decorated wreaths upon the doors, 18th century carols in the heart...and freezing!  What would Christmas be without such nostalgia?  Everything is wonderful, except the freezing part, but there's always burning crescets, a fireplace roaring in the silversmith shop (if anyone else has a roaring fire please let me know!), and hot chocolate at Raleigh Tavern Baker .
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Upon arriving Friday afternoon, we collected our tickets for the special programs we wanted to attend.  It was too late for afternoon programming, so we ambled among the streets, did a bit of Christmas shopping and admired all the lovely wreaths on the doors. As the sun set, the ambiance became cozy as we watched the candlelights in the windows begin to glow.
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Saturday morning we began the Christmas Homes tour of the historic area, sponsored by the Green Spring Garden Club. This is an incredible opportunity to gain entrance to the beautiful historic homes of Colonial Williamsburg where CW's 21st century residents now reside!  We get to walk where historic footsteps once trod and lived, while admiring antiques and reproduction pieces. The Garden Club decorates the homes in Colonial Williamsburg style, using natural elements for arrangements of various sorts, including wreaths!  They tell us all about their greenery arrangements and about unique items in the home. First we toured the Grissell Hay Lodging House and the Tayloe House.
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Midday we broke to go to the Tucker House to see, who else, but the Marquis de Lafayette.  Arriving early, one of the workers engaged me in conversation of great detail, giving me another tour of the house, reflecting on the first traditions of Christmas in Williamsburg from within those walls.  The first Christmas tree in Williamsburg was decorated in the Tucker House, in 1842. A College of William and Mary professor from Germany, he shared his tradition of the Christmas tree with the Tucker family.  The worker showed me other special Christmas trees of the Tucker House which have mysteriously appeared on the front porch over the years.
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We had a great discussion, as always, with Lafayette.  I even got to legitimately work in a Napoleon question, indirectly related to Lafayette, based on some reading I've been doing! Actually we got to ask lots of questions and learn lots of new things. What can be more unique than to talk to people from within the pages of history?
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We spent the rest of the afternoon finishing the house tour.  We got to see the President's House at the College of William and Mary and the Lightfoot House.
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 While there a tour guide, who noticed my son's Lafayette coat, asked him if he was Bonaparte! Then she winked at me.   My son, however, did not see the wink and the reaction was classic! At each house as we stood in line, I'd pull out the brochure which gave background information on the house and read the information aloud. It sort of speeds up the time and my family actually puts up with me for doing it!  In the past I'd read the brochures myself and my family would ask me a million questions, so I just started reading to them and they seem to like it! I have no idea what the guests around us thought of it.
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Each place I walk into is so wonderful, I want to live there.  As the day wore on, the homes seemed to become more grand.
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We finished the day with a tour of the Masonic Lodge. Someone there recognized me and said hello. It took me a moment to realize who he was without 18th century clothing.  He was great at answering all of our questions about the lodge. We also got into a discussion on National Treasure.  Then somehow he got to talking about the Pages. He mentioned Col. Page and Gov. Page...wait a minute! Could he elaborate on them? I get so confused researching John Page and Mann Page. I told him that that afternoon at the President's house at the College of William and Mary we saw two paintings of two different John Pages. He explained all that!  Every generation of the Page family alternated naming their sons John or Mann Page.  Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!  No wonder I got confused.  I couldn't believe how much history I learned that day, when I thought I'd mainly be doing Christmas stuff, which in and of itself is great!
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Then we rushed for a quick dinner, hoping to avoid long lines from a busy weekend of CW Christmas fesitivities and the College of William and Mary football playoffs. Everyone was talking about the playoff and wondering who won.  Don't they have bells to ring in a tower to signal a victory?  We do that type of thing in Texas.  Anyway no problem getting dinner; there was plenty of time to eat pizza!
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After dinner, we walked to the Capitol for a special holiday program, "A Capitol Evening".  As we walked along the lighted pathway, my son noticed snowflakes!  What are the odds of being in Colonial Williamsburg for Christmas in the evening while snowflakes are wafting about?   Talk about nostalgia!    
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At "A Capitol Evening", we were taken through the Capitol to various entertainments and opportunities. We were led by a certain printer of a gazette, but not Alexander Purdie.  First he took us to the Murdoch Show, which we've watched other times. This time we saw it with different actors and with a different plot and set of puppets.  It was good old fashioned 18th century entertainment. That is a copy of the Declaration of Independence inside the flag.)
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Then we went upstairs to meet with Lady and Lord Dunmore. We had been prompted to find out the name of their daughter, who had been christened that day.  That gentleman with the gazette mislead us!  He told us which names to put our betting money on...but he was completely wrong. I'm glad I'm not the betting type!  Since the announcment was not official, I must not tell. Shhhh. (I love this wreath too!)
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Finally we went downstairs for dancing.  We got to see them dance minuets and complicated country dances, amidst the ladies' swishing skirts and sparkling buttons on the men's coats. There was even opportunity for us to dance too! (I like this dispaly too!  All three of these I think were on the same house!)
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After the dance we rushed to the Greenhow Lumber Ticket office in the snow, to stay warm next to the cresset.  We were waiting for the start of "Christmas Tide at Home."  We did this program last year and it is so poignant, we had to do it again.  The tour guide chose the kids to take turns carrying the lantern to our various stops at the Governor's Palace.  We get to see 4 different stories, set in the historic area, about actual holiday traditions over the years. So basically it's about the history of Christmas traditions in Colonial Williamsburg.  First we entered the kitchen in the mid 18th century where we learned about how the slaves and servants received Christmas money from those they worked for. The tradition was told within a poignant story line of a slave mother and son who lived on different plantations.  Then we walked to the stables, set during the American Revolution,  where we learned about the tradition of firing guns, set within the story of a soldier and his separation from loved ones, as he talked to his sister.
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From there we entered one of the outbuildings, the setting of which was 1842 at the Tucker House.  The German professor surprised the Tucker children with his tradition of the Christmas tree, taught them the songs Stille Nacht and O Tannenbaum, then closed with a cozy reading of A Visit from St. Nick. I loved seeing the 19th century costumes! I also wanted to sing the German songs with him! (I love the apples in the niches here at the Palmer House! It's a great story!)
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Finally we entered the outbuilding on the other side of the palace, transporting us to WWII in Colonial Williamsburg.  We learned about the restoration of the historic area and the goal of Dr. Goodwin to allow the fun of Christmas decorating within some venue of historical context. This was most difficult to decide upon. Christmas decorations in 18th century Virginia were far more limited than one might think. But when CW was first restored, a movement in Colonial Revival was taking place across the nation and through decorating magazines, using natural elements for decorating.  It was a natural fit so that was used and has now become a door decorating contest in the historic area.  Also the idea of a candle in the window seemed historic and quaint enough to adopt, so that began.  Since real candles were quite the fire hazard in the historic buildings, someone designed the electric candles for CW for safety reasons.  Do any of these elements sound familiar to you?  My mom does these things and she's never been to CW, nor was she aware of the history behind it.  However many guests to the historic area over the years enjoyed it so much, that they took the ideas home with them.  I saw some electric candles over the years in Texas, but they are far more prolific throughout Virginia, and is a tradition we now have adopted.  Even though these decorative elements did not originate in Williamsburg, Colonial Williamsburg made them famous.
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Sunday morning we arrived to a frosty historic area. Not much snow remained on the ground, but what we saw looked like a sprinkling of confectioners' sugar on a gingerbread village.  We took our time walking around the historic area, trying to capture all the snow pictures we could before it all melted.
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Meanwhile, Col Washington and Mann Page rode by on their horses. In the picture they were talking to my son!
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They were so kind to stop and chat with us for quite a while.  We got to talking about various things, including the President's House at the College of William and Mary. "Mann Page" asked me if I knew the history of the house. Hmmmm, I don't recall the ladies talking history; they like to talk greenery and dishes.  So he told me all about how Rochambeau had used it as headquarters before the Battle of Yorktown, how it was a strategic location for the French general, other strategic locations for headquarters around town...it was fascinating and not something I would have ever thought to ask about.  Then he mentioned how the French accidentally burned down the house and then I remembered!  There is a plaque about that near the house that I've read years ago!  I also remembered reading that the French did pay to rebuild the house!  It is indeed a grand house! 
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We talked about lots of other things, then we walked a bit further down the road and saw Alexander Purdie. I've never had an opportunity to officially meet him at his programs, though I'm always trying to.  I didn't think he knew us but he did!  He was riding his horse too and he engaged us in quite the conversation. He runs the gazette so he was quite surprised to hear that someone else at the capitol the night before said that he ran a gazette too. We could not remember the man's name so he asked for a description. It  was hilarious watching his expressions and descriptions of various people it could be!
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After lunch we walked around some more, stopping in a few of the trades to keep warm near the fireplaces. While we were near Raleigh Tavern, Alexander Purdie walked by and we talked some more and I gave him my secret to apple pie. Yes, he wanted to know!  Then Mann Page walked over with a man he introduced as Mrs. Vobe's barkeep.  I think his name is Will. Will is from Scotland and asked us lots of questions and made hilarious comments about our being from Ireland or Scotland.  My husband's family name is Irish and my son told them *all* about that.  I am primarily German and French with a wee bit of Scotch Irish and Mr. Purdie was talking about the importance of the Scotch coming before the Irish! Then Mr. M. came by (I never know his character names, he changes them too much) with a grand opportunity he said.  He'd allow our family a peak in his special fancy box for a penny. A mere penny mind you!  "No thank you," we said.  (I love to tease him.) He sighed and shook his head and told us he'd let us look for free (oops, maybe I shouldn't say this but like I said, I'm always teasing Mr. M) ONLY if we'd all cry out, "That's amazing!" when we saw it, in order to draw in customers for him.  Ooooo, a CW acting moment!  We were in!  So we all gathered closely around the box lid in a huddle so that no one else would see, anxiously anticipating a peak!  When he popped open the lid, we all loudly exclaimed in patriotic good cheer, "That's amazing!" then he snapped the lid shut.  Ahem...Mr. Purdie took a peak over our shoulders, Mr. M. noticed and fussed at him! (They are so much fun!)  After that we kept checking on Mr. M to see how many pennies he had accumulated.  He wasn't doing too badly.  It was fun watching guests drop pennies into the tin cup for a grand chance to see something amazing!  If you want to know what's in the box, you have to pay Mr. M. a penny. 
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One of our warm spots to hang out that afternoon was a brick fire pit at the nursery.  Entertainment had begun on the stage at Market Square for the Grand Illumination. But we did not have to freeze this year. We got to go to attend two Grand Illumination parties at  two of the historic homes. What an honor to be invited! I've never had two invitations at the same time before, but I was told by several that party hopping is quite the event around there.  We did one house before the fireworks and one after.
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The first party was quite delightful.  I got to meet lots of nice people. They all loved the kids' costumes. Also many of them commented on how impressed they were on how well the kids carried themselves.  One lady there was asking me questions about the costumes, which led to me telling her that I homeschool, which made her realize who I was.  She said she reads my blog!  That was funny! We also saw other friends there and we had a great time reconnecting!
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Time finally came for the fireworks.  We did go outdoors to view them with the crowd.  It is an excellent fireworks show. Fireworks did occur in the 18th century for very important events, so it's become part of the CW Christmas tradition.  They were shot off from 3 venues: the Capitol, the Magazine and the Palace. We stood at Market Square, so we could see the fireworks from all three locations!  They start low to the ground and rise up higher into the sky throughout the program.  One set is interesting, like giant whirling sparklers!
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Then we worked our way through the crowd to the second party.  The first house had been easy to get to.  Within the historic area, the kids and I had been honored to be invited there last winter for tea and cookies!  The next house was on the outskirts of town and one I had never been to before.  We asked one of the interpreters we knew for the best way to get there, since normal access was roped off. I was a bit nervous, when I thought we found the house, because I couldn't find the name of the house in the typical location.  I went up to the porch (gasp) to use the lighting to read my directions and tried to get my bearings in the dark.  My husband was confident that was the place, opened the screen door to knock on the solid  door and I closed my  eyes and prayed it was the right house. Huzzah! It was!  There was lots of singing of Christmas carols at this party! My favorites were "Angels We Have Heard on High", "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring", and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel".
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The next morning began another cold day. First stop was to the Palace garden to listen to Lafayette.  I enjoy his performances but I didn't know if I'd survive sitting outdoors in the cold all that time.  I told my kids I wanted them to sit as close to me as possible.  I wanted to sit on the edges of their warm wool cloaks. But that felt odd to them so I needed to sit on the cold bench instead.  BRRR   Thankfully some of the guests helped me get my mind off the cold, by talking to me about the cold! That led to them asking how often we come. They were incredulous when they found out we come once a month or more!  About  three different ladies asked me tons of questions about various programs throughout the year.  Then Lafayette arrived and his sheer exuberance helped me keep my mind off the cold.
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How does he do it? He's so inspiring to me as a teacher, that I soak in that energy and bring it home to teach my kids!  Because of the guests in the crowd, they made it fun for Lafayette to do more with his program.
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He'd ask different guests questions and it was hilarious to hear some of the responses.  It just fires him up to be more lively than ever!
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Afterwards we got to talk to him for a few moments.  I forget how (perhaps due to frozen brain) but we got to talking about The Odyssey, our latest literature assignment. Of course Lafayette has read the works of Homer! His works are classics!  That is fun to be able to talk about a school assignment with Lafayette and still be 18th century accurate.
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Then we went to the tailor and saw the apprentice.  He was  really great!  He was talking about the printing of fabrics.  My absolute favorite was the balloon print, based on the first balloon flight in France in the late 18th century! We had fun learning about this a few years ago and were ecstatic to stumble upon the balloon at the Smithsonian a few months later! Then we talked about some of my lastest projects where I got a lot of tips for improvement.  There are more details and photos here.
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After that I said goodby to our new friends who had to leave for home.  The rest of us went on to the Coffeehouse for a tour. Alexander Purdie told us he'd be there!  I like going in to some of the tour buildings to see the different actors to get a different experience!  Actually my husband had gone on without us while we were at the tailor's.  So he got into the tour group ahead of us. After the tour, discussion of the current events with Mr. Purdie, and a sample of colonial hot chocolate, we went outside where my husband was talking to Fanny, Mr. Charleton's slave who was grinding coffee beans.  She engaged us excellently, telling us all kinds of things about living and working at the Coffeehouse.
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Finally it was time to leave, as the sun was setting and the candles began to glow in the windows. All weekend I kept running into people who'd say interesting things like:  I saw you at the Tucker House! Weren't you talking to Lafayette? I saw you and your family at the home tour last year!  I read your blog! They were all making me laugh! Basically everyone travels from far and wide just to attend CW Grand Illumination, despite how cold it is.  At one point, I was in a very long line for the ladies' room at the museum. Want to know what the talk was?  Well this lady in front of me loudly exclaimed so all of us could hear her, that she was so cold, she could go for a day in Aruba with a drink with a little umbrella on top. That started warming all the ladies to consenting chatter. After a pause  they all (including the first lady) practically said in unison, "Naaawww, we'd rather be cold in Colonial Williamsburg during Grand Illumination! There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world!"  I was listening the entire time and smilling to myself.  I kept hearing this line of talk over and over throughout the weekend!  Grand Illumination is definitely one of Colonial Williamsburg's biggest events, which has become a holiday tradition to many from far and wide.