Tuesday, May 31, 2011

18th Century Hat Trimmed in Blue Floral and Green Bow

Here's a hat I forgot to share from 2011, with part II tomoroww...of how I refashioned it.

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Late one Friday night last March, while in the hotel room, I quickly trimmed this hat for my first venture into Colonial Williamsburg in costume, to meet with my friends fromA Fashionable Frolick!

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As much as I like this hat now, I've envisioned a few additions. Of course, deconstructing and reconstructing is an 18th century period accurate thing to do! Therefore I thought I'd share the progress of alterations and different looks from one hat!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Just as Good as BlueBell

The kids and I were at the Renaissance Faire Saturday, where summer had descended with heat and humidty. I saw a vendor selling ice cream, which sounded refreshing. I walked up and asked if they had anything good. He thought that was a bit odd, as he named their different ice creams which weren't impressing me, despite the heat. I told him, "I'm from Texas," but he didn't get it. After perusing the dismal choices, we decided to endure the heat without ice cream. An hour later we returned, trying to be openminded. Another guy was there and couldn't understand my ice cream pickiness. I told him we used to live in Texas, which has the best ice cream ever. Everything else pales in comparison. The guy just shrugged his shoulders and aked, "What's the difference? It all comes from a cow." I told him the difference is in the cow. Bluebell icecream comes from cows in Brenham, Texas (near the Piney Woods of Eastern Texas) where the cows think it's heaven. Guy #1 liked that but guy #2 thought I was nuts.

Today the kids and I talked my husband into making hand crank ice cream. He was reluctant at first. Originally he wanted to avoid crowds for Memorial Day. He wanted me to cook. I had a Texas smoked Brisket planned. What could be better than hand crank ice cream? The kids' eyes were getting big and my husband said, "No! it would be easier to just buy ice cream." We wore him down. We reminded him that we can make better ice cream than what Virginia stores sell. As we debated which flavor to make, my son asked for mint chocolate chip. That was a favorite from Bluebell. We have purchased that flavor more than once in Virginia, but the taste is always flat. My husband and kids decided we had to have mint chocolate chip, for which I had no recipe.

I don't have a large ice cream recipe collection. Making homemade ice cream that tastes as good as Bluebell is a challenge. After all, if it only tastes like Virginia store-bought, what's the point of hand cranking it? The pressure was on. I have found a few good recipes, but I have also had a few duds. I have never tried to make my one version. I found one of my winning recipes, altered the ingredients, and gave it a taste test before the cranking. As I added the ingredients, I accidentally dribbled into the mix as much mint extract as I had meant to put in. It got double the extract. My husband saw me. Oops. Too much extract is not a good thing. The resulting flavor is bitter and overpowering. Oh dear. I dipped a clean spoon in to taste, and it was not ruined. In fact, I pondered whether to add more. My husband and said it was good for him. Well, okay. I hoped it would be enough. At this point it tasted no better than Virginia mint chocolate chip. (Mind you, I love Virginia. They have the best scenery, the best history, the best many things, but they seriously need help with ice cream.)

After dinner we worked together to hand crank the ice cream. We have an old fashioned hand crank ice cream maker, that I'm sure the Brenham cows would approve of. Bluebell icecream began their history as hand cranked at the turn of the 20th century. "After they ate all they could, they sold the rest" is a popular slogan. Bluebell commercials are some of the most memorable.

After the cranking, we dipped into it with out spoons, and everyone proclaimed that it was just as good as Bluebell! In fact, all my husband said all night was, "Wow! That's great ice cream! Just like Bluebell!"

I tried to take pictures, but my camera battery is dead. I forgot to recharge it. Here are photos of hand cranking our last Memorial Day in Texas.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Renaissance Faire

Saturday we attended our first ever Renaissance Faire, which overall, was a disappointment and not something we are looking forward to doing again. However we did find some fun things to do, all of which I have showcased here.

As we stood in line for tickets, a costumed man saw my camera on my shoulder and asked if it was a cannon. Well, "No," I simply replied. He was so relieved he wasn't going to be shot by it. Thus began our day of experiencing puns, which is definitely a bit of humor I enjoy...as long as it doesn't get bawdy. That was about as tame as we received in humor.

After passing several booths, we were attracted by the cooking! I was impressed! They were preparing extremely clean food on extremely clean surfaces in as period accurate a manner as possible.
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Behind the cooks, were the military demonstrations. This was military history weekend, which I was glad of. It turned out to be some of the best stuff we did. When I saw this, I got excited and asked my son if those were pikes. He said they were! We have read about these pike formations so much in books and seen them in movies, that it was impressive to see them in person.
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There were alpacas to pet.
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Those long necks were fun to watch intertwine with each other.
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I was definitely analyzing costumes while I was there. I tried to get pictures of the better ones. This is very similar to the one I made for my Elizabethan gown, though my skirt was more full and more layered with the petticoat.
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Then we found a weaponry booth! My son got to try on the chain mail. The costumed man gave them to me to hold. They are heavy, but he said it isn't so bad when wearing it, because the weight is distrubuted.
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Then my son analyzed the rest of the weaponry. He surprised the man since he already knew a lot about each of them. My daughter and I know more than he would have expected to.
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Next I saw the horses! Oh this must be the jousting tournament I had read about on the web site!
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Well, no jousting, at least not like what we've read about it in books of yore. Instead these two competed in games of hooking rings with their spears, piercing apples, and grabbing tankards of refreshment while on a running horse. It was still a demonstration of excellent horsemanship.

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Deciding to be period accurate and make the most of the day, we got turkey legs for lunch from one of the vendors. I have to say that all of the vendors were clean, in costume and gave us good "in the period" moments. They tukey legs were delicious, though my daughter and I were trying in vain to eat them in a lady-like way. Lamentably I told her we may have to be like the
Romansbawdy-type folk who were surrounding us that day. This was not quite the setting for genteel, refined society! Where were the knights, lords and ladies? I did meet a few chivalrous gents.

Encouraged to eat our lunch at a performance, we ate at a Shakespeare...unscripted... ahem...horribly bawdy performance. I know Shakespeare gets bawdy but this was bad. We sort of ignored the acts until the best scene towards the end. One of the actors left so that we could scheme in secrecy, as we talked softly of our plans. We were asked to name one character from a Shakespeare play. Someone suggested Mark Antony! Hey, we just saw him in a couple of movies, Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in fact (with Marlon Brando as Mark Antony) and Cleopatra (with Richard Burton as Mark Antony!) How timely is this? We were cued to yell to call the actor back. He took the stage for his press conference, not knowing who in the world who he was! He had to pretend he knew who he was while taking questions from the other actors who were interspersed among the audience, acting as mid-16th century reporters. The reporters were to ask leading questions to help him guess who he was. The reporters were hilarious! This guy said he was from the Wooded Mushroom Gazette (or something like that.)
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I forget his first question, but as I recall I think a clever sort could have heard rumblings from a Roman Senate...but "Mark Antony" had to make up a good general answer since he was still in the dark. Then Juliette from the Romeo Times (or something along those lines) asked something obvious like, "Did you lend your ears?", but that was a bit vague for "Mark Antony." Hasn't he read the script? The questions went on a and on and I thought the clues were great! At some point he finally figured out Julius Caesar, but that was the play, not his character. Finally the Wooded Mushroom guy asked, "Did your friend 'Tony get a 'Mark' on your face?" and he emphasized "mark" by pushing his finger on his forehead. That really threw "Mark Antony for a loop." I forget how he finally figured out who he was, but he did. The kids and I think this is a great game that we will play! (After this picture was taken, of "Mark Antony" thinking, my camera battery died. My son lent me his camera, which is broken. So the rest of the pictures will have a hazy look in the center.)

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St. George and the Dragon appealed to me, so we returned to the military section, where they were acting out the real story. Here are the pikes in action...
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To the left are the guests and to the right were the costumed guys, and behind them was a man carrying a flag. One of the costumed guys walked by all the other costumed guys, knocking their pikes with his and with each hit said, "Dead, dead, dead, dead...and that is the true story of St. George and the Dragon." Well, we got to see the end. Understandably, we couldn't be everywhere at once.

It was hot, there wasn't anything at all that appealed to us to do for a while, so we found a tent where we found seats and listened to great period music!
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When he left, my son wanted to return to the military area. While my son waited for a sword moment, we saw a guy on stilts.
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Then my son got to whack a real sword at a dummy's strategic spots.
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Then we looked at the impressive collection of weaponry.
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Up close to armour...

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Pike demonstration...

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Demonstration of setting the base of the pike against the foot...

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It started to rain, so we escaped to the weaver's tent to see the displays.
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After the rain, I saw this couple, whom I thought had some of the most period accurate costumes of the day. I know I've seen these types of garments in our history books. I think they are Celts from England?
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Then my son suggested the maypole. I was thrilled when we were offered the opportunity to participate in the Maypole Dance! I love to dance, though I rarely have the opportunity. I seized the moment. My son did not want to do this, but my daughter did. My son took pictures. Oh Pam...there are pictures of me...dancing!

This was extremely well orchestrated. We counted off by twos. I was a one (I'm to the right, in the blue/green) and my daughter was a two (to the left, in the orange/pink). The ones were told to raise their right hand, then hold it to the outside of the circle. Then the twos were told to raise their left hand, and hold it to the outside of the circle. The ones would weave in and out counter-clockwise while the twos would weave out and in clockwise.
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Counter-clockwise...
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Clockwise...
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We were to keep the ribbon taught.
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This was difficult as we went inside another person coming towards us, so we were instructed to take up the slack with the other hand...
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How are we doing?
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My daughter and I going in and out...
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After stopping us to reverse and unwrap the pole, they let those of us who wanted to stay, and the others gave their ribbon to a new participant. I wanted to stay whereas my daughter decided to hand her ribbon over to my son, who now wanted to do it. My daughter took pictures on my son's camera. My son asked me to switch ribbons with him, since I had white and he had pink! After switching, we numbered off. This time my son went counter-clockwise and I went clockwise, though this photo shows the opposite. This must be the unwrapping.
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Then we returned to the jousting tournament...but there was still no jousting, even though the earl had told us there would be jousting in the afternoon. Instead they had the same games as in the morning, except this time the riders wore armour and the horses were wearing more costume. That surprised me, since it was hotter in the afternoon.
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Wonder what the horses think of their costumes?
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We had a good day, but we decided not to return because it was too bawdy in an overly crude way for us. Also few of the costumed people taught any history at all, and some of those who did were wrong! Many times my kids tried to ask questions but few entertained them. Also some of the events wanted us to pay, like the archery. That was the one thing we were most looking forward to. I had gotten an archery badge as a Girl Scout, working daily in summer camp with a long bow. I wanted to try again and I thought it would be good for the kids. However we had to pay more, on top of the admission we already paid, just to try some shooting. Then we had to pay more for for a fifteen minute lesson. They did offer a free tournament, but who wants to sign up for a tournament to make fools of themselves? That's all backwards. We came here to learn. Then the Shakespeare group and a magician passed hats around to collect donations for their crude bawdy performances. I don't pay for bawdy stuff. I paid for admission and food, which were legitimate expenses that were reasonably priced, but that was aIready a lot of money that I have to budget for. I greatly appreciate everyone else who let us look at weaponry, watch the horses, listen to music and dance the Maypole without charging extra! It's amazing that the best programs seemed to be about teaching and didn't charge extra, whereas the poor performances (some of which were overly bawdy) expected donations. Also we got to pet and feed the sweet alpacas for free, but the booth next door charged to pet their animals. My thanks to the alapaca lady who was great!

As homeschoolers we look for learning opportunities that abound around here. Sadly we didn't get much inspiration for our Renaissance/Elizabethan homeschool history presentation that we'll do next year. But at least we can say we've been to the Faire, check it off the list, and travel to other adventures. If you are a homeschooler, this event seems to be more about drinking and walking around in scanty costumes than it is about history. In Texas I had heard of a Faire that has separate admission days for homeschoolers, to focus on teaching and lighten up on the bawdy crude stuff. If I find one like that sometime, we might try it. It would be fun to go in period accurate costume, which we shall have next year. My kids outgrew their old costumes. The old Renaissance/Elizabethan costumes (seen at the link above) were my first ever attempt at costumes of this magnitude. I know I can do far better now. I walked around scrutinizing everyone elses and I'm ready to showcase what I can do!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Red Flowered Gown

A new to me hat...
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A saque back gown, from the inside out. Funny, I'm thinking of ordering this color silk for a saque back gown for myself. My kids voted that would be the best color for me.
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And a new floral gown, red flowers on white linen. It is beautiful. We got so busy talking, that I forget to take close-up shots. However you can see more pictures on their facebook page.
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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Christiana Campbell's Tavern

When we arrived at the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center last Friday, we saw Christiana Campbell, who remembered my daughter and I from our sewing classes at the Costume Design Center. One thing led to another so that I told her how much I had wanted to eat there for my birthday last year, but they were booked. Being Prelude to Victory weekend, all the taverns were booked. Because of an evening event my husband wanted to attend, we ate at a nearby offsite restaurant which was so full that they put us in a sportsbar. =( Well all of that put an idea into my husband's head that we just had to eat at her tavern that night. So we did! My husband actually got reservations this time!

When we arrived, Christiana Campbell met us at the door and welcomed us, as did the hostesses. We were seated and perused the menu. We usually share plates at the taverns. The guys usually get he-man meat. This time my son wanted to share with me, so my husband shared with my daughter. I wanted the Boiled Seafood Platter, which my son agreed to. I was surprised when my husband and daughter decided to share a plate of it too.

Then Molly came over to visit! She is Christiana Campbell's daughter, whom I also met at the CDC classes. She stayed in character and was so excited to see us, saying that Mammaw had told her we were there but it took a minute for her to fully recognize us. We had a great little visit then she went upstairs to interpret, while her mother interpreted on the main floor where we were.
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Christiana Campbell shared her story and part in the revolution, told tidbits of George Washington who enjoyed the seafood there (they DO have great seafood which is why I like to set aside a bit of the budget to eat there!) and all the while acknowledged us, giving my son a wink!
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Then she was off to interpret in some of the other rooms, when the violinist came to share his story and play a little music. After a song or two he asked for requests and I asked my son what a good song would be. Since he practices his fife all the time, he's the most up on 18th century music. He requested "The Rose Tree" which was great! I recognized it too!

Another table jokingly requested a modern fiddling song, which I forget the name of now. But that only gave the violinist opportunity to tell us that there was an 18th century version of that song, and gave a great mini-history lesson on how many popular songs go way back and are simply modernized to the times. (This idea comes out in "Mr. Holland's Opus", too.) Then he played a local 18th century version of the tune. As he played, he made the sound of bagpipes on his violin which was quite impressive!
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During our dinner, Molly came back for a bit more of a fun visit. We all thoroughly enjoyed our dinner. As wonderful as the salmon was (and I don't normally enjoy fish), as wonderful as the crabcake topping was, as wonderful as the scallops were, I could have dined solely on the boiled shrimp. I'm always trying to work it out to set aside some of the budget to splurge on seafood, because it should be the best here on the East Coast, right? Whenever we travel, I try to set aside some of the budget to have some regional tastes. I've only had seafood at a few places here on the East Coast, but the best is always at Christiana Campbell's Tavern. Some places sadly try to pass off frozen tv dinner type seafood. Many places cook fresh seafood, but it arrives at the table all dried out and rather miniscule. At Christiana Campbell's Tavern, the seafood arrives moist and plump and well seasoned.

After dinner, I told Christiana Campbell all that. We both agreed that the boiled shrimp was the best part of the entire seafood plate. She told me she had just done an interview for a news station in my area, Washington DC, and they wanted her to eat the shrimp, which of course she thoroughly enjoyed! I've been looking for an on-line clip of that interview but I can't find it.

That led me to tell her that a few years ago I had a tea magazine with an interview with her and she knew immediately what I meant. I told her my daughter used her tea time information for part of our history presentation on the American Revolution.

Then Molly came by again so I asked for their picture together, which they did pose for. But they wanted to pose with the kids.
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We had some time before we went to the Drummer's Call event at the Kimball Theater, so we decided to leisurely walk through town. As we walked by Shield's Tavern, a guitarist was playing so we stopped to listen. After he played a bit, he started talking to us, noticed my son's fife case, asked what was in there (which I thought was hilarious) and my son actually produced a fife! The guitarist asked for my son to play. My son got really nervous so I explained, saying that he was self-taught.
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The guitarist still encouraged him to play. So my son played "Chester" and the guitarist sang along!
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