Saturday, September 29, 2012

Accelerating with Physics I

My son is using Apologia's Physics I course which contains several labs using common household items to teach scientific concepts.
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He measured the different rates of acceleration which changed when he changed the slope of the board.

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Sometimes I feel like science is taking over the kitchen, especially when I need to make lunch.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

My Girlhood Ponderings...House Numbers...and Napoleon

The other night we were taking a walk in the neighborhood when a conversation about house numbers transpired. My husband wanted to know how I tell someone our house number and I was surprised that he does it completely differently from me. That triggered a memory from my childhood when I used to deeply ponder none other than house numbers! (Doesn't everyone?)I forgot all about it until the walk the other night. However as a child, I noticed that all the houses on one side of the street were evenly numbered whereas the other side of the street had odd numbers. I thought it was a clever idea and always wondered who was responsible for that. Thinking I would never discover an answer as obscure as that, I was recently surprised while reading my Napoleon Bonaparte book. Napoleon, when he became consul, wanted the buildings on the streets renumbered because of some difficulties with the present system. His advisors suggested numbering all along one side of the street and then up the other side. Napoleon's idea was to put odd numbers on one side of the street and evens on the other. Guess whose idea stuck? I had no idea how much I admired Napoleon when I was a little girl!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Cabinetmaker and Harpsichord Making

Sunday morning my son and I got to visit with the Colonial Williamsburg Cabinetmaker who cheerfully greeted us, as always. Even though we only get to see him about once a year, he always remembers us. We love that because he's a favorite! He told us about his newest project, a lady's traveling box. He showed us an original rendering of the inside details and I was absolutely charmed to learn that it had a lacemaking compartment for storing all the tools and accessories for lace making! That is my kind of traveling box! He showed us how he was busy marking out different aspects on a piece of wood.

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In the next room this cabinetmaker (in blue waistcoat) showed us the dovetail joints and hidden dovetail joints, all of which we were familiar with because my husband uses them when he makes furniture. Dovetail joints are the mark of quality craftsmanship, resulting in a sturdy drawer that will not soon fall apart. Then the cabinetmakers rotated and we got to talk to the one in the reddish brown waistcoat who showed us all kinds of things.

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Here is the harpsichord in progress...

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...and the keys for the harpsichord. The cabinetmaker showed us the ingenius method used to make sure each one goes into the right spot. We had a great discussion on research to discover trade techniques of the past.

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Then everyone rotated positions again and we got to talk to a fourth cabinetmaker!

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There is always so much to learn, much to see and many hands-on experiences!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

1676 Burning of Jamestowne

Saturday my son and I drove down to Historic Jamestowne to see the interpretative program about Bacon's Rebellion of 1676. We had seen the first half of the program last year, but the actual burning of Jamestown was canceled due to rain. We were hoping to witness the evening program this year.

Unfortunately we had arrived a bit late, while Governor Berkeley was discoursing about the rebellion inside the church. We learned that Governor Berkeley had great character, was a man of the people, yet he lost his position because of a young upstart with a poor reputation, Nathaniel Bacon. Governor Berkeley had been working on forming alliances, some as old as fifty years old, with the Indians. While in the process of trying to form new alliances, some Indians, who were not allied with the colonists, attacked the settlers. In rebuttal, the colonists attacked the Indians without any regard as to who were allied with them or not. Of course this unraveled all of the Governor's peace keeping attempts with the Indians, so he had to build forts to protect the colonists, which created an exhorbitantly heavy tax burden on the colonists, who were in debt under the mercantile system with England. Thus Bacon led the colonists in rebellion over taxation. Many historians have summarized these events as a power struggle between two prideful men. Of course each side is passionate about his point of view. In this scene, the governor is talking to us about the rebellion which occured the year before. Bacon had died during the rebellion, effectively ending it. We were surprised to discover that some of the people in attendance were descendants of men who were involved in the rebellion.
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We spent the rest of the day at Jamestowne, a national park. Rare is the opportunity for guests to stay through the evening in this park, overlooking the vast James River. The interpreters had told us that the sunset would be beautiful. Near the water's edge is a cafe where we shared a delicious sandwich served by Carrot Tree Cafe. That was better than sandwiches I get most places. We ate dinner on the patio where we could watch the sun set over the water.

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After dinner, we had over an hour for the program. I suggested we walk around the old town. We walked past the graves in front of the church...

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Memories of how the soldiers of the original fort had to keep watch for Spaniards and Indians.

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Eventually Jamestown became a successful colony, a port for all the tobacco that was grown for England. For many years it was the only allowed port in Virginia. Here are the ruins of the town that built up around the port.

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Being a peaceful evening, we watched five deer graze. Some are out of range of this frame...

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One eagle soared very close over our heads...then further up in the sky...

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Ruins of the grandest of the 17th century homes...

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At dusk the program began. As we listened to the speaker, guards surrounded us from behind. Uh oh. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

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Thomas Matthew narrated the story of the rebellion which occurred the year before.

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A guard stood nearby...

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Because Mr. Matthew hadn't seen all of the beginning events, a woman who overheard volunteered her services to tell the story from her perspective.

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She was hilarious! She had her chicken with her who tried to escape twice! After much proclamation that she knew what happened, she summed it up by exclaiming, "It was awful!" Mr. Matthew was exasperated. "That's all you can say about it?" She finally went into further detail, with the help of her chicken who stole the show! It was nice to have a lighthearted version of the story because the story only became heavier as we went on.

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We were led from scene to scene, walking in the dark with the aid of burning, crackling cressets and Mr. Matthew's lone candle in the tin lantern. After he told more of the story at the next scene, a slave came to tell his version, of how he helped in the rebellion but for naught.

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Again we moved to another scene, again the story resumed, of men who chose sides. Some on the governor's side and others on the side of Bacon.

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Admist drum beats at various points in the reenactment the men surrounding us chanted to get their way...later firing their muskets into the air in unison.

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The burning of the town destroyed the buildings...

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This grand lady had the finest house in town. The burning of the town was done by Bacon and his men, which included her husband. Her own husband set fire to their fine home, to prove their loyalty. In the end Bacon died, the rebellion died, and his supporters died. Her husband was hung. Bitterly she proclaimed revenge.

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After the program Mr. Matthew led us to the center of the field, where we could turn around. We were surrounded by roaring, burning cressets, which represented the fires that burned down the town. He blew out the candle in the lantern, toppling it over, representing the fears that Jamestowne would likewise be forever burned out and toppled over.

Then we were invited in to the Visitor Center where we could meet the dramatic characters.

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We had a great time talking, asking questions, learning lots more. Mr. Matthew insisted we take a picture of this pose with the chicken who stole the show.

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I asked Mr. Matthews (who was then out of character) if that was indeed the end of the town. He said no, it had been rebuilt. The lady with the chicken said that the original foundations, from the burning of Jamestowne are under the ground, and the more recent ruins are from the rebuilding of the town. The capital of Virginia moved from Jamestowne to Williamsburg in 1699.

From now on when I read or remember Bacon's Rebellion, I will think of it in far more dramatic terms than I ever did before.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Regency Short Stays

I have recently completed some Regency Short Stays. I was in a bit of a quandry as to which types of Regency stays to make for my gown. I'm a huge fan of the Regency and Edwardian costumes from Wearing History so when she recommended the Sense and Sensibility Short Stays pattern, I decided to try it myself. (Someone else kindly made another recommendation to me a few months ago but I can't find it now.)

Here are the completed stays, which are completely machine sewn except for the eyelets which are handsewn. Although there were no sewing machines in this time period, the economy of my time was of the essence. Also hand sewing through three thicknesses of thick fabric did not at all appeal to me. No one will ever see this, apart from these photographs. Thus sewing machine usage sounded good to me! I used 100% thick cotton fabric, which was purchased a few years ago so I don't remember the exact name of it. I started sewing in the evening and in the light the offwhite fabric looked as though it would blend best with an ecru thread. It wasn't until later in daylight I realized white thread would have blended better. =( Also the pink mark is from the chalk pencil that has not yet rubbed off.
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 Here is the finished product. There are two bows, one to lace shut in the front and another for the bottom casing. I am going to look for a thinner cording...

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My husband kept asking questions about this piece. He started asking me about the history of stays and corsets, asking when the bra finally made its appearance. When he saw the final product he was quite impressed, saying it looked professional. That was nice of him to say but in my chagrin all I can see are the mistakes.

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There were lots of options to develop the support from boning to cording to quilting. I decided to quilt this. I use all boning with 18th century stays so I liked the idea of trying something different. Wearing History showcases how she corded her Regency Short Stays, so I decided to try quilting. Besides I like to quilt and thought I'd experiment. I spent a great deal of time researching Regency short stays and looked for quilted ones but couldn't find much of anything, so I had to go with my gut. First I tried traditional 1/4" seams but that wasn't dense enough. There is a style of quilting that is much denser than that, so I decided to replicate that on the machine. I tried handquilting but that was a nightmare. I machine quilted these, about 1/8" apart, in three areas. I sewed about 5 seam lines next to the side seam on the front. Then I created an angle from the base of the shoulder strap to the bottom of the bodice, meeting about midway under the strap, completing five seams at this angle. Finally I made four seam lines parallel to the bottom of the stays, meeting from the angled edge to the boning section next to the eyelets. I had a difficult time showcasing the quilting, white thread on white fabric, so by propping the stays up seemed to give me the best angle for a photograph.

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I was surprised at the size pattern I ended up using for my stays. Thankfully the full range of sizes are included in the pattern. I cut my pattern down to size 12, based on my bust measurement. After making the mock up I was surprised that was too laarge. I took in at the side seams all I needed to, by pinning, then compared that to the pattern. In the end I used a size 6. I think I've read in other places that this pattern tends to run large, so definitely make a mock up first. I've read that it's not supposed to have a perfect fit, but have a bit of gap in the front.

I'm not sure which part of my costume I'll make next.

Summer Garden and Nature Shots 2012

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

The French Revolution, Napoleon, and the Scarlet Pimpernel

I have been reading a lot about the French Revolution over the past several months. The more I read, the more difficult a time I have in wrapping my mind around it. The Reign of Terror aptly describes the out of control society that sought freedom. Perhaps through them, we learn that we need restraint in order to have freedom.

I've also been reading about Napoleon, using Vincent Cronin's book based on much research. What do you think was Napoleon's reaction to the French Revolution? These days of terror were during his early years in France's military.

"Napoleon was deeply upset...he was shooting down his fellow Frenchmen on behalf of a terrorist Government. He was so upset that he fell ill...he wrote down his inner conflict in the form of a dialogue entitled Le Souper de Beaucaire." (Cronin, p71)

"Sickened by civil war and purges, Napoleon wrote to the War Office asking to be posted to the Army of the Rhine. It was France's enemies he wanted to fight, not Frenchmen..." (p72)

While studying the French Revolution, I dug out a DVD I had purchased recently at the used bookstore. For a couple of dollars I decided to see what the Scarlet Pimpernel was about. I've heard of him but have never seen or read anything about him. This movie was great! It takes the side of the Royalists during the dark days of terror under the rule of 12, headed by the dreaded Robispierre. Even in the movie he looked dreadfully of death and sounded cooly of the same. Eerily he evoked caution and dread, creating great drama and suspense. On the other hand, the delightful Pimpernel brought light and hope and rescue to many.

Apparently this is a series and this DVD is from book 3, about the Dauphin. While watching it I assumed the story was pure fiction, apart from the details of the terror. Later in the week as I was preparing to discuss Napoleon, I saw a mention of King Louis XVI's son. What did happen to his son? All I could recall from my reading was that he had been in prison with his mother, but what happened after she was guillotined? A few pages later in the book mentioned the previous king's brother as the next heir. I don't think any of the pages I've read anywhere ever specifically mentioned what happened to the young Dauphin. I did a bit more diggning and discovered that the movie is actually as accurate as it can be in known detail, then a bit fanciful in the unknown parts, which goes greatly in providing hope in the darkness of the terror.

Apparently we do know that after his mother's death, the Dauphin was taken to an orphanage where he was brainwashed to forget who he was. This was chillingly shown in the movie. Now historians believe that the Dauphin died of tuberculosis and was buried in a common grave. A doctor noticed and took out his heart, which I read was a common custom for later burial. The heart was passed to the Spanish crown, related to the French royal family. Eventually the heart was recovered in recent years and DNA testing asserts that this was the heart of the Dauphin.

In the inbetween years of all this research, a rumor arose that the Dauphin had escaped and a look alike took his place in the orphanage, who later died. Like Anastasia and her little brother Alexei whose bodies cannot be found with the rest of their exectured families from the Bolshevik Revolution, rumors developed that they escaped. Many over the years have claimed to be one of these royal people who had mysteriously disappeared. Hence the drama in The Scarlet Pimpernel.

I do not recommend this movie for the very young, due to the violent manner of the French Revolution. However I do highly recommend it for an older, more mature audience.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Napoleon and the French Revolution

I've also been reading about Napoleon, using Vincent Cronin's book based on much research. What do you think was Napoleon's reaction to the French Revolution? These days of terror were during his early years in France's military.


"Napoleon was deeply upset...he was shooting down his fellow Frenchmen on behalf of a terrorist Government. He was so upset that he fell ill...he wrote down his inner conflict in the form of a dialogue entitled Le Souper de Beaucaire." (Cronin, p71)


"Sickened by civil war and purges, Napoleon wrote to the War Office asking to be posted to the Army of the Rhine. It was France's enemies he wanted to fight, not Frenchmen..." (p72)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Strasburg Train Ride

Last month, before school started, we visited Amish Country in Pennsylvania for the weekend. I've blogged a bit about it then became distracted. After our bike ride at Valley Forge, we drove to Strasburg to ride the train. We had done this last year and my husband insisted on this one activity.

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The Good Humor Man! If we hadn't had ice cream at Valley Forge and if we didn't have one of the last trains to catch for the day, I'd have dragged my family to purchase ice cream from him! I've never met him before! I didn't dare suggest it because my husband was firm that we were boarding this train, which was leaving in any minute.

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Everyone is in costume!

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Amish farms...

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Amish buggy...

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Back at the station, the engine moves to the new front of the train for the next ride out.

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Stay tuned for 1915!