Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Busy Birthday for my Husband

Today was my husband's birthday. He assumed we wouldn't do anything for it, since he had to work and my daughter had to be at college for class during dinner. Therefore I suggested we all eat out after church last Sunday to make up for it. He chose Outback to get a steak. They gave him a choice of wood fire or spice, one or the other, but not both. ???? In San Antonio we used to highly enjoy Texas Land and Cattle where they make the best steak I've ever eaten out...with spice and cooked over a woodfire! Outback's woodfire steak has little taste and the seasoned one (with 7 spices) has hardly any taste at all. We've had steak at a few other places in Virginia with no better result. When Virginia can't do as the Texans, I cook my own. I decided to surprise my husband.

I pretended that I wasn't going to do anything extra. He knew how busy I was, because I'd be gone all morning driving my daughter to classes, so he assured me that he didn't expect my famous carrot cake. I baked the carrot cake this afternoon. The cake is usually foolproof but for some reason it crumbled all over the place when I tried to pop it out of the pan. I had just finished frosting it when he walked in to find me covered in crumbs and frosting. My cakes don't look good but they taste good! He told me he didn't care if it looks good or not. He knew it would taste great!

For dinner we grilled steak, which was seasoned with 4 spices and was mighty tasty! I prepared a blue cheese/butter topping for the steak that is my husband's favorite.

I made his favorite fully loaded baked potatoes.

I made his favorite spinach salad with kalamata olives, goat cheese and red wine vinaigrette.

He was a happy man after dinner and dessert.

My son said my steak was much better than Outback!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Madison and Napoleon

Last week I was catching my daughter up on all the fun her brother and I had in Colonial Williamsburg a couple of week ago. She was asking about Madison and I told her that someone asked him during "Evening with the Presidents," about the parties his wife threw in Washington DC. He laughed and said, "Oh yes, those are called squeezes because so many people attend that you have to squeeze through the crowd." My daughter laughed and exclaimed, "I guess I'm not the first one to use that word!" When she was a toddler, whenever there was in a tight spot, she called it a squeezy spot. She used that word all the time and we still laugh and use it today!


My husband does not like books, but once in a while he can be inspired to work his way laboriously through one. His boss lent him a book that he is quite excited to read. The other night while I was cooking dinner, my husband started reading it and he exclaimed, "Napoleon!? Napoleon is in this book!" Seriously, Napoleon is on one of the first pages of the book, and has a page all to himself. It's not a chapter. It's not a preface. Before those sections, right after the title page, it says:
"Go sir, gallop. And don't forget that the world was made in six days. You can ask me for anything you like, except time." -Napoleon Bonaparte

Monday, February 25, 2013

Colonial Costume Vignettes in Fluffy Snow

While my son and I were visiting Colonial Williamsburg for President's Day weekend events, snow began to descend enmasse in prodigiously heavy flakes. Since we were between programs, we decided to take pictures and have a little fun. The temperature was above freezing so none of the snow stuck but we certainly got wet while taking the pictures. I was actually warm enough to not need my cloak's waistcoat. Now I wish I had thought to button it up anyway for a nicer look. I certainly made use of the waistcoat on Sunday though, which was much colder and prodigiously windy. The windchill had to be below freezing. Yet Saturday was fun and enjoyable fluffy snow.
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Many of the guests decided to take pictures of us too and told us to hold our poses. Then we quickly walked up Duke of Gloucester Street to the museum so we could see "Wolf by the Ear." As we neared Bruton Parish Church, a photographer from the Virginia Gazette took a picture of us, which you can see here. It's photo #7.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Happy Birthday to George Washington

One thing I like about my birthday each year is that it tends to be dragged out over several days. That's kind of fun, but I think George Washington has me beat. He was born, according to the Julian calendar, on February 11, 1731. Several years later, in 1752, Great Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar which advanced Washington's birthday to February 22, 1732. In America we celebrate all the presidents' birthdays, but remember most notably Washington and Lincoln, on the third Monday in February.

Due to a busy day I threw together a quick and easy dinner that I think George Washington would have enjoyed: fried chicken, spoon bread topped with butter and honey with honeycomb, sallat with kumquats, peanut soup (my version, not Virginia's version-hope he doesn't mind), and lemon shrub. (For recipes use the CW tavern cookbook.)

As a treat for my husband and daughter, who could not come to CW last weekend, I picked up some treats at Tarpleys, like peanuts from Chowning's Tavern, because my husband likes that. He also likes peanut soup. I don't...hence my own recipe. (gasp) I also got an experiment, a bottle of premade lemon shrub which needs only to be added to different suggested offerings to be deemed colonial. When I picked it up I had a memory that this is vinegar based. I checked the ingredient list. Um, y-e-s...vinegar. (insert sourpuss face) Should I or shouldn't I? After much deliberation, I finally bought it. When I opened the bottle tonight and got a whiff of the vinegar, I decided not to add it to the ice water for the colonial refreshing drink of the lazy days of summer that it was famed for...besides it was sleeting outdoors...I'm trying to cozy up! I decided to use the lemon vinegar concoction with the olive oil for the salad dressing, since all of my dressings have vinegar in them. Then I decided to put the bottle on the table for brave souls who would like to add lemon shrub concentrate to their ice water.

I set about plating the meal. With that done I licked my fingers I tasted lemon. Hmmm, not bad. That could only be the shrub, but I was still too scared to put any shrub in my water. However my son bravely poured some shrub into his water and liked it. He said it was subtle. My husband balked, tried it, and said it was vinegar water alright. My daughter, who loves fruit, liked the dressing well enough and was encouraged enough by her brother to try the shrub in her water. She took a sip. She swallowed. No comment. My husband asked her if she could taste it and she laughed and exclaimed, "Oh yea!" I'm not sure if that is good or bad. My son exclaimed that I am free to add shrub to my water whenever I want. I retorted with a laugh, "Yes, I could!" (I still haven't.)

We also laughed about dinnertime at the Washington's. I forget how we got on that, but Lady Washington will tell you that she was quite miffed when the general's dog, the one Lafayette sent over from France, stole the ham off the table.

Here is a great article on Washington's birthday. Celebrating Washington's birthday was popular even before Congress set aside a legal holiday in 1879. In the 19th century, a joint session of the House and Senate began a tradition of reading aloud President Washington's Farewell Address, which as of last year, 2012, was still observed. Did the House and Senate read it today? Did anyone listen? Did anyone learn anything? Was anyone there?????? At the previous link, there is a list of the senators who read aloud the Farewell Address each year. If they left a comment about the reading in a special book, their name is hyperlinked. " In 1956, Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey wrote that every American should study this memorable message. 'It gives one a renewed sense of pride in our republic,” he wrote. “It arouses the wholesome and creative emotions of patriotism and love of country.'”-quoted from the US Senate website at the previous link

Perhaps we should all take heed to read President Washington's Farewell Address and to read the remarks of the Senators who have commented on his wisdom in holding a nation together. In his message there is much wisdom for us today.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

President's Day Weekend 2013 at Colonial Williamsburg


Our first opportunity to meet the presidents was at the Capitol on Saturday morning. We had heard that there is a brand new James Madison and he was brilliant! Without a doubt, I could easily imagine Madison was actually standing in front of us, explaining his role in 1776, as a Burgess in this very room of the Capitol. He stressed that it was imperative that the Burgesses draft a Bill of Rights, the Virginia Declaration of Rights, before they wrote the Virginia Constitution. With great eloquence, depth of meaning and full understanding, he quietly and calmly put forth his arguments. (This led to my question for him by Sunday night.)

Then we went upstairs to meet with George Washington, who used the maps to connect his early years as surveyor in the West, to government and visions for America's future in the West. Settlements were "now beginning on the Mississippi." (Photo from 2012 in a different room.)
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Then we went downstairs to meet with Thomas Jefferson, who shared several bills he tried to put forth. He had a quiz. How many thought that his Bill for the Freedom for Religion was passed. I raised my hand because I've spoken with him about this before! I was right! Then he asked how many thought that his bill for slave owners to be able to emancipate their slaves as long as they had means to financially help them (I think that's how he put the financial part. Jefferson was firm on that final part because he wanted slaves to be freed but he knew they needed provisions for them to have roof, food, clothing, trade, etc to survive.) I raised my hand, certain this had to be the law that allowed Robert Carter III to become the Great Emancipator. (Read the book, The Great Emancipator.) He freed all of his slaves, over 500 of them! Yes! I was right! My son had raised his hand on that one too because he hears me tell this story all the time! The third one I couldn't hear, but I probably would have gotten it wrong. I wouldn't have been sure, because Jefferson's Bill for public education did not pass. Jefferson had no idea how freedom for religion and emancipation of slaves could succeed, if the people weren't educated. (Photo from 2012.)
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Sunday afternoon we met with Jefferson and Washington again (and hopefull next year with Madison as well), this time focusing on their roles as presidents. My son and I studied their terms in office in great detail last autumn, so we listened to their words with renewed focus and learned some new things.

First we met with President Thomas Jefferson. Unfortunately I don't remember the first point. However I was surprised to hear (or maybe not) about the Kentucky Resolves, which he wrote. The southern states used his arguments to justify seceding from the Union. In Jefferson's discourse, he said that although he fought for state's rights, he always strove for the preservation of the Union. He told us that the phrase about states' rights in the Kentucky Resolves is in the rough draft, not the final copy!

Our visit with Washington clarified a few things as well. Washington gave us a little quiz. He asked when the Articles of Confederation were written and my son and I called out 1776. He said we were close. It was 1777. When were they ratified? A few of us called out 1781. This is how Washington began his explanation on how the Articles of Confederation wouldn't work for our country. There were too many problems with it.

Someone asked about public education, because Washington advocates it. The questioner asked why the federal government should be actively involved in public education, when that should be a local matter. Washington looked at him in surprise, because he completely agreed. Neither he nor his peers ever thought that the federal government should become involved in public education. That is indeed a local matter.

Then my son asked a question I've been wondering myself, but always forget to ask. Knowing that Washington often mentions in his Farewell Address that America shouldn't be involved in foreign affairs, my son explained that we certainly understood that "as a young country we were not yet strong, but someday America would certainly be stronger. Wouldn't America then be able to stretch her wings?" Washington agreed. He explained that his advice was to avoid foreign entanglements. We should avoid becoming involved in those affairs that have no concern with us. Washington gave numerous examples of affairs to be involved in, as examplified in his time in office, and those which should be avoided, because they were "entangling," such as the hundreds of years of war between Britain and France.

I did a google search on this and found most posting in various venues that Washington never mentioned "foreign entanglements." Although true, that seems odd that everyone wants to focus on that detail, when it is indeed the meaning of portions of the Farewell Address. It's a lengthy heavy thinking document but it's a good stretch of the brain to figure it out. I did a bit of highlighting to help things along.
Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it - It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue ? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?
In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.
So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.
As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils. Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.
Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.
The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.
Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government. the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.
Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?
It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.
Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.
Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing (with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the government to support them) conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that, by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard. -Portions from Washington's Farewell Address, 1796.
Every President's Day Weekend at Colonial Williamsburg, there is a Salute to the Presidents featuring the firing of cannons and Fife and Drum music.
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Special attendants to the event are President's Washington, Jefferson and Madison who get their turn at firing cannons. I think this is President Madison, who's nearest the front of the photo, waiting his turn to fire.
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The speaker of ceremonies announces the states that are homes to US presidents, in alphabetical order. After announcing the state, the speaker names the presidents from that state. Then he names the song to honor that state of presidents that the Fife and Drum Corps will play.
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After that a cannon is fired! That is repeated for each state that was home to presidents.
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Look at that fire coming from the cannon!

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I think President Jefferson is firing to the right.

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President Washington is in the lighter bluish grey coat, firing. Look at that fire explode from the cannon!

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While at Colonial Williamsburg's President Day Weekend programming last weeken, we attended the most festive of all the events, Evening with the Presidents. In this program, the presidents who were influenced by Williamsburg attend a question and answer session as guest panelists, with a moderator overseeing the program. In this case, Presidents Washington, Jefferson and Madison, received the grand invitation and graced us with their presence, in a most period accurate way. The moderator announced that the evening's theme would be about the president getting along with the legislature, which brought much laughter from the audience. As each president was introduced, he gave a brief synopsis of his term as president. After each had their turn, the moderator asked each of them a rather difficult question about how they managed certain agendas in their presidency, with or without the legislature. In other words, they were put on the spot! It was interesting hearing their side of the story...which is often a deeper look into the facts, since these actor/historian/interpreters study primary source documents to fully prepare for their parts. If there is anything you ever wanted to know, these are the men to ask! They are the Founding Fathers who forged our nation!

After the difficult questions were answered, the moderator allowed the audience to ask questions of whomever they liked. After a few questions were answered, things got really interesting! I've been to this program for the last few years and this year we had double the surprises and excitement! Alas I am not permitted to tell you what happened. I have been sworn to secrecy on my blog, by one of the CW higher-ups. She made me feel part of the CW family a few years ago when she asked me to join in the secret, even though I had incredible pictures to share of my kids with ____________!!! I highly recommend that you visit CW for President's Day Weekend and attend "Evening with the Presidents." It is fun, informative and hilarious! However I will share a few tips to get the most out of the program. Do study the 1787 Constitutional Convention, and the events during the terms of the first 5 presidents. If you have a background in the history, you'll get more of the jokes! Also be sure to closely watch not only the president who is speaking, but also the other two presidents because they can have priceless facial expressions and gestures in reaction to the president who is speaking. Seeing them interact as real people with opinions brings to life the history they are teaching.

At the end of the program my son and I went forward to ask President Madison a question. As soon as Madison saw me, he smiled really big and reached out to shake my hand. (He did this to everyone.) I remembered meeting Dolly Madison at Montpelier a few summers ago and she shook everyone's hands. I think I remember reading somewhere that the Madisons shook everyone's hands.
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I asked him a question that tied in his comments from his Saturday morning program at the Capitol with the comments he made that evening. The day before he talked about his work as a burgess in 1776 where he helped to draft the Virginia Declaration of Rights. He emphasized the importance of writing the state's bill of rights before the state's Constitution. At the time I knew that was opposite of his opinion of the federal Constitution, in fact he did not see a need for a Bill of Rights. Since he was set in 1776, I decided to save my question for Sunday night, when I knew I could more freely discuss it with him. He was so wonderfully happy to discuss the differences. He didn't think the federal Constitution needed a Bill of Rights because those were guaranteed at the state levels. Each state had written their own copy of the Bill of Rights and that was to protect the citizens. The federal government should never have any power over that. The federal government's job was not to become involved or even intrusive in peoples' lives, but to only oversee those areas that the states needed help negotiating, for instance in interstate issues and international.

Then my son asked him a question about the War of 1812 and that led to me asking another question about Madison's overall role throughout his political career. I've always enjoyed talking to Presidents Washington and Jefferson, yet I've always yearned to ask President Madison deep questions. This actor/interpreter was recently hired and has been studying Madison intently for the last few months. This weekend was his grand debut and he is a perfect fit for bringing history to life in Colonial Williamsburg! From all of my readings about Madison, I truely felt as though he had come to life!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Capitol Tour with Burgess Mann Page

My son and I arrived in Colonial Williamsburg Friday afternoon to a beautifully warm and sunny day. After a picnic lunch in Merchant's Square, we perused the schedule of events. I hoped to do something to set the stage for Presidents' Day Weekend. Of the offerings that were left, I hoped that the Capitol tour, "Dialogues in Revolution," would meet my goal.

The tour began with a great Capitol tour guide, full of much information about the Burgesses and Governor's Council. It is a lot of complicated information that she explained with ease, which I'm not certain I could do myself. There was one part of the tour that especially caught my ear, and interestingly enough, would become a theme for me throughout the weekend, culminating in my question for President Madison on Sunday night.

Our tour guide showed us this pamphlet that is laying on the table, which contained the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was adopted June 12, 1776. You can read its contents with greater ease, here. If you read it, you will notice many similarities to the Declaration of Independence. After the Virginia Declaration of Rights was adopted, it was sent to Philadelphia and read by Thomas Jefferson, who then wrote the Declaration of Independence. The other states the Virginia Declaration of Rights as an example for their drafting their own governing documents.


However this is not the first that such language has been used. Have you read the English Bill of Rights of 1689? Are you surprised to read similar language? Why was the English Bill of Rights written? Throughout the 17th century, the English people split into dividing factions, many of whom thought various kings were tyrants. Charles I was beheaded in 1649. After Cromwell's rule, Charles II was restored to the throne, but his son, James II, appeared to be Catholic, which would mean religious persecution for the established Protestants. The Protestant Parliament, wanting to enforce a permanent solution, offered the crown to King James II's daughter, Mary and her husband, William of Orange. William and Mary were promised the English crown if they did one thing. They had to agree to the English Bill of Rights. They had to rule according to the direction of Parliament. The Glorious Revolution ended absolute monarchy in England. The beginnings of a Constitutional Monarchy were formed. At each place at this table in the 1776 capitol of Williamsburg, Virginia are copies of the Virginia Bill of Rights. It was here that Virginians decided to separate from England. Their vote was sent to Philadelphia to call for independence from England. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. It was formerly adopted and the United States of America was born. Overlooking the table is King William of the Glorious Revolution.

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The look on King William's face suggests a nudge to the Burgesses of Virginia, that if he had to sign an English Bill of Rights to become king, then they had to write a Virginia Bill of Rights before designing their state Constitution, when they separate from England. And that is exactly what the Burgesses did. They wrote the Virginia Bill of Rights which was passed June 12, 1776.

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Virginia led the way to independence. In 1619, America's first representative government was formed in Jamestown, Virginia. In June 1776 Virginia voted for independence from England and wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Then Virginian Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. John Adams said Jefferson had to be the one to draft the document, because "a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business."

King William's view of this chamber, looking over the heads of delegates, is an old map of America on the opposite wall. On this map, Virginia stretched as far to the northwest as Ohio, and as far west as the Pacific. Virginia was the oldest, largest, most populous and wealthiest of the English colonies. The Burgesses represented English colonists who had a tradition of human rights, hailing back to the English Bill of Rights, and long before that the Magna Charta. King William kept his position as king as long as he allowed for representative government. King George III took away representative government in his colonies. Before Americans could begin to think of forming a new government, they had to lay the foundation for the very thing they were fighting against, tyranny and oppression of human rights. Representative government must be guaranteed in the new governments of not only America, but of each new state.

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What makes the "Dialogues in Revolution" tour unique from the regular Capitol tour, is that it ends with a Burgess (one of the actor interpreters) who shares his experiences in the capitol. Last year we got to see Patrick Henry and Archibald Cary, who together entertained questions from the audience. This time we got to meet with Mann Page! He's usually seen galloping through town on a horse, calling out the news of Lexington and Concord in "Gale from the North" from Revolutionary City. Yes, Mann Page is a real person who really did this. He was also truly a Burgess, who helped to draft the Virginia Declaration of Rights. This is what he discussed, his experiences and emphasis on the need for this most important document...

"That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights." -Virginia Declaration of Rights

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights" -Declaration of Independence

If those tenants are ignored, our government becomes a tyranny.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Costumed Photos of Us in the Virginia Gazette

A CW friend of mine sent a link to the Virginia Gazette which posted pictures of Presidents' Day Weekend at Colonial Williamsburg. I can't believe that she spied us in image 7! Yes, that's us!

Soon I will be describing all of these events, but for now this looks like a nice little vignette of pictures of the weekend with the presidents...as well as my son and I in costume...all together in one place! I can't believe I am actually able to put all of that (about such important men and us) into one sentence! I feel quite special!

Image 1 is from Sunday night's, Evening with the Presidents. The caption says it all.

Image 2 and 3 is from Sunday afternoon's, Salute to the Presidents.

Image 5 I won't be blogging about, but we did pass them in the street. They are from the wonderful CW Revolutionary City program. They are first person actor interpreters who portray citizens of Williamsburg during the war. They engage the guests (in pictures 6, 8 and 9) in 18th century banter, town gossip, and deep pathos of emotion over their views of the revolution. Are they patriots, loyalists, or undecided? Ask them to find out. It's obvious which side the gents took. Ask them why. They will be more than happy to tell you.

Image 7 is of my son and me!!! I'm in the red cloak and my son is wearing his black cloak. The snow had begun falling about an hour before in prodigious fluffy flakes. That's why they are easily visible. We were between programs so we had fun taking pictures of each other, then guests asked us to remain in our poses so they could take pictures of us, or join us for photos. I had no idea someone from the Virginia Gazette was taking pictures too! I love action shots and I could never have scripted this. When we took our photos my son had me pose forever so he could get the perfect shot, partly because snowflakes were so huge they obscurred our faces in many of the photos, or landed on the lens, or something. I like the caption too, that we were on our way to Bruton Parish Church. George Washington, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson and many other famous people attended this church. You will find their names on the pews.

My goal is to blog all I can about the weekend tonight, while ideas are still fresh in my mind. I will also do a separate post on our personal pictures of each other in the snow. Then I will set everything to auto-pilot to publish one post per day, while I prepare for our upcoming history presentation this weekend! Stay tuned!

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Slave Trade CW EFT

Colonial Williamsburg's most recent Electronic Field Trip was "The Slave Trade," since February is African American history month. We first got to see this a few years ago. This returned at a perfect time in our school studies, because once again we are studying the 19th century. From the end of the slave trade in America in 1809, to the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854, the Dred Scott decision and the Lincoln Douglas debates, the states battled verbally with vehemence before literal bombardment began the American Civil War.

Through the EFT video we learned many facets of the slave trade. While hearing the poignant stories of many individual slaves, we also heard the stories of events affecting them. Even though the American slave trade ended in 1808, we learned that some sneakily continued the trade. We meet the doctor of a slave ship in the 1850's, though it soon becomes apparent he is not there for benefit of the slaves. He joyously tells his nephews his dark secrets despite the disapproval of the parents. The doctor points out the hypocrisy of his brother and sister-in-law who own a slave themselves. Throughout the EFT, listening to the stories of how slaves arrived on the middle passage, things got darker and darker, until the heroes arrived! At the end of the EFT is the story of American naval ships whose job it was to patrol the waters for illegal slave ships. They'd care for the slaves as besst they could as they tried to restore them to freedom.

Along with the video EFT, available on-line 24/7 until the end of the summer, is on-line access to 2 computer games about the EFT, a teacher packet full of information, resources and teaching ideas, and even a 24/7 message board. Students of subscribed schools are able to call in questions to the live program, which airs once a month. Other oppotunities available are to be a skype school on the broadcast (My kids got to be the first ones!) , or your students might like to submit video questions. E-mailing a historical character is another opportunity!

In the link above, I share about many of the opportunities available that we took advantage of. This time we added a new activity. I printed out these colorful cards and had my son separate them into one of two piles: those that involve slavery and those that do not. Then I read a brief history of slavery, much of which was review but had enough new information for him to sneakily move some of his cards into different piles! Then I had him answer questions on some task cards, asking him to pretend to be a merchant or tradesperson and helping him to think through how his task in that situation might have been affected by slavery. The point was that many Northerners, who were free states by the 19th century, thought they had nothing to do with slavery. The activity helped us to see how Northerners were more involved in slavery than they thought.

The next CW EFT is this coming Thursday, March 14. After the heavy story of slavery, this one will be much more lighthearted, using puppetry with actors to teach about the 18th century economy! I'm excited about this one! Be sure to subscribe through Homeschool Buyer's Coop who make the CW EFTs affordable for homeschoolers.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

18th Century Stays-Finis!

I recently finished completely handsewing my 18th century stays. My project began last September at a Burnley and Trowbridge workshop with the wonderful Colonial Williamsburg tailor, Mark Hutter, who helped us design a custom fit for our stays. My pattern was based on the extant pink pair of stays found in Costume Close-Up that are in the CW collection, which were originally lavender. This makes my own lavender stays special.

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After our three day workshop we went home with a great understanding of the function, usage, design and construction of stays.

Then began the endless monotony of hand stitching the boning channels. I even took my stitching to the CW Prelude to Victory a week later. There's only one picture but just imagine...

I can stitch in the sunshine...

I can stitch while I dine...

I can stitch in the wind and rain...

I can stitch despite the pain...

I can stitch at the Raleigh...

I can stitch near a buzzing bee...

I can stitch to the beat of drums...

I can stitch while waiting for Washington to come...

I can stitch them here and there...

I can stitch them anywhere!

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And that is the secret for copiously stitching endless amounts of channels post haste. On a side note, which number is greater? The number of miles Washington's soldiers marched from the north to arrive in Williamsburg for the seige on Yorktown, or the number of hand stitches in my stays?

During Superstorm Sandy I bunkered down in the family room to bone my channels, which I conquered in two days. Because we had to take in so much of my stays, I had to have enormously skinny channels in some sections. That created a huge challenge in wittling down the bones to about 1/8". I feared I'd never succeed at stuffing them, but it worked and the channels are super strong. I'm quite impressed! These stays definitely have the feel of the reproduction stays the CW tailor had at the workshop.

A couple of days later I returned to Williamsburg with the fruit of my labor, of the double time efforts for another Burnley and Trowbridge workshop, so I could have a silk gown draped upon me. (more details at link) Here are my fairy godmothers fighting over the perfect draping decision, then the mantua maker arrived with her expertise hand. The stays are under that bodice! Yea! This was five weeks after my stays workshop!

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Then I came home and laid my stays down due to numerous busy tasks of homeschooling and holidays. By the end of January, I picked up my stays again, determined to complete the leather binding.

And here they are after having worn them to a first person interpretation workshop yesterday in Annapolis, Maryland, taught by the CW Marquis de Lafayette! The organizer of the program asked us to wear our costumes, so I wore my CW reproduction chintz gown to the workshop, stays underneath. It was fun with all the admiration all the ladies and even one of the gents gave to my gown...of course enhanced by an enviable pair of 18th century reproduction stays! Some of the ladies even asked me questions about my stays to which I kept saying that the tailor is the master and that I highly recommend the B&T workshops!

There are no pictures of me in my gown, but here are my stays.

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I wore the stays for 9 hours in the interpretation workshop. They were comfortable and 18th century restrictive. I was not able to move as much or as easily as the others during our acting exercises. However the coordinator asked us to wear our costumes, so as 18th century ladies in the 21st, we make do the best we can. =)

Now for the HSF details:

HSF  2013

The Challenge: #3 Under it All

Fabric: wool, linen

Pattern: self-drafted with help from the CW tailor

Year: last quarter of the 18th century

Notions: linen thread, lacing, reed boning

How historically accurate is it? 100% accurate

Hours to complete: Tons

First worn: gown draping workshop

Total cost: lots since it was a class

Monday, February 11, 2013

Amazing Book Find for Teaching early 19th Century Rhetoric History

This is my first year to go completely solo in seeking great history books for our Rhetoric lessons. Our previous curriculum did not work for us for numerous reasons. I was in such torment for years while using it, but have finally had such peace after abandoning it.

That left a puzzle in my mind as to how to tackle history this year. In the last two years of Rhetoric history, we muddled with poorly written books that had been recommended by the curriculum, which of course led to much frustration. Some of the books were not historically accurate. I wasn't sure where to start looking for Rhetoric level history books. I started praying. I asked God to lead me in finding books for our history this year. I never saw any blinding light. I heard no bells or whistles. I didn't get a telegram, e-mail or text message. So I stepped out in faith. I went to my favorite store last July, the used bookstore.

When I got to the bookstore, I knew in my head exactly what my eras were for teaching this next school year, and I knew my goals. I knew that in previous years, all the life of the history books was in the biographies, which had the surrounding events and culture automatically tied in. Biographies have to be that way. One cannot write the life story of another person, without also including the world events and culture in which they live.

I decided to at least focus on biographies of a few key people of the 19th century. I had to include Napoleon on this list, and I already had a book recommendation from the man who portrays him in Europe for all the reenactments. What better advice could I get than that? In fact, from him I also learned about the Will Durant books, which weaves a tail of history through art, literature, economy, geography, etc, just like I enjoy teaching. In truth all are inter-related. Every culture is influenced by the sum total of these various topics. How the people think about things defines the worldview of an era. In turn that drives choices in history, how artists create, how the people respond. Alas, the last Durant book was about Napoleon. Now what?

Who else were big names? Hmmmm, Andrew Jackson. He revolutionized politics. Eureka! I found a book on him by H. W. Brands. I flipped through it. I liked what I saw. That went into my shopping basket. We also wanted to learn about Ulysses S. Grant. And I found a book on him. It seemed okay. And that was that. Well except that I found a book on the Supreme Court. I used that during the Jefferson/Marshall years and that was incredible. The rest of the book has been put aside until next year when we cover the 20th century. Other books for bits and pieces I pulled from my bookcase. Oh and we're using To the Best of My Ability to study about each president. That is a great book too.

How has it been going? We loved the Andrew Jackson book. More details on that later, but the author, H. W. Brands from the University of Texas at Austin did a phenomenal job. It was everything I hoped and dreamed for. It was a spine book that covered not only Jackson, but wove a story of all the surrounding events of his life. I didn't need a million extra books to read on various sub-topics, like we usually did with the other curriculum because this book had it all! In fact, Texas was in the book, since the Texas Revolution occured during Jackson's life. This time we learned about the US perspective on the Texas situation which was utterly fascinating. I have written a history curriculum on Texas, from the Texas viewpoint, and am rather well versed in that. This was no information...so we didn't have to rehash old books. We were already reading 60+ pages a week from the Jackson book, and about 200 pages the week we studied his presidency, so we didn't need to add more. Why add more quantity when there is great quality adding on to previous learning? If only Brands wrote more books.

As we were finishing the Jackson book, we started reading the Grant book. I am hugely disappointed. It is so b-o-r-i-n-g. It gets into the nitty gritty of every known detail of Grant's life. Who cares? What was going on in the world and what was his perspective of it? After all he became president. Where is the impact? It doesn't weave a story of impact around the dramatic events of his time. I'm ready to sell the book back. I can't imagine how this book won a major prize.

At a loss, I decided we'd just reuse old books from four years ago for the rest of the year.

Then my daughter said Brands did write another book. In fact, she said he wrote the humongous Theodore Roosevelt book in our bookcase that my brother gave to my husband for a present one time. My husband can't stand books. It took my husband five years to read it, but he did and loved every minute of it. He regaled us with stories in it every time he read something. That is testimony enough for how wonderful the Brands books are (well based on one book I read.)

This week we started reading TR: The Last Romantic and it is great. I was lamenting the lack of time to read books about the Industrial Revolution and resulting pollution, sweat shops and deepened poverty for immigrants. I was also lamenting no story to go with the itty bitty detail in our president book (To The Best of My Ability) that the Irish potato famine occured in the 1840's. So I told my son everything I knew, tying them in to the Industrial Revolution horrors. Oh well, we studied all that four years ago, time to move on to other aspects and hopefully we can make valid connections.

As I started reading TR: The Last Romantic, I got excited. TR's family lived in New York City when he was born before the Civil War. Therefore the author constructed the tail of how the wealthy of New York moved uptown, which left downtown in disrepair for all the immigrants who arrived...especially the ones from Ireland as a result of the potato famine! I couldn't believe it! This author is filling in all the gaps that I was hoping for.

Brands is the author I was praying about last summer! His books are the ones who will raise the bar for my son (and me) to review old things learned, learn new things, and tie it all in to the events of the day. I don't know that I always agree with him, and right now I don't remember about what. Probably Napoleon. But overall he has valid points to consider that I think are on target. I did a google search and found more books that he has authored. He has a book on Texas. I need that! He has a book on Grant! That one is replacing the pathetic one. He has lots of books that go through the 20th century. Hmmm, has he written about Winston Churchill yet? I want to read about Churchill next year when we study the 20th century. Four years ago we read a biographies about Frankllin D. Roosevelt, which was great. Now I want a book on Churchill. I'll be perusing the options for the 20th century. Meanwhile TR will take us through the rest of the 19th century and into the 20th. I'm so excited because he's a family favorite! Bully!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

First Person Interpretation Workshop with the Marquis de Lafayette

A few weeks ago I started cleaning out my computer's bookmarks. When I had planned our summer vacation to Annapolis last year, a city we had never visited before, I wondered what in the world we could do. I saved many historical sites for reference. As I went through the various sites in the bookmarks, I discovered that the Colonial Williamsburg Marquis de Lafayette would be paying a visit to Annapolis. I laughed and told my son about the various events. When I described the First Person Interpretation Workshop to my son, his eyes got big and he said, "Oh Mom, we have to go to that workshop. That is the singlemost important thing I want to do." Uh oh.

I told my husband about it and he said it would be a great opportunity for our son. Besides, he said that it's all Lafayette's doing, encouraging our son to interpret. I called the lady running it and she thought it would be great for my son...and she said I had to buy a ticket too. My timidity grew. Nevertheless I registered for this workshop.

A few days before the workshop I got an e-mail from the organizer, strongly encouraging us to be in costume and have an interpretation ready. Oh dear. This sounded serious. Of course, this was for real interpreters. Years ago the kids and I had been asked by the Alamo to help them interpret. That was the year we moved to Virginia. I like to teach, I have enjoyed interpreting with the kids in our history presentations, I have a huge admiration for interpreters and where I live in Virginia is a historically rich area. For the last few years I've looked for opportunities to interpret or reenact but the doors always close. This has probably fueled the stage fright, along with other things, so I've pretty much given up on my dream.

Nevertheless we were asked to wear costumes and if I succeeded at nothing else, I wanted to try to contribute to the esprit de corps. Also I've heard the Marquis ask my son in times past, why he's not in regimental. My son wouldn't dress up without me, so together we planned our costumes and interpretations. He considered Captain John Paul Jones, which probably would have been a hit due to the Naval Academy next door to our venue, but he finally decided to portray his most recent persona, Meriweather Lewis, so he wore his hunting frock (with all the fringe). I was going to choose Clara Barton (even though my costume was 18th century) because she was shy like me, yet for a cause in which she felt strongly, she would fight. However my son thought I should be the wife of the Great Emancipator, as recommended by one of the book authors we had met at CW. I had portrayed her when we did our last American Revolution history presentation. I had fun learning a few more details about her and wrapping up the impersonation with a dramatic 'the great emancipator" statement...if anyone would get it. (You have to know the book to get it.) Therefore I wore my 18th century Colonial Williamsburg reproduction chintz fabric gown which drew many comments and questions from the attendees. I thought it would be perfect for "Frances Tasker Carter, formerly of Annapolis, presently of Williamsburg..."

Yesterday morning, Saturday, we drove to Annapolis, Maryland for the class. I had slept little the night before because of all of my fears. I was glad to do all the activities I was asked to do, but had determined not to volunteer for anything. I knew ahead of time that the "Marquis" had an agressively ambitious lesson plan with less than 5 hours to conquer. I didn't want to take up his valuable time or interfere with the opportunities the real interpreters had to learn from his excellent counsel.

We both participated with all the others in every acting exercise that was assigned to us. Then near the end of the workshop we were taken to the stage to feel what that perspective of an auditorium felt like. We were asked who had performed on stage before and I raised my hand with many others. My son whispered, "Mom, did I?" I nodded yes. How could he forget Kings' Kids? He said later that he thought only acting counted. I said the Marquis merely asked who had performed and singing in choir is performing and sometimes involves acting. Our last choral production, which my kids and I all sang together, was "Christmas Shoes," which has both happy and sad songs. We roused things up with a fun "Mr. Grinch," then held back tears while singing the title song, about a little boy who wants to buy special dancing shoes for his mama, who was going to be with Jesus that night.

There was enough time for two people to do their interpretations. My son was one of the volunteers. I was so happy for him. This was his first time to give an oral presentation in an environment away from home, in front of people not in his family, and think on his feet. He had not done his interpretation since a few weeks ago. Although he had reviewed his old notes on the drive to Annapolis, (1.5 hours), he knew that was too long and on the fly while speaking on stage cut it down to it's key points as he talked. He mostly kept his eyes on the audience, he moved around, he projected quite well! He even dramatically removed his parchment paper letter from his pocket, and read his commission. I don't know if any other teenagers could have done the same thing. I may be his mother and may be biased, but I'm also a trained teacher. I see what lots of the other kids do and I doubt that they could have done what he did. I'm not even sure that many other adults could have done what he did. I say, "Bravo!"

One of the directors gave him constructive criticism, telling him not to move so much because she found it distracting and irritating. My son even took the criticism extremely well. He plans to use all she said to more purposely plan his movements. I was so proud of him!

An hour and a half later, we sat in a darkened auditorium to hear the Marquis de Lafayette tell his story up to 1824, when he arrives in Annapolis on his Grand Tour of America. That was new for us to hear, as well as all the queries that were often sprinkled with tidbits of wonder about his time in Annapolis.

As we drove home, my son talked about his favorite parts of the day and about all he learned. This will definitely go on his high school transcript.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Tin Shop and Armoury Complex Restoration at Colonial Williamsburg

After having seen the Williamsburg Old Time Radio Hour and Basset Hall, I had a deeper sense than ever of appreciation for the reconstruction that is going on at the Colonial Williamsburg Armoury Complex. Whenever we visit my husband likes to stop by to see the latest developments. One of their latest projects is the tinshop. A week or two before a wooden frame had been raised.
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The tools of the carpentry trade...

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This tin ship will be part of the Armoury Complex which includes the kitchen in the building on the other side...

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where they have warm fires to keep warm while they cook food for the men who work at the Armoury. The food they cook here actually feeds the employees who enjoy the warm hearty meals, just like the Armoury workers of the past. I just love how they make all the history relevant and practical, instead of just staging things for a show!

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Then we checked the new addition to the back of the Blacksmith Shop. When I was down in September for my class to make stays, I visited with one of the interpreters about this while they were getting the frame ready to raise. This is the first we had seen the completed work. Talking about reality, I just love seeing the interpreters put away their 18th century tools in their 18th century environment in their 18th century clothing. Don't you just feel like you're in the 18th century? No one else does this.

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Then inside the blacksmith shop we watched the final products of the day being made. As dusk fell, the darkness signaled it was time to close shop, just like in the 18th century.

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Monday, February 4, 2013

Recalculating

My daughter stole the show in Sunday School class yesterday. We were talking about the wiles of Sat*n and how to remain on guard, based on our study of Isaiah. We all face opportunities for bad choices. With every bad choice is a good choice, which we termed "a fork in the road." My daughter shared how her Awana club addressed that, using the allusion of a GPS. In our lives we have God's Positioning System which we should allow to direct our paths. Everyone liked that analogy because it's perfect! She said if we make the wrong choice at that fork in the road, we'll get the message from the Holy Spirit, "Recalculating." to get us back on track. Everyone died laughing but had to agree. Be sure to follow the directions of your God's Positioning System!