Thursday, January 30, 2014

Winston Churchill's Thoughts 1919-1933 Part II

The following quotes are from Winston Churchill's The Gathering Storm, first volume of a six volume set of The Second World War.


"I must regard these volumes of The Second World War as a continuation of the story of the First World War which I set out in The World Crisis, The Eastern Front, and The Aftermath. Together, if the present work is completed, they will cover an account of another Thirty Years' War." (preface, piii)


"Moral of the Work
In War: Resolution
In Defeat: Defiance
In Victory: Magnanimity
In Peace: Good Will" (page between preface and chapter 1)


"Theme of the Volume: How the English-speaking peoples through their unwisdom, carelessness, and good nature allowed the wicked to ream." (page between preface and chapter 1)


Book One
From War to War
1919-1939


"When Marshal Foch heard of the signing of the Peace Treaty of Versailles he observed with singular accuracy: 'This is not Peace. it is an Armistice for twenty years.'" (chapter 1 The Follies of the Victors, 1919-1929, p7)


"It is my purpose, as one who lived and acted in these days, first to show how easily the tragedy of the Second World War could have been prevented..." (chapter 1 The Follies of the Victors, 1919-1929, p18)


"To me the aim of ending the thousand-year strife between France and Germany seemed a supreme object. If we could only weave Gaul and Teuton so closely together economically, socially, and morally as to prevent the occasion of new quarrels, and make old antagonisms die in the realisation of mutual prosperity and interdependence, Europe would rise again." (chapter 2 Peace at Its Zenith, p28)


"In reviewing again the history of the eight years from 1930 to 1938, we can see how much time we had. Up til 1934 at least, German rearmament could have been prevented without the loss of a single life." (chapter 3 Lurking Dangers, p51)


"I viewed this attack upon the French armed forces and the attempt to establish equality between Germany and France with strong aversion; and on March 23, 1933, I had the opportunity of saying to Parliament: I doubt the wisdom of pressing this plan upon France at the present time. I do not think the French will agree. They must be greatly concerned at what is taking place in Germany, as well as at the attitude of some others of their neighbours. I dare say that during this anxious month there are a good many people who have said to themselves, as I have been saying for several years: 'Thank God for the French Army.' When we read about Germany, when we watch with surprise and distress the tumultuous insurgence of ferocity and war spirit, the pitiless ill-treatment of minorities, the denial of the normal protections of civilised society, the persecution of large numbers of individuals solely on the ground of race-when we see all that occurring in one of the most gifted, learned, and scientific and formidable nations in the world, one cannot help feeling glad that the fierce passions that are raging in Germany have not yet found any other outlet but upon themselves. It seems to me that at a moment like this to ask France to halve her Army while Germany doubles hers, to ask France to halve her air force while the German air force remains whatever it is, is a proposal likely to be considered by the French Government, at present at any rate, as somewhat unseasonable." (chapter 5 The Locust Years, p75)


"...so surely should we see ourselves within a measureable distance of the renewal of the general European war...France is not only the sole great surviving democracy in Europe; she is also the strongest military power." (chapter 5 The Locust Years, a speech given in April, p76)


"I always wanted England, Germany, and France to be friends." (chapter 5, The Locust years, p83)



Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Winston Churchill Discovery-Part I

Biographies are one of my favorite ways to bring history to life. During our 20th century dialectic studies four years ago we read biographies on FDR, Mao Zedong,and Stalin. Last summer while planning this year's rhetoric studies, I sifted through the movers and shakers of the 20th century and decided that Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill biographies would make incredible resources! The TR biography was quite easy to obtain. We already had a highly acclaimed one by  H.R. Brands. We were midway through the 900+ page volume from our 19th century studies the year before. During our study of WWI, we completed our reading of TR: The Last Romantic.  We now have a much fuller comprehension of the progressive mover and shaker of the early 20th century who bullied his way through any forseeable confrontation.


However, I wasn't sure which way to go with a Winston Churchill biography. I did a bit of research and saw he wrote his autobiography, which was a 400 page volume, starting in the 19th century. Also there was a three volume biographical set of The Last Lion, which was highly acclaimed. Of that set, volume one was 900+ pages, volume two was 800+ pages, and volume three was 1200 pages!  As wonderful as I'm sure that book is, there simply wasn't time to add those incredibly sounding tomes to my son's massive booklist and other college prep classes. We'd simply have to be patient and save them for future learning...the beauty of a classical education...learning that learning never ends.


Long story short...I was in the used bookstore a couple of weeks ago. My daughter and I were looking for cheap college texts for her classes We found one. Yea! We found more Folger Classics Shakespeare editions to cheaply add to our collection. Yea! Then I meandered over to the history section to look for something on Churchill and discovered a hopeful glimmer of gold! I dug out my smart phone to look up reviews on the books. Were they truely golden, or simply fool's gold? All signs pointed to it being a gold mine!


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The first two on the left are 2 of the before mentioned 3 volume set of the highly acclaimed biography set on Churchill, The Last Lion. The third book is a history book on England and America written by Churchill.  Those books will have to be savored at a later date.  The last 5 are from a 6 volume set on WWII.  I still need to find The Grand Alliance. Each book cost about $2! My research also revealed that Churchill was a Nobel Prize winner for literature in 1953, "for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values." He was also dubbed "the man of the 20th century." 


When I got home I perused the 5 (of 6) volume set more closely.  These books are Winston's thoughts on the years leading up to and through WWII, written shortly after WWII. The first book of the series, The Gathering Storm, is as its name suggests, about the years between WWI and WWII. At the time, we were studying the Roaring Twenties.  My son already has a heavy volume of reading, so I decided to let it go and save all of the books for future reading. However I was deeply intrigued. Here I was in the midst of studying the years between the wars...and the quintessential books were at my fingertips.  I decided I could read them myself, as long as I could keep up, and then share various quotes during our weekly Socratic history discussions.  It has been fascinating reading Churchill's thoughts during this explosive time in history.


Another great resource I found on Churchill, is winstonchurchill.org


Why are we studying Winston Churchill?  I was pleased to find some noted individuals whose thoughts on this matter were similar to my own.     

The Wintery Fate of the John Smith of Jamestown Fame

Saturday we drove down to Jamestown to see an interpretive program on Captain Argall, the man who "captured" Pocahontas and brought her to the English settlement for ransom.  Knowing that there was snow and ice in the area, and temperatures would be about 40 degrees, we dressed as warmly as we could, assuming the program would be in the church, which embues great ambiance. However it felt much colder than the 40 degrees a certain weather entity had promised.  It felt more like 50 below!  With such wild temperatures, the ambiance was completely blown out of the historic setting of the old stone church, so the program was moved indoors to a comfortably warm modern building.  Imagination fueled by the interpretation of 1614 brought much satisfaction.

After the program my husband and son had the crazy idea to walk down to the river and see all the snow and ice. They also thought we should have lunch at the cafe which is near the river. As we crossed the footbridge from the visitor center to the historic area, I noticed a mighty icy swamp!  The waves of the James River churled roughly under the cloudy sky, holding a promise of more snow, according to a certain weather entity. The winds blew roughly, creating a bitter chill blowing right through all the layers of warmth I was wearing. The path to the cafe...is it really a mile long? An entire mile to turn into human popsicles?

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A new appreciation settled in my soul for the Jamestown settlers who endured "the Starving Time." Although the toasty warm cafe was awaiting our arrival, with hot soups, sandwiches and tea (some of the tastiest in Virginia), the 17th century colonists were not so fortunate. However much they labored, or didn't labor, nothing they built could provide the warmth that we can achieve in the modern day.

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We spent quite a bit of time exploring, mostly because my son was so intent on taking pictures. We had left the land of snow and ice to come to the balmy tidewater region. However our snow storm had blasted all of Virginia.  Intriguing us most, was the snow and ice on the mighty river.  There are no pictures, but below the sea wall there is quite a bit of snow and ice along the shoreline of the river. Quite fascinating watching where all the wintery accumulation laid. We spent 30 minutes, to be precise, walking about the snow and ice, and feeling the arctic blast blow through our beings. My exploration was complete in 5 minutes. Undaunted my son determinedly worked on taking precise pictures of ice and snow for an eon of time.




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Meanwhile I passed by John Smith, the man we hear about on every trip to Jamestown. Despite the history books, I have yet to hear an illustrious story of him.  No one liked him!  The story goes that there was an explosion on a ship, he was in the way, he got injured, so he was returned to England. There is also talk that it was a devious plot, though no one will admit to it.



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It seems to me Smith's fate is that he is frozen in time. He is so cold he has turned blue, which appears verdigris green on my computer screen.

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For all time he forelornly stands as a lonely sentinal. We finally dragged our son away before our fate matched Smith's.




Monday, January 27, 2014

Meeting Captain Argall, Who Took Pocohontas, at Jamestown

Saturday we drove to Historic Jamestowne in frigidly cold weather. From Northern Virginia to the Tidwater, snow covered the ground. On this day it was cloudy, cold and extremely windy. Although interpretive programs are usually held at the church, which embues great ambiance, the bitter cold necessitated a change of course. Surviving the cold on this day required a warmer environment than the original colonists of Jamestowne had occasion to enjoy. For our meeting with the "ever worthy gentleman, Samuel Argall," we found seats in the education room at the visitor center.

Our warm-up program was one of the archeologists from Jamestowne, who reviewed the island's history of settlement, via artifacts. This was the first time I've had opportunity to hear one of the archaeologists speak at length. Learning about the latest discoveries, their significance and their continuing research shed more light into understanding the history of the area. Thus, we can expect new things this summer, like names on the crosses around the church.  They are close to identifying the bodies they have found buried near the church.

After the archaeologist's talk, Captain Samuel Argall arrived. It was January 1614.

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He told about his sea journey to the island, about the starving time, and his journeys on the numerous waterways of Virginia.


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As interesting as all of that was, we were most curious about a certain young lady, perhaps the most famous resident of 17th century Virginia...Pocahontas. It was this man, Captain Argall, who brought her to live among the English settlers. The query of the day, was why?

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Argall explained how their goods and people were being taken from the Jamestowne settlement. Argall made his feelings clear to a certain Chief Japazaws, which culminated in mutual trickery to entice Pocahontas on board Argall's ship to live with the English, in 1613.

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My query to the captain was in regards to her feelings upon the matter. Of course we often hear stories that she frequently visited the English. How did she feel about being taken? Was she resistant or in compliance? Captain Argall said that as the Powhatan Princess, she knew her duty, although at first she most likely did not realize she had been tricked to board his ship. Once she realized what had happened, she didn't seem pleased but seemed resolved to carry through the task of being ransom.  He then submitted that I should ask her, myself.

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We were told that there would soon be a wedding! Since the time Pocahontas has been brought into the English settlement, the ransom Argall had set up had not yet taken place. In fact, Pocahontas has adopted the ways of the English, becoming a Christian, and had fallen in love with a certain John Rolfe! Historic Jamestowne will be hosting the marriage of Lady Rebekah (Pocahontas) and John Rolfe in April! From the gazette I have learned that a beautiful jacket is being hand embroidered for her, using motifs from the local area! Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Horses, Horses, Horses

Tonight we watched The Story of Seabiscuit, the 1949 version with Shirley Temple. It's not as accurate as the 2003 version, however it's cleaner and not deeply and darkly depressing. However the 1949 version is accurate about the star, Seabiscuit, who was portrayed by one of Seabiscuit's sons. Also there is film footage from the actual races that were held during the Great Depression.  This is a great movie to introduce children to the story of the horse who couldn't possibly win, but did. Meanwhile here's a great write-up about the accuracies v inaccuracies of The Story of Seabiscuit from TMC.


The racehorse I grew up with was Old Bones the Wonder Horse by Mildred Mastin Pace, a book I got while in elementary school. I wore that beginning chapter book out, which might be why it's no longer in my bookcase. =( I'd love a copy of it again.


That book led to another bookclub favorite I got while in school, Tall and Proud by Vian Smith. This was my all-time favorite book that I read repeatedly and relived and savored.  Set in England, a young girl dreams of one day owning a horse, which is a distant reality since her parents do not have the budget for such luxery. However she comes down with polio and struggles to learn to walk again.  Unmotivated, she progresses slowly, until her parents make a huge sacrifice that leads to a heroic moment during a time of grave danger. One day I came home from school and realized my copy of Tall and Proud had slipped out of my arms. I was carrying a pile of school books for homework, that I didn't realize the book had slipped out. Even though it had my name inside the cover, I never found it again.


And then my next favorite (of the lesser knowns) was in the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Farmer Boy is about her husband, Almanzo, while he was growing up in Malone, New York, near the Canadian border.  His father raised Morgans, whom Almanzo thought were the most beautiful horses in the world. He hoped he could have one of his own to train.  In By the Shores of Silver Lake, Laura first meets Almanzo in Dakota Territory. Actually, she notices his beautiful matching team of Morgan horses.  In The Long Winter, Almanzo, with his friend Cap Garland and the beautiful morgans, risk their lives to find grain to bring to the starving town before the next monster blizzard hits.  In Little Town on the Prairie, Laura cheers on the Morgans to win the race on the Fourth of July.  In These Happy Golden Years, Almanzo courts Laura, who gets to ride behind the beautiful horses, and gets to help break in the young colts. 


Of course there are many other horse books and movies that are well-known which I do have today to watch and share and enjoy.  However I thought I'd share about these horses that are little known to children.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Spatial Reasoning for the Birds

One great activity to work on skills from eye tracking to spatial reasoning is jigsaw puzzles!  While we were Christmas shopping at a huge game and puzzle store at the mall, I had my daughter choose a puzzle that she'd enjoy working with, since she is working on vision therapy and spatial reasoning.  She chose a lovely puzzle of colorful birds in the snow. I wasn't surprised because she has always enjoyed colorful birds. We all do!  This became a Christmas present and after Christmas we cleared a spot on the dining room table to start the puzzle.


I could tell she was a bit hesitant. She had never been a fan of puzzles while she was younger. Now I understand it's because of the challenges of her eyes. However if I worked on a puzzle, she was always drawn to help me.  As long as I was with her working beside her, she'd work on little pictures she could easily make.  That is great in itself, because there is still much manipulation of the brain to visualize how those pieces rotate and fit into spots to create images. Individually pieces rarely look as they will once they connect to another piece. 


She worked on the parts of the puzzle that most interested her and the parts that challenged her the most she assigned to me.  Well, I got a few of those challenging pieces together, but I was feeling quite challenged myself as I perplexed over most spots.


When she tired of focusing on making pictures, she'd look for new pieces in the box lid, where we kept the less obvious pieces.  She'd find pieces and tell me where to put them. I wasn't too certain she was on the right track, but sure enough, she knew exactly where the various pieces belonged, over here or over there, even though they all looked the same to me!

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At this point of puzzle solving, I left to pursue other projects I needed to complete.  However each day she spent quite a bit of time puzzling over this piece and that, slowly building the puzzle. Every once in a while her dad or brother came over to help.  Her dad helped quite a bit towards the end. However she owned most of the work on the completed puzzle. Whew!


After all that work, how about a bit of fun?  I found this video on facebook yesterday and it's hilarious.  I'm wondering, for a bird to go sledding down a roof, does it require any spatial reasoning?






Wednesday, January 22, 2014

No Heat During a Blizzard...Brrrr

Yesterday, Tuesday,we awoke to a mighty cold house because the heater broke during the night. This would not have been so bad the day before, Monday, which was a sunny 51 degrees. However Tuesday's lack of heat was bitterly cold due to the morning high of 35 degrees quickly dropping below freezing as a blizzard descended upon our area. We put in a call to a heating company, which of course was already booked for the day. Perhaps they could come out on Wednesday, or even Saturday, they queried. Or, they offered, we could drop the guaranteed appointment and merely go on standby. Standby in Northern Virginia during a blizzard that expected anywhere from 3-10+" of snow, with temperatures on Wednesday morning dropping to a mere 5 degrees did not sound hopeful. How cold would the inside of the house get under such weather conditions? Nevertheless we went on standby and turned on the fireplace.

Thankfully the fireplace was working! We have had trouble with our gas fireplace for months, thinking it was fixed, then the pilot would go out. The serviceman had returned on Monday and true to his word, without extra charge gave the ports and pipes a far deeper cleaning, but warned that in due time it would need replacing. The pipe is soooooo long his tools can only reach in so far to clean it, that replacement would be a matter of time. How long would the fireplace keep working?

We wore extra layers, pursued our school tasks and prayed that our fireplace would stay on. I asked my facebook friends for prayer that the repairman would be able to fit us in and have the necessary part on his truck.

After lunch, with the outdoor temperature below freezing and the indoor temperature in the 50's in the basement and third floor, and the fireplace blazing away and keeping the family room warm and cozy, the repairman arrived! He fixed the heater! The house warmed up! Now we could open the blinds and enjoy the lovely snowfall.


This morning, when I took pictures,I opened the doors to a bright and sunny 9 degrees and -3 degrees windchill. The goldfinch was not about to budge, even though her friends did, when I opened the door to snap a picture!

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Although it appears we got a mere inch of snow, most of it blew away. The snow was like powder and the winds the day before blew so hard they swept the snow away...

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...into huge drifts and who knows where else?

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When I opened the front door to take these pictures, I was surprised when snow fell into the house. The wind had blown drifts of snow into the front of the house, which had never happened before.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Home Made Christmas Gift or Cross Stitch Helps for those with Vision Therapy Needs

My daughter ran out of funds while she did her Christmas shopping, which is no surprise these days when money does not go very far. I had a difficult enough time buying presents for my family out of my allowance when I was growing up. Then I became a poor college student. I learned to cross stitch and started making homemade gifts, like one of my college friends. When my daughter mentioned she still needed a gift for her dad, I remembered all the cross stitch gifts I used to give away. (I don't make many gifts now, because I am exceedingly busy!)  My daughter is quite swamped with college work, but the term was over and she had a few days before Christmas to accomplish her goal. I recalled a cross stitch kit she had purchased a few years ago when we visited Theodore Roosevelt's home of Sagamore Hill. My husband is a huge TR fan and she had purchased it with the intent to stitch it as a gift for him. However she has been tediously and laboriously striving to complete a cross stitched bookmark for herself for the last couple of years. She was determined to complete it. Even though it wasn't too complicated, for her it is like three steps forward and two steps back.

Now that she has been going to vision therapy, and I understood more of the issues of the inability of the eye under such situations to track and converge, I understood why she was making slow progress in cross stitching. At one of her re-evaluations, I found out that her brain shuts down at times and she doesn't see anything on the row of letters on the page in front of her.

However, she wanted to gift something to my husband, she had already paid for this kit...I could help. I volunteered to be the "cross stitch fairy." She could do any parts she wanted to do, then when she got frustrated or tired (or both) she could pass it to me and I'd work on a bit (or the rest) as she saw fit. She reluctantly agreed, although she was dubious as to whether it would be completed in time for Christmas. This was Thursday evening. Christmas was Wednesday. I assured her that busy as I was, I'd drop everything to help her conquer this project, and she could put her name on it without mentioning mine. =)

Friday morning she brought her kit down. I brought out my cross stitch doo dads that I bought years ago. Any of us who cross stitch know that it an be a challenge for the best of any eyes to count teeny weeny markings from amongst numerous markings on teeny weeny graph paper, to transcribe into a teeny weeny stitch amongst millions of squares on aida cloth. Those of us in the know, also know this is determined by the number of squares per inch. Even so, the largest of Aida cloths can still be mind boggling. As helpful as these tools were to me, I knew they'd be even more helpful to my daughter.

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The flat board is magnetic, with a magnetic strip on it. I had my daughter put her chart on the board and keep track of where she was, by "underlining" her current row of stitches to be stitched from the pattern with the magnetic ruler. The ruler is extra handy, being a 6" ruler on one side, and also a gauge for Aida cloth as well! The other doodad is a magnifying glass that can hang around the neck, although my daughter preferred to grab it with her hand to look through as needed. She loved these!

She started about 10am on Friday, and completed, quite tediously, about 4 rows. Then it was lunch time, 12pm. I ate a quick lunch and volunteered to do some stitches which she was now quite glad to pass off to me. I stitched several rows while she ate lunch. When she was done eating, she saw my progress and was quite elated that her work had doubled! She insisted on taking over, so I passed it off to her while I cleaned the kitchen. Then it was time for us to leave for vision therapy..1pm. She worked on it in the car and before her appointment. When she went in at 1:30pm, a few more rows were accomplished! While I was stitching numerous black x's, my daughter's doctor walked through and stopped to look at the project and I told her everything I have just written in this post! She couldn't believe, poorly as my daughter's eyes were working at the time, that she did all those stitches! She was super impressed with the doo dads! By the time my daughter was done with vision therapy, at 2:30pm, the top half of the project was done. She was so excited that she determined to complete the bottom half of the project on her own. We ran an errand and got home about 3:30pm. By 6pm (or earlier, I forget now)  the project was done, except for the outlining of the glasses and the writing, which she asked me to complete. One day to complete this project!  She couldn't believe it! She was quite thrilled!


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For future projects I'm recommending the largest Aida cloth available, though my daughter seems content to persevere. In fact, we were recently at Mount Vernon and she spent some Christmas money on another counted cross stitch project that she found there!
For easier success at cross stitch, I recommend preprinted panels, which was my daughter's first project. Those are usually printed in one color. I'd trace those x's with the proper color marker, as it corresponded to the pattern guide, for ease in learning to cross stitch and track with the eyes, until the eyes are prepared to tackle counted cross stitch.

I found the doo dads pictured above at local craft stores years ago, though I could not find them at the same stores on-line. I did find them at the online store linked next to the first photo, above.  There are also other fun looking gadgets linked on their webpage!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sewing Aprons for the Family for Christmas Stocking Stuffers-My Own Pattern

I mentioned last Christmas that I was making some Christmas gifts.After finding a few fun small things for everyone, I decided to finish off the stockings with something that everyone in the family has needed more than once in the last year...cooking aprons!There have been many occasions over the past year where my husband, son and daughter needed one for cooking or grilling. I knew I could whip some nice ones up inexpensively and fill the stocking uniquely!

Then I realized I didn't have an apron pattern in the style I was imagining. None of the major pattern companies were on sale at the time. I decided that if I can drape historic gowns, surely I could raft a simple apron pattern! I simply measured on myself where I would like everything to be and came up with this.

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Since that is only an 8x10 piece of paper, I practiced cutting out those dimensions on a spare piece of fabric in my fabric stash then tried it on me.

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This will now be my pattern!

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I bought some thick canvas-like interior decorating fabric at JoAnns for the aprons.I wanted them to be a bit on the sturdy side.

My husband's favorite color is burgundy, so here is his apron. I used self-fabric for the ties, folding the strips under to a 4-ply before sewing them. I did this by cutting it a bit wide, then folding it in half, then in half again, so that the raw edges are on the inside. Before that I turned under all the edges to enclose the raw edge, and sewed everything down.

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My son's favorite color is blue...

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Then of course my daughter likes flowers. For her ties I decided to use extra sage ribbon that I had.

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Then I stuffed the stockings!

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They were a hit! They've been worn several times, even behind my back! =)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Meeting Kevin O'Connor from This Old House!

Tonight we got to meet Kevin O'Connor, host of This Old House! Years ago I stumbled upon their tv show on PBS and knew I had to introduce my husband to it. Eversince he became a faithful follower of the show and the kids and I watched every show with him. Over the years we watched the show grow as it added Ask This Old House to the repertoire. One of the homeowners they featured was a guy and his wife laboriously scraping down wallpaper from the stairwell of their old house, who e-mailed for tips on simplifying the process. I think it was Tom Silva who came to the rescue, showing them a few gadgets to aid the process. The next season "This Old House" announced the new host, when Steve Thomas moved on to other projects. We were heartbroken to see Steve go, but what fun to see who the new host was...none other than the homeowner we never forgot, the one taking down wallpaper...Kevin O'Connor!

Kevin O'Connor TOH

Tonight he talked about the TOH restoration projects on the Jersey Shore, as a result of the devastation of Hurrican Sandy. His power point was informative, though poignant and heartrending. (You can watch the shows with all this information and more at the link.) He even introduced the newest project, their first Italianate! I had heard of them, now I know what characterizes them! Can't wait to see the project unfold! 

When he first came on stage, he saw my husband's This Old House baseball cap. Kevin asked about the cap and noted that it had been autographed by TOH general contractor, Tom Silva (at a Home and Garden Show in San Antonio, Texas)!

After the show my husband got in line to meet Kevin and have him autograph the cap next to Tom Silva's autograph. 

We had the best time chit chatting about various projects and sharing what my husband had done with our San Antonio house as well as our hopes in our Virginia house, where we've remodeled the kitchen, but we have stalled in the master bathroom, due to high expenses in NoVA.  A remodel is far in our future.

I think I confused Kevin a bit, when I mentioned their newest project in Alexandria (which I'm following on facebook), which I assumed was in Virginia.  Actually the project is in Arlington, not in Virginia but in Massachusetts, outside Boston.  For those unfamiliar with Virginia, Alexandria and Arlington are next to each other outside of Washington DC. So leave it to  me to confuse someone! lol

He gave us a copy of their magazine and autographed that with both our names, and correctly too!;)

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I had to drag my husband away from there, because others were waiting to talk to Kevin. My husband is such a huge fan, and no wonder. TOH is a great show, with great people, on air and in person! We felt like we were talking to our next door neighbor, with each of us sharing our latest remodeling ideas.

When my husband was ever away on business, the kids and I would pile up on the couch and together watch TOH, like we did when my husband was home.  I'm not sure how much of watching the show reminded us of my husband, far away from home, and how much we'd miss not seeing the show.

Watching TOH caused my husband to become even more of a handyman around the house than he was before. He already had a 2 year degree in building construction, but there is so much to learn from TOH.  Even I learned a lot, even though I  don't put a lot into practice.  I have gained the mental concepts to understand rennovation and restoration discussions. Now that I think of it, I did learn a few tips that I personally needed to know, like "Lefty Lucy," how to cut-in paint, and how to apply mud for dry wall. I'm especially stoked about my ability to apply mud.  I'm pretty good at that thanks to TOH!

We remodeled our Texas house with most of the dramatic changes in the kitchen (hmm, where are those pictures?), master bathroom and the loft that we decorated as a library/den. A few months after finishing the loft, we sold the house in 24 hours so we could move to Virginia.  How I miss that loft.  Our homeschool room used to be up there and since moving to Virginia, our schoolroom moved to the basement. We have a great basement, as far as basements go, but a basement after all, is still a basement...and rather mole-ish. Lofts, however, are light, and cheerful and airy and grand. I miss our loft.

In our Virginia house our biggest project has been the kitchen remodel. There have been many smaller projects, which I haven't completely documented, not that I have completely documented our work at our Texas house. Our Virginia house had great bones so simple projects like painting made huge dividends, because the walls looked quite bad when we moved in.  Even sewing my own curtains has worked pretty well.  I have tons of pictures somewhere...

Beyond the practicality of using TOH skills in a personal home, my appreciation of historic buildings has grown.  It has deepened my love for Colonial Williamsburg, where I especially love to take the house tours during Grand Illumination weekend. We've watched a few historical building projects begin literally from the ground up, from archaeology to grand openings.  We have walked into the historic area and noticed old buildings with new colors of paint or new signage. Obviously research was covertly afoot. Watching massive restorations at Montpelier and smaller ones at Mount Vernon have been fascinatingly grand. Learning of Thomas Jefferson's various architectural dabblings in Monticello...then seeing those same ideas played out during the restoration of his Poplar Forest retreat is amazing!

As much as I like to travel, practicality demands that I not venture far.  TOH brings many architectural styles from near and far, various restoration ideas for various ages of old houses , practical tips for any age house...and a crew with a great knowledge base and personality that brings us back again! What a fun and unique night!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Mount Vernon in Winter, Where George Washington Read Many Books

Succombed by a polar vortex. College classes looming. What to do? Read a book? Or learn about one who read many books when a formal education was denied to him? With only a few days left in the exhibit, we finally got to see Take Note!, an exhibit at Mount Vernon about George Washington's books. Sadly, I could not take any pictures, as they are not allowed. However, imagine 18th century bound leather bound books, inset with marbelized paper, some stamped with George Washington's personal bookplate or signature. These were laid inside clear cases on stands, opened to a page he once pondered. The edges were a bit worn, but the books were in grand condition, obviously well treasured by one who did not take education for granted. Destined for a classical education in England, Washington's father died while he was young. His grammar school education in Virginia abruptly ended, while he taught himself surveying, since he needed a trade to live by. Meanwhile, he set aside some of his earnings to buy classics to read. Washington may not have been able to discuss the great ideas or debate arguments of time with peers in the classroom, hammering out thoughts and details, yet he read the same books they did. His knowledge base was as strong, although his rhetoric may not have been as developed. A lifetime of reading lay before him...as he developed into a soldier, statesman, commander-in-chief, and president who knew full well what happened in history, to guide him as he made history. 

As we entered the exhibit, the doorway was framed by giant leatherbound books. The displays were sequenced by chapter numbers on the walls. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the Pinterest board at the end, owned by none other than George Washington. He had many likes and pins from men such as Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette! This 21st century form of networking symbolized the 18th century form of networking with which Washington engaged with men such as Jefferson and Lafayette, as they discoursed through letters about farming practices, politics, and such.

The exhibit is now past, but the exhibit book is for sale at Mount Vernon. (The exhibit book and some photos are at the link, above.)

After touring the exhibit, we explored the grounds in their winter attire. It was quite cold outside, nevertheless the sheep kept quite warm.

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General Washington's view of home, after many years at war. I love to stand here and ponder his feelings and emotions at this moment. The soldier/statesman, like Cincinnatus, was home.



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We dodged a few piles of snow as we ventured to the back of the house. What does the Potomac River look like in winter?  Did it have any ice from these days of polar vortex deep freeze? Having only moved to Virginia from Texas a few years ago, we were quite curious. 

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I paused in the freezing cold to capture a great architectural angle that is rare to achieve in the busy summer season, since this curved portico is the passageway for the many guests on the house tour.

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We walked to Washington's tomb nearest the river, the first one, the one that Lafayette visited on his grand tour so long ago. Grief ripped through him as he recalled the man he called his "adopted father..."

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We ventured closer to the Potomac and found ripples of water running between the ice sheets, floating down the river...

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Washington took daily rides on his property and I'm sure that on the wintery days such as this, a good book near the fire near his family was a delight to look forward to.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Jane Austen Wedding Proposal

I came across this great story about a guy, a family, a surprise, Regency costumes, a Pride and Prejudice Script...and a proposal! 

Sheer Yellow Regency Gown with Addition of Drawstring

I first made this gown several years ago for our first Napoleonic Era history presentation which I blogged about here.

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I was inspired by the Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle version of Pride and Prejudice, seeing all the beautiful gowns, that I redesigned my gown to look quite a bit different from my Simplicity pattern. I made the sleeves sheer, and made them longer. Also I decided to do a sheer gown with a yellow underlay.  (I've misplaced my design sketch but if I ever find it I'll post it.) 

Unfortunately I had made a few mistakes on the gown, the most important being the bodice. Somehow I initially sewed it together with properly aligning the bodice to the skirt, so it felt quite awkward to wear. Also I think I inadvertently put the sleeves in backwards, based on the puckering I see at the top of my shoulder when I wear the gown.

While I was realigning the bodice, I decided to make it more appropriate to it's period construction by adding an underbodice drawstring. Here are the final results from the outside.

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Here is the drawstring from the inside. I took some extra linen fabric to form a casing under the bodice, through which I pulled the ribbon.

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I don't think my Simplicity pattern is period accurate, so I was stuck with the original construction. Instead of the drawstring being tied in back, where everything was finished off with buttons and buttonholes, I tie the drawstring inside the center front.

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And here are the results. Now when I wear the gown, it doesn't look skewed on me (hence only one picture of my wearing it years ago!)  I looked at changing out the sleeves, but I had trimmed off the excess fabric and I don't have my remnants anymore.

I added a white satin ribbon... 

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Now for the HSF details:

HSF 2014

The Challenge: #1 Make, Do, Mend

Fabric: cotton, linen

Pattern: Simplicity

Year: Regency

Notions: ribbon

How historically accurate is it? I'm not sure

Hours to complete: 3

First worn: history presentation

Total cost: free, supplies from stash