Thursday, July 31, 2014

1950's Game Shows

While learning about the 1950's game shows. With the advent of televisions suddenly entering the home, life pretty much stopped for America.  Suddenly schedules and commitments were worked around one's favorite bit of tv time. Television consumed dinner time (hence tv trays), family time, reading time, all kinds of time! In addition, a mass of game shows were suddenly created in great plethora to consume the American psyche. 

We watched the movie Quiz Show, which told the story of the 1950's game show, Twenty-One, and the scandal regarding cheating, which we can turn into a great lesson on morals for our kids and ourselves, regarding integrity.

Here is PBS's take on quiz shows and the scandals.

The American Experience (PBS) has a great piece on the history of quiz shows, dating back to the days of radio where the time was filled with vaudevillian like activity. Featuring the story of how quiz shows grew in popularity, despite a halt during WWII, the scandals of the 1950's are also covered.

Of course we had to have our own quiz show as the centerpiece of our 1950's history presentation.  Although Jeopardy was not created until 1964, I like to use it's format, and of course no cheaing is allowed! On a side note, I happened to have Wheel of Fortune on tv the other night and after the final round was played, host Pat Sajak gently proved to everyone that the big money the contestant won a chance to spin for, a million dollars I believe, had indeed been placed on the wheel. He opened up the specific card to show everyone. I remember even in years past Sajak always showed the prize in the final winning card, even if the contestant did not win, to prove what was available, and if indeed perchance the contestant had spun for a top prize, there it was.  Surely this is born out of the 1950's, where today's game shows try to cover their bases.

While forming the game jeopardy, I used information that we had learned in school during our studies. Then I tried to come up with clever titles like the actual game show does. We never had buzzers, but if you are doing this for a co-op. buzzers are available for purchase. I had no idea they were so inexpensive until now.  How my family would have loved them. They might have stolen the show! Therefore, this would be a great purchase for families too!

Here's our quiz show when my kids were in 8th and 10th grades:

Here's our game show from this past summer. My son was a graduating senior and my daughter was already in college. You can read about it here.



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Einstein, Knitting and the Brain

It's been another exceedingly busy day but I thought I'd take a moment to share another link about the benefits of knitting (and crafting) in my bookmarks that I've been waiting to share which closely  matches yesterday's post.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Creativity to Calm

Well the ending to my story is being postponed because I've had little time to create. Despite having all the ideas and scenarios in my head, I've been focusing and doing and attacking all those to-do lists. I feel great that I'm conquering those tasks, yet I feel a bit empty since I haven't been creative lately. This is a great  tie-in to an article I read a few weeks ago on this very subject: This is Your Brain on Knitting. I've done enough brain research to know that a balance of exercise, healthy eating, cognitive development and creativity are huge in brain development at any age, from training students to preventing the loss of memory in old age, to pure stress relief in the in-between ages.
This reminds me I'd like to learn to knit this next year. A few projects from Jane Austen Knits have been calling me!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Manassas Battlefield Driving Tour

Last Sunday we took the Manassas Battlefield driving tour.  Since my ankle is still sprained, I didn't think it would be a good idea to do any lengthy hikes, so this time we skipped all the hiles. The park ranger tour at the first stop, (house shown below) lasts about 45 minutes.  I assured them we live nearby, so we'll definitely be back another day.
The Second Battle of Manassas began near here on the evening of August 28, 1862.


Instead we listened to the audio of the Second Battle of Manassas while watching the interactive map light up showing troop movements and firing. This helped us see the big picture and understand where we would be while driving. We learned of a bayonet battle which I want to futher research, especially since the Second Battle of Manassas reenactors told us bayonets had no place in the Civil War. I argued that if they were useless, they would not have had them. Interesting I found information that contradicts their argument on the very property they held their reenactment (right outside this building).

In one of the rooms was this soldier of the 5th New York Infantry Regiment. They chose to dress in the Zouave uniform that French troops wore in Africa. These soldiers went down in infamy because they are the largest regiment to have fallen in the battle. Very few survived the battle.


This was our next stop. The house above is behind the trees towards the left.


The battle began here.

This is Sudley Church. Before church service began, the church attendees discovered their church had been turned into a hospital. There are a few hiking trails here we'd like to try one day.


This is near an unfinished railroad bed...another site of the three day battle.


This is a confederate cemetary.


My son remembered this phrase from a WWI poem we had studied earlier in the year.




Most of the graves are unmarked. This is one of the few markers with information on who is buried there.


This is the remains of Hazel Plain, one of the many plantations in the area, which were quite simple compared to our expectations. Much of the battle occurred near here also. This house also served as a hospital. There are hiking trails nearby.



Stone of the beginning of the First Battle of Manassas, site of the end of the Second Battle of Manassas.


Friday, July 18, 2014

War of the Worlds

In our 20th century studies we took a look at science fiction through the lens of War of the Worlds, by HG Wells, published in 1898. We opened our introduction of this story when my kids were studying at the Dialectic level four years ago by listening to the original Merury Theater broadcast from October 31, 1938 with Orson Welles. We had listened to a recording from audible but I have since found them on you tube.  I've always been fascinated by this story of how America panicked, thinking the radio show was actually a news report of a Martian invasion. I remember asking my grandmother years ago if she had heard the radio broadcast, however I don't remember her answer. This was before my mom was born but I don't think she had listened to it.

In the last year I found a copy of the 1958 movie version at a used bookstore.  I thought that would be an interesting take on it. The 1958 interpretation of the book took on interesting points for discussion. Being the age of rockets and the beginnings of space exploration caused the audience to have a different background of experience than the 1938 radio audience, much less the 1898 reading audience. The space race was during the Cold War years, when people feared attack and annihilation anyway from the Soviets. On top of all of that, the McCarthiism paranoia was sweeping the nation. The context of the 1958 movie audience built along the underlying fears.

My personal introduction to War of the Worlds when I was little was a 1975 television movie called, The Night that Panicked America. The movie reproduces the makings of the 1938 radio show and the people who listened to their radios that evening. Set against the backdrop of the Great Depression and the threatening overtones of Adolf Hitler, is it any wonder that listeners panicked, having missed  introductory remarks about it merely being a play. At the beginning of the movie the radio show played newsclips of Hitler's speeches, bringing a foreboding sense of future fear. Throughout the movie references are made to Hitler.. One farmer predicts Hitler will invade surrounding countries and he fully intends to defend his nation. He sees the writing on the wall. Little does he know his father would expect him to protect them from the martians later that night.  To lighten the fear, we are shown the behind the scenes inner workings of producting a radio show, complete with the manufacture of foley (sound) effects. One of the scariest noises of the spaceship opening was achieved by a mayonaise jar being opened inside a toilet. I found this movie on-line and showed it to my kids.

We all agreed the 1975 version was the least scary and the most interesting. Yet how much of the storyline affected us subconsciously? A few days after watching these productions my kids had tb tests done. As the doctor inserted the needle into the skin, my son watched in horror as his skin bubbled up.  Later he told me all he could think of was those martians in the movie that had bubbles on their bodies. It didn't help that he assumed the tb test would be like a shot. He had no idea what to expect. 

It's amazing how the unknown can affect us, especially when combined with subconscious fears that are currently being dealt with.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Apron in Red and Chocolate-See and Sew B5125

Recently I sewed a new apron from pattern See and Sew 5125. My daughter picked out the color combination.

Ta da!


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

18th Century Cap with Lilac

The latest challenge for the Historical Sew Fortnightly was "Under $10" so I thought a great project would be a proper 18th century cap for my daughter. This takes so little fabric, yet it's such an essential accessory fo the 18th century persona. Caps were worn by all social classes, whether married or single, to keep the hair clean. Perhaps at night at a ball a lady would attend with her hair dressed up, or with a wig, but without a cap.
I used some leftover 100% cotton windowpane fabric that I had used for my 1860's gown. I got this fabric on sale for $5 a yard.  I only used 1/2 yard so the fabric came to $2.50. I accented the cap with purple  satin ribbon, which might have cost about $3 for the 12 foot roll.  I only used a small portion, less than 2 feet. I'd say this cap cost me $3 in all, including the little bit of thread I used, which I also bought on sale.
I used the Kannik Korner pattern for Women's and Girls' Caps from 1740-1820. I made version A: Round Eared Cap with Split Ruffle Variation. It is 100% hand sewn. Here are some close-up shots of my work:
The gather whipped stitch:

The eyelet...

First I had my daughter model the cap itself...




After I added her favorite ribbon (purple of course!) I took the final shots!





Now for the HSF details:

HSF 2014

The Challenge: #13 Under $10

Fabric: cotton

Pattern: Kannik Korner

Year: 18th century

Notions: ribbon

How historically accurate is it? quite

Hours to complete: many

First worn: Colonial Williamsburg

Total cost: free, stash project

Monday, July 14, 2014

Crepes, Creme Brulee, History and a Movie on Bastille Day

Today we commemorated Bastille Day the best we could with a busy family going off in different directions at different times of day. Yet we were all able to come together at dinner to try a new treat that I've not dared to make.  I used Alton Brown's tips to take away my fear of...crepes.

First, Alton taught me how to pronounce them correctly. No, I could not talk my high school into letting me take French, so I have to pick it up here and there.  Crepe is pronounced /krep/ with a short e sound.

Another fear was that I did not have the required blender that most recipes insist on. Alton Brown told me that it's okay to use the food processor. ;) 


I also added chopped chives and then I did a quick pulse 10 times to achieve the crepe batter!

Because liquids tend to leak from my Cuisinart, I poured the batter into a bowl which I then placed into the fridge. Yes, Alton insisted I keep this step, even though I see chefs on Food Network cooking competitions sucsessfully cook crepes from start to finish in less than 30 minutes.  Being an amateur cook, it's best that I listen to Alton.  Into the fridge it went while I tackled other tasks of the day.

Finally it was time to actually cook the crepes. Even though the first 5 were difficult to flip, I finally figured out the trick thanks to Alton Brown's tips. After that the crepes came out perfectly! I made a mushroom filling for these that everyone enjoyed! I also made a salad with a rasperry chipotle dressing and blueberries. I wanted to keep the meal simple so that we could have a decadent dessert.


Normally I insist on cooking food from scratch so that it is healthier, fresher and tastier.  However for our 1930's history presentation I bought these creme brulees since I was pressed for time. That was the first time we had ever eaten creme brulees and we were pleasantly surprised.  Safeway brand is quite creamy, richly flavored with vanilla and wonderfully crackly on the top from the melted sugar. The box says these are imported from France. Also each one comes in it's own French ceramic pottery that I have reused numerous times as prep bowls or dessert bowls. For $5 a box of two, I feel this is a real bargain!

Here is my creme brulee hot from the oven...

Here is the side view of the bowl. It's definitely a keeper!

Today I ran across this great article I thought I'd share, called When the United States Spoke French.
I thought we'd top off our evening with a French movie. I only have two: Casablanca and Sabrina (with Harrison Ford). I suggested Casablanca since it has the Merseille in it and it's about liberty.  My daughter had a rough day at work. She walked in to work tonight but they informed her they are shutting the doors forever.  She is now working on looking for another job.  She said, "Mom, I need to laugh tonight." So we are watching Sabrina.  After all, Paris is always a good idea.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Colonial Williamsburg Tailor Discusses Summerwear

While we were visiting Colonial Williamsburg during Drummer's Call, we had an oppotunity to visit the tailor! We found him working on a tent-like structure! When I asked him about it he said it was in fact, a tarp-like structure for the Armoury to provide them with some shade this summer.
One thing I enjoy about visiting the tailor, is that no two visits have been the same. Each visit yields a different discussion partially based on the questions from the guests.  Of course the tailor, like the other interpreters and tradespeople, is a wealth of information.  The query of the day was...modesty...which somehow led to a discussion on bathing suits! I found this quite interesting because I had seen historical articles pop up in my journeys around the internet previous to this trip to the tailor. In fact most of them referenced Martha Washington's bathing suit! I had been curious if anything I had read was accurate because I had found it rather astounding, so I was certainly listening intently. I learned that much of what I read was indeed correct!  The tailor did explain that the 18th century bathing suit was like a shift. Weights were placed in the hem to keep the shift from floating up.
Here is an article I found for kids from the Washington Post that was recently published about historic bathing suits, including Martha Washington's. It's in two parts:
Here is the slide show...and the article (there is the same slide show here that doesn't work.)

Here is a post from Mount Vernon's blog.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Hiking the Civil War, Nature, and Geology at Harpers Ferry's Maryland Heights

I've been a bit laid up this week with a sprained ankle because I took a bit of a tumble while coming down Maryland Heights last Saturday. The day after the 4th, everyone was home from work so why not go somewhere big and do something big? We drove to Harper's Ferry for one of the big hikes!It was a beautiful day with clear skies and temperatures in the 70's!

This is where the Potomac and Shenandoah meet.  We were able to walk across a bridge from the town of Harper's Ferry to Maryland. That was the first I've ever walked to another state! The path is next to the train tracks. I'm glad there were no trains while we were on the bridge.


We decided to hike to the top of Maryland Heights, which is a rather steep and rocky trail. Elevation at the river level is about 300 feet. The top of Maryland Heights is 1453 feet.  We found raspberries growing along the side of the trail.

Every once in a while we came to a clearing with a great view. Our first overlook was rather quick to reach and was 627 feet.

This is where a 30 pound battery had been lifted, about 1181 feet.

The trail kept getting steeper.  The Union troops climbed these steep trails while hauling cannon and ammunition to the top of the mountain.


The higher we got, the rockier the trail became.


I don't think the picture does justice to the steepness of the trail.

Near the top we came to a breastworks near where the soldiers camped.

More of the breastwork through the trees...

These stairsteps were a most worthy Eagle Scout project.

At the very top was the end of our ascent where we found the stone fort. We had hiked up about 1200 feet.

The total elevation of the Stone Fort is 1453 feet.




As we started to climb down the mountain, we had to climb over many boulders and rocks, near which we found grapes!


We also found a lot of pegmatite quartz! Here's only one of many pictures of many rocks I took.


It is from here that a  100 pounder battery was lifted up the mountain during the Civil War. Amazing.






We hiked further down and found a redoubt, which is the large hill seen in the next few pictures. These are earthworks that were built by the men for protection during attack.



There was a special bridge to walk on to climb up. Earthworks shouldn't be climbed. The park service is trying to preserve them.


As we came further down the mountain we found a small deer happily eating in the forest. He'd pop his head up to look at us, flick his ears and tail, then go back to cheerfully eating.  We stood there for about 5 minutes and he came quite close. He never minded us one bit.


Somewhere after this point I tripped. I scraped up my left leg and my right ankle was sore. I rested a bit and took refreshment, then continued walking down the mountain.  It was quite steep coming down so it obviously has to be taken carefully. Finally we came to the end of the trail and we were at the Potomac River again!  We hiked the entire trail in about 3.5 hours.