Monday, December 23, 2013

NORAD Santa Tracker

Speaking of a vintage Christmas, let's turn the time machine from the 40's to the 50's. 1955 to be precise.  The setting is Colorado Springs, Colorado, where Santa's phone number was published for all the children to call.  However, they accidentally published a phone number to the military unit  whose job it was to track military might during the Cold War.  Playing along, staff members gave children Santa tracking updates each time they called and a military tradition of tracking and escorting Santa began. NORAD Santa Tracker has an official countdown and video updates along with global map tracking of Santa's whereabouts. The videos showcase many famous sites around the world as Santa flies by, all narrated (at least in latter years) by military personnel of NORAD. We have enjoyed these for years.

The tracking begins earlier than you might think, so be sure to check in early on December 24. Remember that Santa leaves the North Pole at the International Date Line while many of us are in bed!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas During WWII

 My original plan for school was to have our WWII USO Show (history presentation) in December, with a Christmas theme.  This was partly inspired from  my having found a book of WWII letters during Christmas, which I had hoped to incorporate in some way.  Unfortunately outside schedules competed and overruled my schedule, so we did a WWI program instead.  Nevertheless I think the WWII theme is still stuck in my mind during this Christmas season, so I did some googling and found these interesting links.

National WWII Museum

Christmas in Britain During WWII from the BBC

When I was little we decorated our tree with ornaments my mom had when she was little.  I was surprised to find examples of them in the following links.  I'd love to collect some of these. They were always my favorite and truely captured my imagination, unlike any modern ornaments.

Vintage WWII Christmas Ornaments

And More Vintage WWII Christmas Ornaments

Christmas Dinner Menu

Homemade Christmas Gifts

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Nutcracker with Mikhail Baryshnikov

Last night we watched "The Nutcracker" with Mikhail Baryshnikov, which was an absolute delight!  I was familiar with who he was, but had never seen him perform before.  Last summer I found this DVD at a used bookstore, and purchased it with hope, and it certainly proved to be a delight. 
The choreography and execution were stellar, although the "Dance of the Snowflakes" was comparatively a bit confusing.  The brother, through the entire party, rides a horse and brandishes his sword up high, which is repeated of course when the Mouse King makes his horrid appearance!  There is a toy dance at the party, highly reminiscent of the music box doll and rag doll in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang starring Dick Van Dyke.  More than in any other version I've seen, I felt that the dancers not only executed moves brilliantly but interpreted them appropriately, bringing a new dimension of realism to the fairytale.

There are many dances between Clara and the Nutcracker who of course is portrayed by Baryshnikov.  The Nutcracker comes to life in a most plausible way.  As well as I understood the story, the interpretation of many aspects of the story took on new meaning in its clarity of execution.  Throughout the story Clara is transformed by her nightgown changing in appearance from a regular chemise with ruffle at the bottom to a lovely chemise of ruffles at neckline and hem, that glowed with peach in the final dance sequence. 

After the battle with the mice, the Nutcracker pushed and twirled Clara's sleigh (with her in it) across the ice into his kingdom. In the comfort of his court the many fun dances of the nations played out while the Nutcracker and Clara sat on thrones.  The court members were attired in colors of either lavender or peach, which was echoed in the sky scene from the windows of the court. After several dances, the Nutcracker crowns Clara and they dance the pas de deux, with a bit of foreshadowing of the end of the story.  This part is quite different from any interpretation I had ever seen before which had me swooning one moment and on the edge of my seat the next!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Edwardian Rhetoric History Presentation

We have completed our latest history presentation which was about the Edwardian Era. Our research included these sources...


Presenting Christy Huddelston (my daughter), Isabella Hagnar (me), and Captain Eddie Rickenbacker (my son)...


I portrayed Isabella Hagner, first social secretary of the White House. She was hired by the first lady, Edith Roosevelt soon after her husband took office in 1901.


Isabella was called Belle by everyone she knew personally.  However the newspapers, to her chagrin, called her "the Napoleon of the White House." (This was also discussed in one of my books.)

As a child she had played on Lafayette Square. Being of the upper class, she was educated in the way of a lady until her parents died when she was 16. Suddenly left to support her three younger brothers, she drew on her social skills since jobs for women were quite limited. 


She officially worked as clerk for the War Department, but also worked on the side to help fine ladies organize their social receptions.  When Mrs. Roosevelt became first lady, she asked for recommendations for a social secretary, a position that had never before been held at the White House.


President Roosevelt's sister highly recommended Belle, who became the first social secretary of the White House. Although the newspapers made it seem that she ousted other employees, she got along famously with all, took direction well, paid close attention to details, and had an outgoing and fun personality, all of which were a perfect fit for her and the Roosevelts.


I set up my desk to represent Belle's desk, organized with piles of correspondence. She collected all the mail and organized everything.  Political matters went to the proper entities.  Condolences for the death of President McKinley were  forwarded to the family.  Congratulations for the Roosevelts on their entrance to the White House was shared and responded to as Mrs. Roosevelt directed Belle.  Most puzzling were the plethora of personal requests from the general public who hoped Mrs. Roosevelt would solve their personal dilemmas.  Such items were handled with great tact, although there was nothing Mrs. Roosevelt could do.


The presentation began with Belle welcoming everyone to the White House.  She proceeded to tell a bit of her story, of how she and her brothers became orphans, only surviving with the "Lord's guiding hand." Then she told how she came to be the first White House social secretary of detailed her many duties. She asked the guests how they liked the name the president had bestowed on the lovely Executive Mansion. He said every state had an Executive Mansion, so it should be called the White House!


Belle shared fun stories about the Roosevelt family. Yes, all the rumors were true, that they were a fun family! However many might be surprised to know of an incident when the Roosevelts first moved into the White House, of the children chasing their father through the house and up the stairs, uproarously laughing, because Mr. Roosevelt was in fact chasing...

... his wife, who was gleefully leading the charge!


Belle also helped organize social events.  In 1901, there were no formal events since the White House was officially mourning McKinley's death.  There were however teas for Mrs. Roosevelt at which Belle poured the tea. Mr. Roosevelt had luncheons to conduct business and meet with friends.  1902 began the busy social season.  Belle initially made a list of guests which she then shared with Mrs. Roosevelt, who would make any changes as needed. Then Belle used her beautiful handwriting, from her years of training as a lady, to write the official White House invitations.  She also organized the seating arrangements. It was important for her to understand the various personalities so that talkers could draw out the quiet ones, but she was careful not to seat together those who didn't quite get along.  She attended these social events to ensure everyone was having a good time, to introduce people, and to make sure that everything flowed. One night her dancing classes in her younger years proved especially useful. While she was dancing with a dignitary, he tripped and fell, bringing her crashing down on top of him. With a flourish Belle made it look like a new dance move, while he untangled himself from her long red velvet skirts with a big smile on his face.


Belle also shared how the Roosevelts spent time with the children each evening either reading to them or letting the children read to them.  Books were quite important to the Roosevelts and they were well read.  The children were also quite fun. Belle was invited to the Roosevelt home on Oyster Bay, Long Island every summer. On the first visit the children yelled during dinner, "Belle has the bug!"  Apparently a golden bug was strategically placed at each meal, and all hoped to be the one to have "the bug."    


Possibly one of Belle's most difficult duties was her time on the telephone while she was sitting at her desk.  Two of the children, Ethel and Kermit, would crawl in and sneak under her chair to tickle her ankles.  Being on the phone with someone of importance, Belle certainly couldn't giggle or reprimand the children, nor could she move her feet for fear of accidently kicking them and injuring their teeth or eyes.  It was all in good humor and she could certainly laugh after she hung up the phone.


Being the organizer of social events at the White House, Belle invited  her guests to partake of some of the newest dinner games of the Edwardian Era.  The newest rage was the idea of a Progressive Dinner, where the gentlemen each gave his arm to escort one of the ladies from room to room, where different courses would be held. 


Before the presentation, I prepped the kitchen as the staging area for the Progressive Dinner.  For each course in each room there would be fresh plates, napkins, and silverware.  Everything was laid out on the island, with a "cheat sheet" of notes for quick reference.


I asked my son to portray the Butler.  Neither my daughter nor I were capable of navigating the handling of plates with long skirts.  My son was asked why he was wearing a leather jacket while serving food.  I chimed in to say that he had aspirations to one day become a pilot, which was quite a forward thinking and Progressive idea, considering the Wright Brothers were currently busy at the task of making such flight a reality. Later in the meal when this young butler added some provokingly deep thoughts, which caused me to interject that the president liked this young man quite a bit, since he fits in so well with the family's interests in books and progressive thinking.

Another Edwardian dinner game was to assign conversation topics to each course. Belle had envelopes for each course, inside of which detailed the course to be presented and the conversation topic. 

The Deli Course was Panzanella Salad on a Stick. These were served individually on our plates.      Being made of Italian ingredients, the topic of conversation was "immigration." 
When we finished this course we did an Edwardian twist of switching partners. The ladies took a different gentleman's arm to be led to the next course...


...the Herb Course!  Nuts and herbs were found in the Smokey Mountains. The blue of the bowl reminded me of the lovely blue eyes of Fairlight Spencer, whom Christy Huddleston met in Cutter Gap, Tennessee. The topic was to hear the story of Christy, whom many people know from the televsion show and the book. Inspired by the true story of her mother, Catherine Marshall wrote the 1912 story of Christy, a missionary teacher to Appalachia.


My daughter, who portrayed Christy, remained in her seat as she nibbled on nuts and told us how she had been raised as a lady in Ashville, North Carolina, but after hearing a missionary speak at her church, decided to leave the social life of high society to teach the children of the mountains of Tennessee. To prepare for her part, my daughter read the book Christy last summer with the intent to portray the title character for this history presentation.  Even though my daughter is now a college student, she still enjoys being included in the presentations.  Christy is based on the real story of Catherine Marshall's mother.  Reading the preface is quite interesting because it goes into the actual history of the story.


Then we proceeded to the next room for the Hunting Course of Filet Mignon wrapped in Bacon with a side of Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce.  Of course we discussed President Roosevelt's many hunting adventures!


Then we promenaded to the Nautical Course of Roasted Scallops wrapped in Bacon served with non-alcoholic pina colada sauce.  We discussed President Roosevelt's most prized memory of his presidency, the Great White Fleet!


The Asian Course included Smoked Salmon Salad with Asian Dressing, served with Spicy Won Ton Crisp.  We discussed relations with Asia, a newly opened continent after centuries of mystery. We especially  talked about President Roosevelt's peace talks with the Russians and Japanese, which led to his being the first American awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.


Finally the Dessert Course of Gingerbread with Lemon Curd!  We discussed the Kaiser and his tartness in relations, causing all the European countries to form various alliances with each other.  The Kaiser asked President Roosevelt to negotiate for his country, but Roosevelt subtly kept things most proper, to the consternation of the Kaiser. We also discussed how Roosevelt's daughter, Alice, christened the yacht of Prince Wilhem.


All this talk of Germany led to talk of World War I, where we learned about Captain Edward Rickenbacker, the American Ace of Aces. Rickenbacker's name was originally pronounced in the German until the war, when he went to an Americanized pronunciation. 


Before the war Rickenbacker was quite fascinated with cars, which he enjoyed racing and sending to the edge of their endurance, seemingly impractical experience which served him well as a World War I Flying Ace.  We learned a lot about the weaknesses of airplanes and how the pilots did their utmost to overcome negative odds. One of the pilots he flew with was previously an ace with the Lafayette Esquadrille.


All of President Roosevelt's sons fought in the war. Quentin, the son described as being most like his father, became a pilot whom Rickenbacker knew.  Sadly, Quentin's plane was hit and consumed in fire. When the German's discovered the body and realized who it was, out of honor to the Roosevelt family, they gave Quentin a funeral full of military honors. With heavy heart, President Roosevelt died within a year after his son.  Later Mrs. Roosevelt flew to Europe to lay a special marker at her son's grave.


Rickenbacker had many close calls himself, but survived and participated in WWII as a civilian and was involved in many business ventures. He was quite a forward thinking man, with technological ideas ahead of his time.  To prepare for his part, my son read Fighting the Flying Circus by Captain Eddie Rickenbacker.  My son was glued to this account and had more stories that he wanted to tell than he had time for in his presentation.  He's been sharing more and more details over dinner, breakfast, lunch...

"Captain Eddie Rickenbacker" closed his presentation by reading a few WWI poems: "Here Dead We Lie" by A E Houseman, "Dulce et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen, "A Soldier" by Rupert Brooke, and "In Flanders Fields" by Lt. Col. John McCrae.

After all the sadness and heaviness, we ended the presentation on a lighter note, with "Christy" reading for us a poem that she read to her students in Cutter Gap..."Jabberwocky," by Lewis Carroll.




Saturday, December 14, 2013

Edwardian Fashion

I finally have pictures of myself wearing my latest Edwardian fashions.  I blogged about my 1912 La Mode Illustree blouse here.  A few details about my Edwardian skirt are here




And here is the Edwardian faux fur capelet and muff, which I blogged about here...



I'm working on the post with the details from the history presentation. Stay tuned!

A Gift of Colonial Williamsburg for my 2013 Secret Sister

For 2013 my Secret Sister was Marsha! We've known each other for years and have even met in person! We've worked on many a project together too. In fact, one of the projects was a quilt/scrapbooking project with the same group of homeschool moms who do Secret Sister with us.  (I thought I had a post about that quilt but I can't find it. I may have to redo it.) Marsha likes to sew and be super creative, so as a side gift I sent her all the fabric remnants from the quilt/scrapbook project.

She also supports my Colonial Williamsburg love, so I sent her some Colonial Williamsburg. I had lots of gift cards from CW so on each I wrote encouraging notes to help her whenever she wanted a little something like that. I also sent her an ornament from CW. While I was at it, I ordered one for me too!

For my SS 2013 Marsha Williams

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

1902 Edwardian Muff and Capelet

My latest historical garment/accessory was driven by the latest challenge from the Historical Sew Fortnightly. The challenge was to use one metre of fabric. What I really wanted to do was to handsew an 18th century lace cap, but I don't think I have the skillset to sew lace fabric to lace fabric. I am also working on clearing out my fabric stash. I had some faux fur that I had used to edge my 18th century cloak, that I wanted to use up. I dug it out and measured it. It was well over a metre, so I cut off a little more than 39". The rest will be used to edge other cloaks.


Then I pulled out a modern cloak pattern that I don't ever plan to use.  I pinned that to my dress form and cut away the parts I did not want, until I got the look I wanted. Then I unpinned that and pinned it to  my metre of faux fur to cut out my capelet. I left a bit more around the neck edge for a stand up collar.


With my extra fabric, I decided to make a matching muff cover.  I pulled out my muff from challenge #7 Accessory Challenge (which got a bit rumpled and messed up in the snow), to know how much fabric I would need to cut.


I had to cut two recetangles which I had to piece together, to form the tube to go over the inner stuffed muff form.  After pinning it I set it aside to finish later.


The capelet pinned to the dress form...




This much left over. Hmmm, I decided to use this challenge of one metre as completely as I could. Could I use the entire one metre? 


I found this fashion plate from December 1902 of a gorgeous full length cape with trim and 3 collars.  I decided to replicate it as much as one metre would allow.  The top tier was basically the same as my capelet, minus the trim, albeit a bit longer. I didn't want to waste fabric by shortening it now.  I wouldn't have enough fabric for trim, but I would for some extra collars!


I grabbed some scrap paper to whip up a quick drafting of a collar.  I cut out one collar.


Then I overlapped the pieces of "pattern" until it met edge to edge of the remaining fabric, and I cut out another collar.


I sewed around 3 edges, right sides together, and turned them right side out.  Then I basted the bottom edges. I did that to each.  Then I layed the shorter one on top of the longer one, centering them and basted those together on the bottom edge. Then I pinned that to the capelet and fiddled until I liked it, then I handsewed them to the capelet.


In the above photo, I have pulled down the outer 2 collar layers I cut out.  All that is standing is the original extra fabric left as part of the capelet.


In the above photo, I pulled up the inner collar.


Now I've pulled up the outer collar.


Now I've fiddled with it a bit, pulling the front edges angled towards the front, but leaving the backs sticking up, a bit like the fashion plate.


My capelet was done!  I handsewed my muff cover and assembled those pieces.  The muff was done! The above photo shows all that was left from my 1 metre of faux fur. 


The muff is sitting on the edge of the credenza.  It had snowed this week so I decided to use the snow on the deck as part of the appropriate setting for a faux fur muff and capelet. We talked of doing a photo shoot outdoors, but long story short, it didn't work out. I hope to do one this Saturday!


This covered my basic muff form.  It looks much better when my hands are stuffed inside.   I used black satin ribbon for the ties. They weren't much longer than the remaining faux fur after cutting the last collar.




Following are close ups and full shots of the capelet with the Edwardian skirt and 1912 white batiste and lace blouse that I recently made! 











Photos of my wearing the muff and capelet are here.

Now for the HSF details:

HSF  2013

The Challenge: #25 One Metre

Fabric: faux fur

Pattern: self-drafted

Year: Edwardian

Notions: thread

How historically accurate is it? not sure, but based on extant cloaks and muffs

Hours to complete: 8

First worn: history presentation

Total cost: free, fabric from stash