Saturday, April 25, 2015

Fiesta Flambeau and University of Texas Longhorns

Tonight was Fiesta Flambeau, the largest illuminated night parade in America! Reynolds Andriks, who had been heavily involved in Fiesta over the years, created this new event in 1948. Torch brigades march between every ten entries to light the way. Bands put flashlights on their instruments as well as their uniforms whereas floats light up in variously creative ways.
Because the military was not actively involved in Fiesta events, Mr. Andriks proposed several ideas to the commanders of Fort Sam, Lackland AFB, Kelly AFB, and Randolph AFB: each base elect a queen that would ride in the parade on a float representing the base. Military bands participated as well.
The annual tradition of the  University of Texas Longhorns opening the Fiesta Flambeau began with a certain alumni by the name of...who else but Reynolds Andriks. This is the favorite part for us since we are huge Longhorns fans! You can see the University of Texas Longhorns in tonight's parade in this video. Advance to the 2:45 marker.
I got to attend Fiesta Flambeau in the 80's at the Blue House, which was owned by First Baptist Church. We sat on the balcony with friends overlooking the beginning of the parade near the broadcasters and cameramen.
What a thrill to experience the University of Texas Longhorn band in person! What fun to watch all the lit floats and bands, escorted by torch bearers, parade down Broadway!
Thus ends another year of Fiesta, which began in 1891 to honor the  men who fell at the Alamo. I've blogged about Fiesta all week, and last night I added a link to a video of another favorite band, the Old Guard playing 18th century style at the River Parade. Fast forward to the 27:20 mark.They were so great they set off the fireworks on the stage behind them!
Monday-Fiesta River Parade and the Texas Cavaliers
Tuesday-Pilgrimage to the Alamo and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas
Wednesday-Medals of Fiesta, The Old Guard and El Rey Feo
Thursday- Glittering Gowns of Fiesta
Friday-Battle of Flowers Parade, Cascarones, and Texas A&M
I never found my picture of me in Fiesta costume. When I taught third grade we used to hold our own Battle of Flowers Parade for the school durng Fiesta Week. (Then we had Friday off so we could attend the real parade!) Each of the third graders were assigned a project to build their own float...using a shoebox as the base. It has to do with San Antonio history. It was always fun seeing all the floats arrive and letting them decorate the top of the cubbies. For the parade, we all came to school dressed in our Fiesta festive finest! For me I made a gourgeous white peasant style blouse with eyelet lace, a deep pink skirt, deep pink beads necklace, and hoops earrings that had a few deep pink beads. Then I wore my medals and sombrero pins covered in ribbon and glitter.
We lined up, all six of the third grade classes, with each student carrying his/her own float. Each teacher led her class and we paraded around the bus circle where all the students gathered for the fun break from seatwork. If the weather was bad we paraded down the hallways. Such a simple little tradition but one that all of our students and teachers enjoyed. It was a chance for the students to show off their own creative interpretation of San Antonio/Texas history.
Fiesta is about memories, charities and kids! Viva Fiesta!  

Battle of Flowers Parade, Cascarones, and Texas A&M Corps of Cadets

Davy Crockett. Jim Bowie. William Barret Travis.  Three names among nearly two hundred. Heroism. Sacrifice. Remember the Alamo. 1836. Crumbling walls. Time  marches on...forgotten.

 In 1860, 24 years after Texan Independence, Ellen Maury was born in Charlottesville, Virginia on land which is now part of the University of Virginia campus. Thomas Jefferson, who designed UVA, entered the College of William and Mary in the 18th century because of a Maury family member. Born into a prestigious family, Ellen Maury was well educated. She was tutored at home. In 1876, she married a Texan rancher by the name of James Slayden. The story goes that Ellen met James while visiting her sister, Jane Maury Maverick. Jane's son Fontaine Maury Maverick, attended Virginia Military Institute and University of Texas at Austin before attending law school. Later he became the famed and memorable mayor of San Antonio...better known as Maury Maverick.

Meanwhile, the Alamo of tumbled crumbling stone had been forgotten save a quiet guardianship obtained by Senator Temple Houston, son of General Sam Houston who defeated Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto. 

From the quietness of tumbling stone came the life of  tumbling flowers...the Battle of Flowers Parade! Inspired by European tradition Ellen Maury Slayden organized a group of ladies to honor the fallen heroes of the Alamo with a literal battle of flowers. On the anniversary week of the Battle of San Jacinto, carriages bedecked with flowers rode past each other in front of the Alamo as the occupants pelted each other with flowers. The 1891 event became an annual tradition that lives on today.

The Battle of Flowers is unique in that it is the only parade in the United States that is organized soley by women. Not only is it the largest parade of Fiesta week, but it is the second largest parade in the country (the first largest being the Tournament of Roses Parade). Today the women who organize this grand event dress in yellow hats and dresses for the parade. During the 100 year anniversary in 1991, the original parade was recreated with the literal battling of flowers. Always remembering the Alamo, parade participants leave a floral tribute as they pass the Alamo.

I have been to many of the Battle of Flower parades over the years. For my first parade we went to the Blue House, a two story Victorian owned by First Baptist Church, on the parade route. We sat with friends on the second story balcony located near the start of the parade route. The television commentators are below.  There is something for everyone in the parade. From antique cars, to horses, to gowns...

Blue House Balcony on Broadway

President Fiesta Commission

One of the Elegant Trains for One of the Royal Court

King Antonio

Another Stunning Royal Gown

...and the Incredible Train

I think this is the USAF Band of the West?

El Rey Feo

Here is the Train...

...and Here is the Gown

A Fun Float for the  Kids

Over the years I think we attended at least three more Battle of Flowers Parades, at least two with our kids. For those we had a different venue at the other end of the parade route near the Alamo.  After doing this the first time, a new tradition was born. What better vantage point than in front of the Alamo...under the shady trees! Practically shade is a treat since it can be quite hot and humid this time of year in San Antonio.  Emotionally though, it helped me to tie in the meaning of the festivities to the intent of the remember our fallen heroes at the Alamo. What a fitting setting.

One of the many traditions of Fiesta is cascarones...or confetti filled eggs.  I learned how to make them from a friend when we were in the fifth grade. It is quite easy. Everyone smashes them on each other heads during Fiesta. It's definitely a colorful time!

Another fun tradition of Fiesta is that there is no school on Friday! That's because it is the day of the Battle of Flowers Parade. All of the high school bands participate in the parade. In fact, the night before they have the annual Battle of the Bands tournament at...Alamo Stadium! Remember the Alamo!

And yet another incredible tradition of the Battle of Flowers Parade is the Corps of Cadets from Texas A&M who I do believe has been permamently invited to open every Battle of Flowers Parade.  Here is video footage of Texas A&M from today's parade. Scroll down to "Parade Video" and then select "Battle of Flowers Parade Part I."  Start at the eleven minute mark for about 5 minutes of Aggie footage! Aggies are a big deal in Texas! Oh the thrill of being there in person as they come marching through!

As an addendum to Ellen Maury Slayden, her husband became a US Congressman, so they moved to Washington DC for part of their lives before retiring in San Antonio. She wrote a book of their Washington years called, Washington Wife: Journal of Ellen Maury Slayden from 1897-1919. I've read that it's a great primary source document of all the political and cultural doings of the times!

I feel a bit of kinship with Ellen Maury Slayden in that I am from San Antonio and now I live 2 hours north of Charlottesville and an hour west of Washington DC. Portraying her in historical costume, (and even Clara Driscoll whom I wrote about yesterday) would be great fun! I'm always excited by Texas/Virginia connections of people from the past! Sam Houston and Ellen Maury Slayden as well as two others who fought and fell at the Alamo ( George Washington Main, and Patrick Henry Herndon) to name a few.   

I think I remember where my Fiesta costume pictures are. Here's hoping! Also there is one more parade. All of that tomorrow as we continue to Remember the Alamo!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Glittering Gowns of Fiesta San Antonio


Glittering gowns galore abound at Fiesta San Antonio parades that cause many a little girl to dream of becoming a princess, even for a day. This is in fact possible with many civic groups, even high schools, as seen above.

For those of us who sew historical gowns, the opportunity to help sew "sequins, spangles and Swarovski crystals" onto Fiesta gown would be memorable, although wearing them would be divine! Sadly I never had that opportunity. In fact, I was never certain where these gowns came from. Many have bedazzled me from afar as I've watched many a Fiesta parade. Others I've had the opportunity to revel in grand splendour up close and personal at the Witte Museum. This link shows some grand photos with details. However they do not stay at the Witte Museum. From whence do they come and where do they go?

My appreciation for textiles and needlework goes back to my childhood when I first saw these glittering gowns in Fiesta parades. This video of a coronation from 2011 gives a sense of their grandeur of regal 11-15' trains that with the gown can weigh up to 100 pounds.   Even my daughter would delight in these gowns when she saw them at the parades.

Every year during Fiesta, which began in 1891, princesses-to-be are bedazzled by 26 gorgeous gowns worn by 26 different lovely ladies who are chosen by the Order of the Alamo which began in 1909 by businessmen. One must be in the right circles to be chosen for the court. In other words, the honor to wear these gowns is given to debutantes. One article I read said that they are not chosen based on money, but based on heritage. That's a nice idea, however, one truely needs money to wear one of these gowns, because each of these ladies' families pays for her gown. It is speculated that they cost  $10,000 or more. After they are worn they might be donated to the Witte Museum to be displayed for a season. However the gown ultimately goes home with the young lady. Can you imagine having one of these in your own home? All this time I thought they belonged to the Witte!  Here is a great slide show of the queens beginning in 1909 to the present that definitely shows the fashion trends.

The first Fiesta queen was portrayed by Clara Driscoll who served for 3 years. She is the only lady to hold this distinction, perhaps because she is responsible for rescuing the Alamo which nearly became a hotel. Ever since 1909 each queen holds court for only one year with a princess and 24 duchesses, 12 from San Antonio and 12 from outside the city.

The design process takes three years of planning, designing and sewing. Here are two articles that go into grand detail of the process with two different designers: Master Embroiderer with Old World Technique and Prida.   

The entire process is a closely guarded secret until the grand unveiling at the coronation (as in the video above). This year's coronation was held last night, so here is a peak at this year's lovely creations! As part of their official duties, the queen and her court will be seen with their bejeweled gowns tomorrow during the Battle of Flowers Parade, which will be tomorrow's post.  In fact, I just checked and KSAT 12 is hosting the parade this year on San Antonio tv and on-line for us Texans who live afar at 12:30pm Central Time.

I went through all of my photographs this afternoon looking for parade photographs.  Alas only one batch of photos were found. I'm going to try to scan them tomorrow, then I will replace this one. Now we live in Virginia and don't get to attend the parades like we used to. However they do bring great memories and we participate the best we can from afar.  Researching and blogging this week has been great fun and my appreciation for Fiesta has deepened. If you'd like to read more I also wrote:Monday's River Parade and the Texas Cavaliers
Pilgrimage to the Alamo and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas
Medals of Fiesta, The Old Guard and El Rey Feo


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Medals of Fiesta San Antonio, The Old Guard, and El Rey Feo

Fiesta San Antonio is a fun 10 day event that Remembers the Alamo during the anniversary of Sam Houston's victory over Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto! Monday I wrote about the River Parade which is hosted by the Texas Cavaliers. Tuesday I wrote about Pilgrimage to the Alamo which is hosted by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. Today I'd like to share about the medals...because they are fun collector's items!

Throughout this year's Fiesta festivities which this San Antonio gal has been enjoying via facebook  (I now live in Northern Virginia) medals have been posted everywhere! One of the facebook groups I follow is of The United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps. I grew up in San Antonio being a huge fan of the Old Guard. I always watched the Fiesta parades on tv, so I always got to see them! Monday night was the River Parade. Friday afternoon all the San Antonio schools have a holiday for the Battle of Flowers Parade.  Saturday night closes Fiesta with the Fiesta Flambeau. Invariably in one of these parades I'd see The Old Guard perform! They were always my favorite group! Somehow as a little girl living in Texas, I felt a kinship with all things 18th century. It began with television footage of a colonial town with colonial people with a colonial fife and drum corps. In utter fascination I asked my dad where that was because it seemed so real. He told me about Colonial Williamsburg and I fell in love. However I did not get to visit Virginia, or Colonial Williamsburg, until after my college years. In the meantime my longing for the 18th century was fueled by seeing the Old Guard, which I now know is based in Washington DC area, or more specifically Fort Myer, Virginia. For today's Army they reenact General George Washington's Continental Army. We now see The Old Guard perform all the time at Colonial Williamsburg's Drummers Call. Their stellar performances thrill me to my soul! Here is video footage of them at Monday's River Parade. Go to 27:20 mark. They are so good that they set off the fireworks on the stage behind them!

On the Old Guard's facebook page I've been seeing all their photos of their many performances at numerous Fiesta events this week. Each day they accumulate more and more medals that I'm sure have been bestowed upon them for participating in such grand manner! Though these are not regulation, they are permissible during the Fiesta events (many have asked on their facebook page.)

Even I have a medal collection! These are medals that we have been gifted at various special events.


These are my three medals and two Fiesta hat decorations. One hat is a pin and another is a barrette. I think I purchased one and was gifted another years ago when I was a public school teacher in San Antonio. One of the other teachers crafted these for us. Everyone either buys these or makes them because dressing up with flowers and ribbons and glitter is part of Fiesta finery! Hopefully I can find a photograph or two of me all decked out with my students. Stay tuned for that hopefully on Friday!

When I was in kindergarten King Antonio came to visit us during Fiesta. He gave us a token, but sadly I no longer have that. =( When I was a public school teacher El Rey Feo came to our school...and this time I got a medal! Here is the front...


...and here is the back! "El Rey Feo" is Spanish for "The Ugly King." As horrible as that sounds, it holds special meaning. There is already King Antonio, introduced by the Texas Cavaliers in 1926. Crowned for the first time in 1947, El Rey Feo represents the LULAC Rey Feo Scholarship Committee that raises money for college students. The tradition of El Rey Feo originated in the Middle Ages of Spain when the common people elected one like them to be king for the day.   


In 2007 my family and I got to attend the River Parade, courtesy of the Texas Cavaliers. As part of their gift of tickets, dinner, and pre-parade entertainment we were also gifted two medals! This one isspecific to the Texas Cavaliers.


...and here is the back. Each King Antonio from the Texas Cavaliers is announced at a special ceremony at the beginning of Fiesta in front of the Alamo.


The second  medal the Texas Cavaliers gave to us was of the River Parade that night! The theme was A Fiesta of Film...Red Carpet on the River. The image is of the Arneson River Theater which is the stage on the Riverwalk, across from La Villita (the original village of San Antonio that dates back to the 18th century) for many special events, including the stage for the River Parade.


...and the back.


Tomorrow I shall post about the gorgeous gowns of Fiesta!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Pilgrimage to the Alamo and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas


Fiesta week in San Antonio is all about remembering the heroes at the Alamo who died on March 6, 1836 as well as remembering Sam Houston's victory over Santa Anna nearly 7 weeks later at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836. Appropriately, Fiesta is celebrated on the anniversary week of April 21...which just so happens to be today! Because the Battle of San Jacinto was won 179 years ago, we have Fiesta today!

"Look to it, you Texans of today, with happy homes, mid fields of smiling plenty, that the blood of the Alamo, Goliad, and San Jacinto sealed forever...Texas, one and indivisible!"- written by Kate Scurry Terrell

Last night I began my week long series on Fiesta San Antonio because this is a memory near and dear to the heart of this Texan gal who now lives in Northern Virginia. Did you know that at least 16 of the Alamo defenders came from Virginia, including John William Smith, George Washington Main, and Patrick Henry Herndon? Did you know that Sam Houston was born in Virginia? His bust is in both the state house of Virginia and Texas. I love the history of Virginia (as evidenced by my numerous trips to Colonial Williamsburg to see George Washington and Patrick Henry and even to Jamestown where John Smith gained fame.) as well as Texas. I grew up in San Antonio with many memories of Fiesta. It does a soul good to understand and appreciate from whence the traditions of yore come.  

In 2007 when we got to attend the Fiesta River Parade, we also attended the annual event, Pilgrimage to the Alamo. It was an emotional ceremony...quiet...respectful...and heart wrenching when you think about it. We had time to pause and reflect on men who gave their lives at the Alamo, men who knew they would be killed yet stayed anyway. The Alamo defenders were vastly outnumbered. When Santa Anna and his troops arrived he had the flag of  "no quarter" put atop the nearby San Fernando Cathedral, meaning that no hostages would be taken. All. would. be. killed.

As I wrote last night, Fiesta began in 1891 with the Battle of Flowers Parade (I'll write about that on Friday). Thus an annual event was born which has only grown larger over time. Founded in 1905 the Alamo Mission Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas was formed to defend and proclaim the history of Texas. They organized Pilgrimage to the Alamo in 1925, which has become an annual event. Crowds gather from afar from various groups, from civic to military and everyone in-between to respectfully lay wreaths at the Alamo. From inside the crumbled walls a voice booms the name of each of the by one...which is concluded with the poignant playing of Taps.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Fiesta San Antonio River Parade and the Texas Cavaliers

It's Fiesta week in San Antonio! Even though I am now living in Virginia, I am still part Texan. One of my favorite memories were of Fiesta, so I thought I'd share San Antonio's week long festivities on my blog this week! King Antonio! Glittering gowns! Floats! Flowers! Flambeau! Fiesta!
Fiesta began in 1891 to honor the fallen heroes of the Alamo with the Battle of Flowers Parade. Because Fiesta has grown into a ten day event with terrific histories, I will break it down bit by bit this week. Since tonight was the 62nd annual river parade, I will start with that.
The San Antonio River Parade began because of the Texas Cavaliers which were founded in 1926 for the sole purpose of being a social group. They got their name because they promoted horsemanship, which at that time was becoming a dying art. One of their big social events was to elect one of their own to be King Antonio to preside over Fiesta, which by now was 35 years old.
Inspired by "boats and barges decorated with flowers in the 'floating gardens' of Mexico City", the Cavaliers organized the first River Parade in 1941 which premiered on the newly built San Antonio Riverwalk.  
By 1989, the Texas Cavaliers' mission became charitable based helping area children through various avenues.
I remember as a little girl in kindergarten, King Antonio came to my school. To prepare for the big event, we made King Antonio hats (blue with a red fan) to wear. We went outside to meet him and I think he came in a beautiful carriage...and he gave us gifts, which I think were coins.
Fast forward to 2007 when a dream came true for us. We got to attend the Fiesta River Parade, courtesy of the Texas Cavaliers! Every year they host the military by giving them free tickets to the parade with a dinner and concert before the big event!The link says that the military even gets to meet King Antonio during this event. We missed him! I'm sure my kids would have loved meeting King Antonio. Perhaps we hadn't arrived early enough. First we had gone to the Alamo for a special event, which I shall share tomorrow.
When we arrived the party was in progress! A millitary jazz band performed to get us in the mood! Meanwhile we went through the food line and got our food, soda, Blue Bell ice cream cup (am I remembering all of this correctly) and we got some medals! This year's River Parade medal looks like this. How gorgeous! (A separate post on medals is forthcoming.)


We sat near the band to enjoy our food and music. Soon they got one of the boys to help entertain. 


Then it was time to find our seats on the river.  Not to worry if we fall in, the river is only a few feet deep. You can see the medals my kids got! Oh, and we were also given flags!

4 Fiesta

The parade has begun! (squeal)


King Antonio!


Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison


One of the parade queens. I forget who she represented but there are many. See her lovely gown? I am planning a blog post on the Fiesta gowns because they are a big deal in the parades.


I forget but this is probably one of the children's groups that the Cavaliers sponsor. It was definitely a happy looking float!


More swoonworthy gowns!


One of our favorite weathermen from KENS 5, Paul Mireles. Several of the weathermen (I think they were all weathermen...or local celebrities of some sort) were on these innertubes floating around and having lots of fun spraying water at us! (I think they were spraying water at us. I wasn't blogging yet so I don't have notes to reference.) 

Sadness, the parade is over, but lots of fun! Now that we are in Virginia we are glad when the parades are streamlined on the internet so we can watch too! I also plan an entire week of Tex Mex food to enjoy. Old habits are hard to break.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sewing a Shabby Chic Duvet Cover for my Daughter's Room

The next step in redecorating my daughter's bedroom was to sew a duvet cover. I pulled out this lovely fabric from my stash that I had purchased in San Antonio at Hobby Lobby several years ago. Ten yards of utter gorgeousness! Collegiate shabby chic here we come!


Then I bought a twin size duvet. First I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond, thinking I'd buy a $20 one and use one of  my 20% off coupons, but they were  $80. I don't think so. Target got my business...$20.


When I first bought this fabric years ago I was going to make a queen size duvet cover for our bed, but the print was too small in scale for a queen-sized bed. Therefore, the yardage was already cut to the proper lengths! All I had to do was lay it out and proceed by cutting my first length down the middle.


Then I put that fabric on each side of another length. Because this is so large it and has to be pieced, I put the seam lines on the edge of the bed so the eye can focus on the solid panel in the middle of the bed. This was for the top panel.  After these were cut I repeated the process for the bottom panel.


Next I chose these two threads for the sewing. Because this was a budget project, I wanted to use only the threads that I already had in my collection.


Grey makes a great neutral so it would be perfect for sewing all the inside seams. Besides I had a lot of it so I thought  I'd have enough for this fabric.


I reserved the green thread for any outside stitching I needed to do, since I had less of that color.


After I sewed the side seams, I sewed the top and bottom panels together, while leaving one side open. On the open side I turned down the edge and tacked it down. Then I stuffed the duvet into the cover using this technique from Crane and Canopy.


Then I made the ties which are laying on my green cutting mat...


Each of the ties were securely sewn to the edge of the duvet opening.


All finished and ready to put on my daughter's bed!


Next I sewed sheer curtains. Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Shabby Chic Bookcase Shopping

A few months ago I walked into my daughter's room and the fun gerbera daisy teenage hot pink and purple seemed a little too youngish for my now collegiate daughter. What if we redecorate her room Shabby Chic? It would be a little more upscale yet forgiveable for needing to be on a strict budget. After I pulled out some inspiration fabric from my fabric stash, I proposed the idea to her and she loved it.


First though, my daughter needed a new bookcase. Not a bookcase to replace her two old ones, but a new bookcase to add to her two old ones. After all she is a college student who is majoring in English. That means books! She is minoring in history. That means more books! Then she wants to pursue her masters so she can teach, which means even more books! I suggested to her that her room would indeed get squeezy (her term from when she was two...and incidentally James and Dolley Madison's term for their parties in Washington DC. So many people attended that they were called squeezes! Who knew my daughter was being so historically accurate? ;)

However, bookcases are expensive. I suggested we use the Christmas gift money from the grandparents, with extra money that we had budgeted for Christmas.  She agreed...then I got oh so sick that I slept through December (mostly med induced) by her birthday in March I was finally getting around to shopping for the bookcases! Narrowing down the selection to a shabby chic look yielded nothing at the local stores, and only a few on-line. The ones I did find were quite pricey, though one was quite cheap.  She initially settled for cheap. I took the measuring tape to her room, where we had already moved furniture and done some editing to make room for the new bookcase.  When she saw how little the cheap bookcase was, she understood why it was so cheap...and all it would do would take up space in her small room without holding very  many more books that were already crammed into her old bookcases.

One of her old bookcases is already just as little as the cheaper one we found so my daughter knew that wouldn't be productive for her. We bought it quite cheaply as raw wood years ago in San Antonio at the infamous go to store, Garden Ridge Pottery.  I am going to repaint it this summer, shabby chic style so stay tuned for that post!

Her other bookcase I trash picked even more years ago when we lived at Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, Texas.  I saw it on the side of the road, the back was destroyed, but it was in otherwise good shape.

We looked at the other two options for white bookcases...the direction I decided to go in for her shabby chic room to look nice with her creamy yellow walls and sage green with lavendar roses fabric. The one bookcase was a bit out of budget and required $50 shipping. The last bookcase to consider was white, with a beadboard back panel (swoon), was huge, and was a bit out of budget as well. However, it was an IKEA bookcase and there is an IKEA store 30 miles from us.  At this point I was suggesting we use her birthday money from us and from the grandparents to add to her Christmas gift money to buy the bookcase and then to use the balance to do what we could to redo her room...then pick up to do more next Christmas.  She agreed.

I also suggested that we check our local second hand stores to see if we could get a good quality bookcase to completely refinish at a cheaper price. She loved that idea, so one Saturday we set out for our treasure hunt!

We went to the local second hand stores but didn't find  anything that would work. I told her it was okay to get a wow and then we'd super budget everything else so we drove on to IKEA!

I've never bought anything at IKEA before so it was quite the adventure. I'll just say I survived the madness!

Somehow the boxes fit into the van!


Since we were in the area...and since it was lunch time...we went out for lunch at Bobby's Burger Palace! This was our first time there and what a unique place. We sit at a huge community table. I began to worry because the place was rather full, but some people saw us and were quite friendly. They said we could sit near them. My daughter and I got burgers with queso sauce. It's not spicy at all, but I will say this. That is the best white queso sauce I've tasted since coming to Northern Virginia. All the others I've tasted taste like flour.  The food was good. In fact, I was impressed. Most foods I've tasted around here are bland and overcooked. Not here. I got a Southwest Burger and it definitely had flavor. I guess Bobby Flay from Manhatten does know a bit about the Southwest! I'm rather picky about that since I'm from Texas! We'll be back.    



Ta da! See how it fills the space? That was my goal. This gal has lots of books with  more coming her way. We had to maximize that space the best we could.  She even has two more shelves to add whenever she wants.


Another angle...with shots of the "before" photos of the old teenage look. Lots of cute stuff, but a bit little girlie instead of collegiate.


The bookcase is entirely paid for after combining the Christmas and birthday money...with some left over for more wonderful shabby chic-ness! This treasure hunt was a success and her room has been transformed greatly from this photo. Stay tuned! 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Henry V and the Band of Brothers-We Were There

Saturday evening we went to meet my son at Patrick Henry College to attend Eden Troupe's latest production, Henry V. To prepare for the big event I read the play the day before, then that night our family watched Kenneth Branagh's screen version. One thing I've learned about Shakespeare, or even any plays, is that as good as they are when read, they take on a whole new meaning when they are performed. Plays are meant to be performed! And as wonderful as Branagh's moving version of Henry V is, to not worry about the muse's concern of a mere stage performance for an epic story, Branagh definitely opens our imaginations! However to be immersed in Henry V, as we were by Eden Troupe's performance, brought tingles to the spine.  

Action, pathos, drama, emotion, laughter, silliness, wooing, and love were all heroicly performed by Eden Troupe who also, in historically accurate manner, broke the fourth wall. Theater in Shakespeare's day was quite different from today where we quietly sit and applaud after favorite scenes as if we are sitting behind a wall and the performers cannot see us. In the past actors broke the fourth wall by engaging directly with the audience by talking to them and including them in the performance. We, as an audience, humorously got to help unsheath a sword and help the French princess learn English. Most fearfully yet thrillingly we were immersed in the midst of the Battle of Agincourt while the clashing and clinking of swords clanged from the front, sides and back of us. Most poignantly we became part of the hymn, Non Nobis Domine, which began as a solo after the battle ended, soon swelling from all around and behind us as the remaining soldiers slowly carried their dead comrades to the front.

When the muse apologized for the inadequate surroundings to present castle and battle scenes, I had to smile. Sheakespeare had his Globe Theater, but Eden Troupe, the college drama club that is entirely led by students, were challenged by the humblest of spaces. Nevertheless we were effectively transported to the 15th century, at times in England, at other times in France, but always for Harry. Before the play began, the director explained a bit of background, telling us that Henry V was historically accurate. He challenged us to watch the progression of change in Henry through the play.  Henry had led a notoriously foppish life in his youth, which he abandoned when his father died and he assumed the crown. Great deeds, choices, and responsibilities lay in his wake. 

Although we all knew the battle numbers were accurate, I read here that even the story of the hanging of Bardolph was accurate. Although Bardolph is a fictional character, Shakespeare wrote the scene around an actual incident where one of the soldiers had robbed a church. Not only did Henry feel that he was the King of France, but he cared about the people as he cared for his own in England. He did not want the citizens of France razed. Also I read that Henry was truly in love with Katherine. (Henry V: Fact and Fiction, Ace G. Pilkington, Midsummer Magazine, 1997)

As I watched the camaraderie of the "band of brothers"(Act 4, Scene 3, Line 62), the camaderie of the student body (both on stage and in the audience) was obvious, bringing back many memories of our own homeschool history presenatations. We have also watched a lot of 18th century theater at Colonial Williamsburg, being entirely immersed in historically accurate theater that breaks the fourth wall. While at CW we have even seen the fops on stage! Everything was spot on at PHC in most appropriate manner! Huzzah!

For a behind the scenes look, watch this.

For a trailer of the play, watch this.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Institute for Excellence in Writing's Big Surprise for my Son!

Back in mid-December this large envelope came in the mail from IEW, the wonderful writing program we had used while homeschooling. I had been quite ill with little energy in December so I allowed the mail to pile up sans the bills. Assuming this envelope contained a catalog, I saved it for when I would feel better to enjoy all of their wonderful offerings. In mid-January I started to regain some health so I went through the mail pile and found a few surprises, one of which was this envelope that contained a paper my son had written. IEW wanted to use it in some of their publications. At that moment I had a flashback...


I dug through my e-mail for a communications I had received from the IEW yahoo group October! She had attached flashback papers each of my kids had written, asking  me if they were indeed papers that my kids had written. Perplexed, I opened the papers and then I remembered having submitted them to the yahoo group a few years ago!  At that time we were studying the Bill of Rights when the moderator had posted an interesting new writing technique that includes flashbacks. I thought it would be perfect for our Bill of Rights study so I assigned it to my kids. When their papers were completed I shared them with the yahoo group.  I replied to the moderator that the papers were indeed my kids' (on a yahoo group it can get confusing which kids belong to which mother). I wondered why she was I knew!

IEW is so classy, they included the letter of request, an official form of acceptance for publication, as well as a self-addressed stamped envelope! My son had returned to college but we were planning a visit that weekend, and he happily signed off on the paperwork!


In February I was surprised to find this envelope in the mailbox!


In it was a certificate from Andrew (who teaches on the IEW videos and has successfully created happy writers of kids who previously abhorred the task) for my son!


Then in March, when my son was home from spring break, a box from IEW arrived on our doorstep. ???? I hadn't ordered anything recently. Then a lightbulb went on and I called my son down from his room while I had a it possible he was published in the new TWSS that IEW had recently upgraded?


Inside was this gorgeously addressed envelope which announced that my son's paper had indeed been published in the new TWSS!


Tada! The newly upgraded TWSS! My son's writing sample can be found on p119 so that your child too can learn how to write in flashback style! Also included on that page are many tips on how to include flashbacks with various styles of papers and various ages of kids!


One of my favorite additions to the new TWSS is that it now has tabs to divide each of the units!  In my old one I used purple stickies to divide the units but this is great! The new binder is thicker than the older one I have which means...more input! The nine units of IEW are still covered, one tab per each, but now there are three new sections after that!  There is an entire section devoted to writing about literature, another on stylistic techniques and a third that contains many wonderful miscellaneous items, including many of Andrew's wonderful inspiring articles.

You can read more about how we used IEW on my Classical Education page...scroll down to Institute for Excellence in Writing. 

For more information here is the IEW Help and Support Page.

IEW is a wonderful company. In fact, they are our favorite homeschool curriculum due to their helpfulness and generosity! They have a 100% guarantee on all of their products. Every December/January they have a "12 Days of Christmas" giveaway, with a gift a day for all subscribers. In fact I had been asked to host a giveaway on my blog during the 12 Days of Christmas last season, but I was so sick that I wasn't on my computer much. You never know what fun and helps and surprises are in store with IEW, so be sure to subscribe, join their forum, get on their facebook page...and stay tuned!