Tuesday, May 28, 2013

In Honor of Memorial Day...

I recently got my copy of The Civil War Kids 150: Fifty Fun Things to Do, See, Make, and Find for the 150th Anniversary. We are just about to study the Civil War in our homeschooling and I couldn't have been more thrilled about this book. The Civil War Trust published it and I think they've done an awesome job. Below is a review of the book I wrote on Amazon:

I get frustrated with children's books that have "historical activities" to help children learn about a specific time period. Most of the time the "activities" end up being crafty and pointless. I was beyond delighted to find that most of the activities in this book are not only meaningful, but impactful for helping kids learn about the Civil War in honor of the 150th anniversary. (There is one crafty, pointless thing - making Abe Lincoln's top hat. We found it was much more interesting and impactful to compare our kids' heights with President Lincoln's as he was 6'4"! We marked our kids' and Lincoln's heights with tape on the wall and my son was amazed by how tall Lincoln was, because he could actually see it.)

This book was put together by the Civil War Trust and I feel they did an exceptional job.

The book is divided into four different sections: Create, Perform, Find, and Read/Watch. 
Underneath each section are subsections: Introduction, The Gathering Storm, Emancipation, Life at War, The Home Front, New Technology, In the News, Effects of the War, and Preservation.

At the beginning of the book there is a checklist where the sections are organized where you can check off the activities that you do selected from the 50 total activities. I think this is so simple and fantastic! The checklist really makes it easy to keep track and to see all the activities at a glance. 
Here is a sampling of some of my favorite activities from the book:

- Take your Flat Civil War Soldier to the Battlefield
- Whip up a batch of hardtack and have a try
- Enter the Civil War Trust postcard contest
- "Sew" a housewife
- Construct a pup tent
- Do the Rebel Yell
- Send a letter to a soldier
- Hold a piece of history (like a bullet, belt buckle, or cannon ball)
- Whistle "Dixie" or "Yankee Doodle"
- Browse Civil War images at the Library of Congress
- Complete the weapons exhibit (you have to find the pictures of the weapons and ammo used in the Civil War from their chart)
- Uncover Franklin Thompson's real name
- Locate someone connected to the Civil War (a great way to find or talk about your own ancestors that may have fought or lived during the Civil War!)
- Find the Animal Warriors
- Experience a reenactment
- Study the letters of former slave Private Samuel Cabble
- Memorize the Gettysburg Address

What I love about this book is that it is appropriate for all age levels. There are quite a few activities my 3 year old could participate in, and many more my 6 year old could do. I, myself, would have a ton of fun doing many of the things from their list! (and this coming from a burned-out former Civil War reenactor)

Another thing I love is that many of the activities are ones you can do even if you don't live anywhere near a Civil War battlefield or historical site. It was nice that they kept this obvious problem in mind. 

Overall, I'd like to say "Bravo!" to the Civil War Trust (Civilwar.org) for creating an excellent, meaningful resource for bringing such an important piece of American history alive for children and adults alike in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

I would really recommend The Civil War Kids 150 . Check it out!

I also just found this interesting looking free e-book from the 34th North Carolina Reenactment Group called A Civil War Project.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

July 1942

I have a wide variety of historical interests, but my greatest love is studying WWII. Lately, I've been focusing a lot on WWII, so you'll be seeing more of that around here for a little while. Making my first Regency gown is still in the back of my mind, especially now that I have the chemise and short stays finished. We're in the final count down time crunch in our homeschooling, so I'm limited in what projects I can focus on at the moment. The dress will have to wait until we've finished our last two subjects: the Civil War and Botany. (My son is in kindergarten, so it shouldn't take that long!)

Anyway, I recently had a conversation with a friend who is a fellow historian of WWII and she asked me if I had heard of the July 1942 magazines. I had no idea what she was talking about. So she excitedly went on to explain that in 1942 the magazine publishing companies were worried that paper was going to be rationed for the war effort which would have been seriously injurious to their industry. As a result, a good majority of the U.S.'s national magazines got together and hatched a plan.They would all print their first July magazine issues with patriotic covers, depicting the American flag and advertisements encouraging the public to purchase government war bonds. The effect on the news racks across the country was no doubt stunningly patriotic - end to end every magazine cover proudly depicting the American flag. The one pictured above is one of my favorites with the flag draped across a painting of Mount Vernon, George Washington's home.

Well, the effort was well worth it. The magazines had shown they were an asset to the governments - people bought more war bonds and paper was not rationed. Tugging the patriotic heartstrings of America had worked.

I found the awesome Smithsonian website that is dedicated to all of these magazine covers. Check it out!

Friday, May 10, 2013

BBC Historical Farm Series

Have you heard of the BBC Historical Farm Series? If not, then you're in for a real treat! There are three time periods in the series: Victorian Farm, Edwardian Farm, and most lately Wartime Farm (my favorite!!!).

Each installment of the series features two archaeologists Peter and Alex, and one historian, Ruth, who live on the farm for an entire calendar year - working, living, and doing things as the farmers would have done in the particular time period they are studying.

What this series is not: a reality show. (Americans tried to leave their mark with "Frontier House" which, in my opinion, was a ridiculous waste of time and viewer's brain cells. "Colonial House" was a bit better.) This series is even different from the BBC produced "Manor House", "1900 House", and "1940s House" which were Britain's take on reality and, thankfully, much more subdued. There is no inter-personal drama, dramatic pining for modern amenities (though Ruth does occasionally wax romantic about the delights of hot, running water), romantic interludes, or even mixing with the modern world.

What this series is: experimental history at its best. They take you through the various aspects of living and working on the farm during that time period, issues they dealt with on a day-to-day basis, how they enjoyed themselves, what it took to survive using the current technologies available to them. It is a fascinating look into history with three experts as our knowledgeable tour guides. The interesting thing is that everyone who comes to visit the farm, who live in the village surrounding the farm, dress in period clothes and appear to lead lives according to that time period, though you don't see that very much in the show. Even Ruth's daughter who comes for a visit from time to time arrives in costume via a period-appropriate conveyance like the buggy or train depending on the time period. Overall, the series is serious about authenticity, but also about the educational wealth that comes from this sort of study.

And another cool thing - you can actually go and visit the farms where the individual shows were filmed! You only have to go to England to do it, but if you're planning a trip over there, you might as well make a stop anyway, right?!

Enough about my historical brain candies - haha! Here are the links so you can explore and enjoy them for yourself:

Victorian Farm
Official Website
Video (1st episode to get you started.)

Edwardian Farm
Official Website
Video (1st episode to get you started.)

Wartime Farm
Official Website
Video (1st episode to get you started.)

Oh! And here's a link for a few more videos in the series including "Edwardian Pharmacy" and "Tales from the Green Valley" that I was unaware about until this minute and must now go and watch! :-)

**DVDs are unfortunately not available for sale in the US Region format, dang it!

I do hope you enjoy and let me know what you think!

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Sunday Star 1960

Here's another treasure that I found at the oh-so-fabulous Wonderbook bookstore. When I first saw it, I originally got it with my father-in-law in mind because of its sci-fi subject matter, but the more I flipped through this April 1960 issue of The Sunday Star, the more I was excited about the other fun bits inside.

The cover.
Have you ever seen the movie "October Sky"? Homer is obsessed with this rocket scientist Dr. Wernher VonBraun. Well, guess who the author is of the feature story? Dr. VonBraun! He totally wrote this short story about life on Mars, using his "genius of rocketry" and "lifetime experience" to write a fabulous space adventure. Haha! How cool is that?! (Can you tell I grew up with Star Trek?)

I love the pictures!

"The Earthmen encounter their first Martians!"

I thought this advertisement was slightly creepy, but so amazingly awesome too.
Cute little cut-out people standing on slabs of meat? What?! haha!

This ad made me laugh out loud. They were so much more direct back then. What's happened to our brutal honesty? "When I saw Joan Wilkins I felt like an old witch!" hahahaha!  
She gives herself a facial 3 times a day... Whoa.

I'm not sure when the direct approach waned from adverts. I know during the 40s they were even worse than this ad. Fascinating stuff.

Regency Corset Finished!

 Well, it's finally finished! I think it's the best looking corset I've ever made, which is pretty good considering my lack of patience when it comes to corsets. I really like how the striped linen turned out. I'm not modeling them for modesty's sake, but they are very comfortable. They feel more like a modern bra, but with a very different silhouette. It definitely gives the bust "shelf" of typical Regency fashion. My only adjustment for next time (yes, I'm thinking of making another one) is that there's about a 1/4" gappage on each side around the gussets, so I think I may need to narrow them a bit. For this corset I may put in a small drawstring on both sides.

The front of the corset with the quilting, gussets, and teeny tiny lacing holes.
Arrg. I really should have made those bigger. I can't even fit a safety pin through them to aid in my lacing!  I need to find my tiny safety pin and maybe use regular narrow grosgrain ribbon to lace my corset with. *sigh*

The back.
Hooray! A finished corset! Now I can finally get to work on a dress!