Dressing Downton

I first heard about the “Dressing Downton” fashion exhibit, featuring costumes worn on Downton Abbey, almost two years ago, and didn’t think much of it, because it wasn’t going to be on display in St. Louis. But when I found out that it was going to be in Nashville this summer, at Cheekwood Estate and Gardens, a place that we have a reciprocal membership to through the Missouri Botanical Garden, I knew I was going to have to see it for myself. I wasn’t disappointed…not only were the costumes on display gorgeous, there were more of them than I was expecting!

The first big display of three costumes, in front of a Highclere Castle backdrop, was especially eye-catching.

The Dowager Countess’ Edwardian mourning costume is, in my opinion, an iconic early Downton Abbey look:

Lord and Lady Grantham’s outfits are also easily recognizable:

In that same room was Lady Mary’s riding costume:

We moved on to wartime looks worn by Matthew Crawley and Lady Mary:

And a lovely tailored outfit also worn by Lady Mary:

I loved seeing Branson’s chauffeur’s uniform next to a lovely blue suit worn by Lady Sybil:

And, of course, Lady Sybil’s nurse’s uniform:

Lady Edith may not have been my favorite character, but the detail on her coat was amazing, and I liked the use of props in the display, too:

And, while we all remember Lady Sybil shocking the family in her harem pants outfit, let’s not forget that Lady Edith also wore breeches when she was working on the farm:

We then moved on to more formal wear. This beautiful evening dress worn by Lady Mary had amazing details:

Another wartime look, featuring a dress uniform worn by the Earl, and lovely dress and jacket worn by the Countess, were especially eye-catching flanked by a Union Flag bunting:

There were also lots of informative signs spread throughout the exhibit:

I was glad that there was a section dedicated to the wardrobe worn by some of the downstairs staff. I especially enjoyed seeing how the keys attached to Mrs. Hughes’ uniform:

And not only did I get a look at the maids’ uniform, but also another beautiful evening dress worn by Lady Mary:

We saw the “plus fours” worn by Lord Grantham when he was out and about on the estate, as well as a three-piece suit and coat worn by the scheming Sir Richard Carlisle:

The security guard working at the exhibit when we were there was very knowledgeable…he informed us that this detailed dress, worn by Lady Cora at Lady Edith’s (non)wedding, was made from a vintage tablecloth!

This dress, also worn by the Countess of Grantham, likewise had amazing details:

There was one, and only one, hands-on section. You could actually ring the Downton bells…and we all did!

It was especially interesting to see the one maternity dress on display, worn by Lady Sybil, up close:

Lady Rose may have denied being a flapper, but that’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see this dress, displayed next to the formal wear Jack Ross wore when performing:

This dress worn by Virginia Woolf, which was barely seen on the show, is full of Tambour embroidery work, but I was most impressed by the Bakelite necklace:

Remember when Lady Rose was presented to King George and Queen Mary? There was an entire room dedicated to that episode, and it may have been my favorite…all of those fancy dresses, beautiful tiaras and jewelry, and lovely accessories! This was also the room that explained the Cheekwood-Downton Abbey connection. Huldah Cheek, daughter of Leslie Cheek, who built the estate, was presented at court in a similar fashion.

The lavender dress worn by the Countess of Grantham was displayed with the dress worn by Madeline Allsopp, along with all of their beautiful accessories from tiaras to necklaces to feather fans:

Freda Dudley Ward’s unbelievably intricate dress was also on display:

After all that, Lady Edith’s boyish silk dress was almost boring…but not quite, thanks to the lovely embellishments:

Another beautiful dress worn by the Dowager Countess…seeing clothing actually worn by Maggie Smith truly brought a tear to my eye!

This dress worn by Martha Levinson wasn’t too amazing, but the necklace paired with it certainly was!

And another of Mrs. Levinson’s styles, featuring a coat trimmed with fox fur:

The final costumes were not in the exhibit itself, but spread throughout the mansion at Cheekwood. We saw a footman’s uniform, and I made sure to pay close attention to the buttons:

And white tie apparel worn by Matthew and Lady Mary, appropriately displayed in the formal dining room:

This was an unbelievable exhibit, and I’m so glad we had the opportunity to see it. The workmanship that went into the costumes is truly amazing, and seeing the level of detail up close was an experience. It brought one of my favorite TV shows to life in a way I didn’t know was possible!

Tasty Tuesday–Salmon Tacos

I love tacos, and I love salmon, but for some reason, I’ve never thought of putting the two together! I happened to watch Ina Garten make salmon tacos on the Food Network earlier this summer, and I knew I’d have to try the recipe. I made some changes to the recipe after the first time we tried them, and I think they’re now one of my favorite dinners…and I finally found a way to prepare salmon that even Bunny and Ladybug enjoy!

Slaw

Salmon

Avocado Smash

  • 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

At least an hour before you plan to serve the tacos, prepare slaw. Toss the cabbage, cucumber, vinegar, dill, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper together in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate, allowing the cabbage to marinate.

When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Brush a baking dish with olive oil and place the salmon in it. Mix the chile powder, lime zest, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a small bowl. Brush the salmon with 1 tablespoon of the lime juice and sprinkle with the chipotle seasoning mixture. Roast for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, until the salmon is just cooked through.

Wrap the tortillas in 2 foil packets and place them in the oven with the salmon.  While the salmon is baking, roughly mash the avocados with the remaining 2 tablespoons of lime juice, the Sriracha, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

To serve, place a dollop of the avocado smash on one side of each tortilla, then some large chunks of salmon, and finally, some of the slaw. Fold the tortillas in half over the filling (they will be messy!) and serve warm.

The Great American Eclipse

Today was the Great American Eclipse, which we have been planning to observe and celebrate for months! Belleville was just barely in the path of totality…and then only if you live south of Main Street. Fortunately, we do!

We started our day with some Sunny D:

And we had a special lunch…eggs sunny side up on “moon muffins” (the nooks and crannies in the English muffins make perfect moon craters, and I’m pretty proud of what I came up with there!), and Star Crunch as a treat. I really don’t get where the start part comes in, as they were round, but they were yummy. We also enjoyed some grape Sunkist, but since it was so dark, we called it “Moonkist!”

We spent a lot of time outside, observing various stages of the eclipse through the solar filters we got at the St. Louis Science Center (Moose got to do the same at his school, where they provided solar filters for all the students). We also had fun making pinhole images with a colander:

I tried taking a picture with a solar filter over the lens on my phone. It didn’t work out too well, but at least it’s something:

But these pictures, which I took about seven minutes apart, at 1:09 and 1:16 in the afternoon, really showcase the change we experienced. The streetlights came on, and we did indeed hear crickets. We even saw the full horizon 360-degree “sunrise!” It was a very moving experience…I found that I was overwhelmed, and quite emotional about it!

The eclipse was over quickly, but we kept the celebration going through dinner, where we had “werewolves” wrapped in crescent (moon) rolls, Sunchips, and a special black cherry soda created by local bottler Excel called Darkest Hour. And I had to drive all over town to find them, but we did get to have Moon Pies for dessert!

This was a special event, both in the fact that any one area doesn’t usually see total solar eclipses too often (unless you live in Carbondale, apparently), and that it’s also rare for such an event to stretch from shore to shore in America. I worked really hard to make a big deal out of it, and I hope it’s something the children will always remember!

Moonrise and Eclipse

In honor of the “Great American Eclipse” tomorrow, I’m sharing my favorite vintage style sign on the Delmar Loop, belonging to the Moonrise Hotel and Eclipse Restaurant, which is conveniently located by “The Sun” on the Delmar Loop Planet Walk!

Preparing for the Great American Eclipse

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard that on Monday, we are going to experience the “Great American Eclipse,” a solar (or lunar, I suppose), event that will literally stretch from sea to shining sea. The continental US hasn’t had such an event since before I was born, and St. Louis hasn’t experienced a total solar eclipse since before Columbus came to the New World! Seriously, it is going to be as DARK AS NIGHT in the MIDDLE OF THE DAY in places experiencing the totality!!! If that doesn’t stir at least a little something in your soul, I’m not sure you’re really alive. Of course, the reactions to the eclipse range from “Who cares?” and “I’m over the hype!” to “Science is cool, and I feel fortunate to get to experience this!” and “This is a religious experience!!!” not to mention everything in between!

As we live in the path of totality (and, let’s face it, are a pretty nerdy family), we fall at the “Science is cool!” end of the scale, and we’ve been preparing for the eclipse for months. Our preparations have focused on three areas:

  • The Science of the Eclipse–This has been a huge area of our focus as a family and as a school. In addition to the approximately one zillion books we have about space in our house, we have also been learning about The Great American Eclipse and eclipses in general at the St. Louis Science Center. They’ve been running a star show for months focused on the event, and not only was it very informative, we also received free solar filters with our admission. Which leads us to…
  • Eclipse Safety–Safe viewing of any eclipse is obviously a top priority. Because this eclipse is covering so much of the country (all 50 states will experience at least part of it!), and probably also thanks to social media, people are extra concerned about this event. It doesn’t help that there have been sales of counterfeit solar filters, so first of all, double-check and make sure yours are safety approved. Once you’re good to go, make sure you use them properly. Look down at the ground, put them on (and, in my opinion, keep holding them in place to prevent slippage), and then look at the eclipse. When you’re done viewing the event, look down at the ground again before removing them. They’re also not recommended for extended use, so keep your viewing times short, and remember, NO PEEKING! Please, enjoy the eclipse (safely), but remember, eye damage is real, and it is permanent…you don’t want to mess around with it! You can also make a good, old-fashioned pinhole viewer if you’d like.
  • The Story–This is the part of the eclipse that most interests me. I love thinking about how ancient civilizations, who didn’t have the scientific knowledge we take for granted today, viewed events such as this. We have read about some ancient myths that attempted to explain eclipses (many involved a story about a small animal such as a rabbit or a frog eating the sun!), and they are fascinating. But apart from the stories different cultures told, we’ve tried to put ourselves into the shoes of the individuals. What did they feel? Confusion? Amazement? Wonder? Certainly fear, and likely some had beliefs that the world was ending. This is a great opportunity to try to see things from a very different point of view!

So we have planned and prepared for the eclipse since before the summer began. In addition to the mandatory (safe) eclipse viewing on Monday, we also have some fun things planned for the day, including special foods (of course), and a reunion of our all-girl band to rock out “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

What are you doing to make this once-in-many-lifetimes event memorable?

2017-18 School Year–Week One

The first week of the 2017-18 school year is already behind us! This year, I have two ninth graders, a fifth grader, and a Kindergartener!

We started on Tuesday, so it was a short, four-day week. And the first day of school is always mostly fun…finding out what’s in this year’s schultüte, handing out books and organizing desks, taking lots of pictures, and building a Lego set. The latter took several hours, as it is the largest Lego set (the Lego Ideas Saturn V), that we’ve ever built in school. It was a fun project that everyone got to help with (we intentionally started before Moose’s first day of school so he could participate), and was educational, thanks to the fantastic extra details in the instruction book.

On Wednesday, we had a pretty full day of school, beginning most of our subjects for the year, from high school geometry and biology to fifth grade math, spelling, and vocabulary, all the way down to reading Ramona the Pest out loud and Kindergarten handwriting. But then we took a break from our work on Thursday to go on our first field trip of the school year, to see The Discovery of King Tut at the St. Louis Science Center. It was a fantastic exhibit, full of extremely well done replicas from Tut’s tomb, and was also a great way to kick off our history studies for the year, as everyone is going to be studying ancient history in one way or another.

Today we finished off with another regular school day. The only subject we haven’t started yet is our various literature studies (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to start for Turkey and Bunny, and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe for Ladybug), which we will add to our schedule next week. I’ll close with something new for this year…I chose a Bible verse to be our theme for the year for the first time ever, and I think our chosen verse of Philippians 4:8 is an especially good reminder with all the chaos in the world right now:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”