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Jayda Justus – White House Ornaments

While studying history at Furman University, Jayda Justus interned summers in Washington, D.C. Among her many duties for a congresswoman, Jayda toured constituents around the U.S. Capitol. She fell in love with D.C., its history, and the political world and, after graduation, continued to work on The Hill.

Later, Jayda settled in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and two sons. Jayda wanted to learn—and teach her young boys— as much as possible about the area’s rich history. She read related books with them before the family set off for The Poe Museum, Patrick Henry’s Scotchtown, or Hollywood Cemetery.

“We had some wins and losses,” laughs Jayda. “But, I tried my hardest to make the field trips fun for them, and they typically enjoyed themselves.”

When friends traveled, they began to ask Jayda to recommend sites and landmarks. Jayda was full of ideas on where to go and what books to read beforehand to supplement the visits.

The History Mom

Jayda’s website, The History Mom, provides helpful, well-researched information in a clear and concise style. The site includes travel guides to historical venues and book recommendations to prepare and excite young travelers. Perfect for families with kids, and history-loving adults too, Jayda’s reviews offer costs, along with dining and lodging suggestions.

Whether your travel plans take you to the La Brea Tar Pits in California, Dealey Plaza in Dallas, or Asheville, NC, Jayda’s tips will steer you in the right direction.

“With some preparation beforehand, children—who aren’t interested in the classroom—come alive when they visit a historic site,” says Jayda.

Neither Jayda nor her husband traveled as kids. “Growing up, my family rarely took a vacation,” she says. But they want their sons to remember the family vacations they are fortunate enough to take. Each boy chooses a Christmas ornament as a souvenir. When the holidays roll around, the entire family reminisces about their journeys as they decorate the Christmas tree.

White House Ornaments

Every year, the White House Historical Association issues a holiday ornament commemorating presidents, first ladies, and significant milestones in our nation’s history. Jayda owns the entire collection.

a White House ornament

Photo courtesy of White House Historical Association

At holiday time, the keepsakes make beautiful gifts. Perhaps to honor the year a relative married. Or the year a colleague or friend was born.  And they are the perfect “teaching tool” when it’s time to decorate the tree.

In 2014, the two-piece locomotive ornament—a steam-powered engine and detachable private Pullman car—honoring President Harding delighted Jayda’s young sons. President Eisenhower was the first commander-in-chief to hop from place to place in a helicopter, and the 2019 ornament replicates that mode of transportation. This year’s ornament honors President Ford, including symbols representing his collegiate football jersey and the first family’s golden retriever pup.

Photo courtesy of White House Historical Association

When asked to pick a favorite, Jayda doesn’t hesitate. She loves the ornament honoring First Lady Julia Tyler. At 24, the socialite married 30-years-older President Tyler. “I find her fascinating,” says Jayda.

First Lady Project

In a current project, Booking it Through History: First Ladies, Jayda invites readers to join her as she reads two monthly books (one fiction, one non-fiction) about specific first ladies.

“These women experienced the same problems we have but during different periods,” says Jayda. “It’s interesting to learn how they handled motherhood, losing children, war, and their political roles. When I study the first ladies, I understand that time in history.”

Photo courtesy of White House Historical Association

On her Instagram page and website, Jayda highlights those First Lady selections and other adult book recommendations. Jayda loves to curl up on the couch with a cozy novel or nostalgic holiday movie. For kid and adult holiday-themed books—“the sappy type or those with more teeth”—Jayda offers great suggestions.

Do the Next New Thing

What one new thing—tiny or large—have you done or discovered lately? 

Jayda adores the East Wing Magazine, a treasure trove for up-to-date information about current and former first ladies.

PS—A simplified Christmas, a December ADVENTure, and stocking stuffers they will appreciate


To order White House Historical Association ornaments, please visit their website.

Featured photo courtesy of Jayda Justus