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So Jane: Crafts and Recipes for an Austen-Inspired Life, A Review

So Jane

This Christmas I was given a copy of Hollie Keith’s book, So Jane: Crafts and Recipes for an Austen-Inspired Life. This little book is filled with projects, recipes and gift item ideas to fill every aspect of your home and life. While most of the projects are not Austen-era reproductions, they are modern interpretations which keep an eye on the past. Whimsical and romantic in nature, there are crafts and recipes for every age and skill level, along with a myriad of mediums to choose from.

So JaneHand stitched, novel themed placemats share pages with dainty, appliqued egg cosies. I ♥ Darcy pillows and rose scented soaps share space with lacy aprons, wreaths and book marks. Vintage treasures, rejuventated “in a style entirely new” and new-on-the-market finds are combined with traditional craft supplies so that each project can be tailored to your personal whims and comfort level. Patterns and templates provided in the back of the book take the guesswork out of each set of instructions, while step by step photographs guide you through any difficulty.

The recipes in this book were curated by Jennifer Adams, no Austen newcomer herself. Jennifer is the author of Remarkably Jane: Notable Quotations on Jane Austen as well as the Little Miss Austen Baby Lit board books, published by the same company (Gibbs-Smith). Here, her 32 recipes, inspired by Jane Austen’s novels and time period, are broken into chapters with corresponding crafts and include breakfast, teatime, dinner, picnic, ball and cottage inspired meals.

The photographs by Susan Barnson Hayward are truly worth the proverbial thousand words, turning this fun little book into a work of art. Each page features several inspiring photographs not only of finished food and craft projects, but of individual steps along the way, making it both a beautiful display piece and practical how-to guide.

On the whole, you will find this to be a book you turn to again and again, if only for the sheer delight of flipping through its glossy, gorgeous pages. It will inspire you, as the title intimates, into a Jane Austen mindset, encouraging you to not only make your own works of art, but to see tools and supplies in everyday items, turning them into new pieces to beautify your home and share as gifts.

So Jane is now available from the Jane Austen Gift Shop here.

Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austentation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first book. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family (1 amazing husband, 4 adorable children and a very strange dog.)

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Jane Austen and the State of the Nation by Sheryl Craig: a Review by Laura Boyle

Jane Austen and the state of the nation by Sheryl CraigJane Austen and the State of the nation by Sheryl Craig

Jane Austen is universally acknowledged as an excellent writer with a fine grasp of the human condition. Her ever increasing number of fans, her inclusion in nearly every list of worthy writers and English Literature syllabi, her marketability and timeless appeal have created what might be called an international mania. Many would attribute her success to her wit and way with words, others to the age old stories of love and romance that she tells. It seems, however, as if there was more, much more, just beneath the surface: undertones and even overt messages that Jane Austen’s readers would have seen, but which are, for the most part, lost to today’s readers. After all, as Jane herself (in the guise of omniscient narrator) explains in Northanger Abbey:

“Oh! It is only a novel!…It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda”; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best–chosen language.”

I have, over the past few months, had the great privilege of first hearing and then reading the works of celebrated Austen scholar and international speaker, Dr. Sheryl Craig. The talk she addressed to our JASNA gathering in November, entitled “So Ended a Marriage”, looked at Mansfield Park in light of the divorce and custody laws current during Jane Austen’s day. Drawing from actual divorce transcripts, she carefully laid out a plausible defense for Austen’s use of the novel as political statement about the rights of women and their treatment as property. An abridged version of this talk can be found on Sarah Emsley’s Mansfield Park site, and the entirety has been printed in JASNA’s Persuasions #36.

Immediately following the talk, I eagerly began reading Dr. Craig’s newly published book, Jane Austen and the State of the Nation. I don’t know what I was anticipating, but what I found was truly fascinating. Dr. Craig has an easy, informed style, which makes even a subject like Georgian and Regency economics at once fascinating and accessible to the lay reader. Again, she brings her impressive knowledge of Austen’s life and times to bear with great effect. The book delves into Georgian social welfare and political response, and is rife with colorful anecdotes and period illustrations. It seems that even the counties chosen for Austen’s heroines to reside in held meaning for her period readers.

Now, of course, might be a good time to point out just how qualified Dr. Craig is. Her biography reads like a Janeite’s bucket list:

Sheryl Craig is an Austen scholar with a Ph.D. in nineteenth-century British literature from the University of Kansas. She’s a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America and editor of ‘JASNA News’. Sheryl has published articles in ‘Persuasions’, ‘Persuasions On-Line’, ‘The Explicator’ and ‘Jane Austen’s Regency World’, and on the websites of the Jane Austen Centre and Chawton House Library. In 2008, Sheryl was selected to be JASNA’s International Visitor, and in 2011-2012, she was JASNA’s Traveling Lecturer for the Central Region. She has presented at regional and national JASNA conferences and to Canadian and Scottish branches of the Jane Austen Society.

In Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen wrote ironically,A woman, especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.” These words, from Henry Tilney, were meant to be taken in jest, but there may have been an element of truth to them as well. Jane, as we know, was quite clever—too clever, perhaps for her small social circle. As an avid reader of books and newspapers, a patron of the circulating library and an eager student of history and past masters, she peppered her personal correspondence with quotes both old and new, and innumerable references to current events.

Dr. Craig posits that one can not only trace the Georgian political and social climate through the chronological reading of Jane’s novels, but even more so Jane’s answer to the ever growing crisis around her. It’s easy to think that because war and poverty are hardly glimpsed in Jane Austen’s novels, that she is ignoring those unpleasant realities of life, focusing instead on the “three or four families in a country village” we are used to reading about. In reading Jane Austen and the State of the Nation, one begins to think that Austen’s novels are not at all what they seem upon first reading. Masking themselves as chick-lit romances, they find their way into the hands of men and women everywhere (including the Prince Regent and Sir Walter Scott) only to promote a rational, even-handed political agenda in the face of government corruption, national recession and widespread unemployment (not unlike that which is facing too many nations today.)

I feel quite foolish—as if I could not see what was right before my eyes, as though I had been duped by the pretty people, beautiful language and enduring story lines. There is so much more to Austen upon rereading through the lens provided by Dr. Craig. It’s as if, after intimately knowing the novels for more than twenty years, I’ve been given the opportunity to read them again for the first time. What I find are cleverly crafted lessons in statesmanship and stewardship which might as easily be applied to today’s foundering economy, working at such a basic level that anyone (landed gentry or not, Georgian or Generation Y) might be able to apply them to their own life.

England’s economy was falling apart at the seams, but rather than show the depravity and baseness of the human condition, rather than beat the reader over the head with everyday senseless tragedy, as Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens were wont to do, Austen’s fine hand gently paved the way for her understanding readers, and in such a way, through endless analogy, that her modern fan base can hardly see the “forest for the trees”, as it were.

As a historically interested Jane Austen fan, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will be rereading chapters and taking my time perusing the generous bibliography before lending it out with my highest recommendations. That being said, I am feeling somewhat ignorant at the end of the day. After hearing Dr. Craig speak, I felt I had not really ever understood (my least favorite of the novels) Mansfield Park, as it was clearly a treatise on the rights of women. Now, however, I find that Mansfield Park is actually a political expose on the state of the British colonies and Parliament’s answer to it. This too, with the given facts, seems perfectly logical and reasonable. Clever, clever Jane. What else have I been missing? No doubt there are dozens of other subtexts to be found if only one will look just below the surface.

Jane Austen once compared her style of writing to that of her nephew, Edward Austen’s: “What should I do with your strong, manly, spirited sketches, full of variety and glow? How could I possibly join them on to the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces little effect after much labour?” (December 16, 1816) Those who have read Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre are given a vivid picture of the difference of a charcoal sketch vs. an ivory portrait such as Austen describes, “An hour or two sufficed to sketch my own portrait in crayons; and in less than a fortnight I had completed an ivory miniature of an imaginary Blanche Ingram. It looked a lovely face enough, and when compared with the real head in chalk, the contrast was as great as self-control could desire.” One is harsh and realistic, the other stylized, beautified and dainty. One of the reasons we love Jane Austen’s novels so much is for the escapist feel they bring, as we enter a world of order, beauty and light. This is the very impression Jane is seeking to create with her “little bit of ivory” analogy, and yet, beneath, there lies layer after layer of depth, complexity and realism that I am only beginning to comprehend. I am so grateful to Dr. Craig for opening my eyes, and anxiously anticipate her next book (fingers crossed that it will be published soon!)

 

  • List Price: £55.00
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; 1st ed. 2015 edition (August 19, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1137544544

Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austenation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first book. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family (1 amazing husband, 4 adorable children and a very strange dog.)

 

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Make Jane Austen Themed Bookmarks

This week, I helped a friend prepare for her Daughter-in-law-to-be’s bridal tea. The young lady’s favorite novel is (what else?) Pride and Prejudice, and my friend has taken that as the theme for the day. Inspired by Dody William’s gorgeous designs on Etsy, we arranged a few of the Bride’s favorite quotes along with some fashion plates I had in my collection.

bookmark

I have included a printable PDF file of the bookmarks here. Click on the link to open the page in your browser, then save it to your computer.

Once the sheets were printed, we laminated them using 3ml Thermal laminating paper. If you don’t have access to a laminator, this can be done at most office supply big box stores, like Staples, or you can skip this step. Alternately, you can use a clear sticky paper, such as contact paper or even clear packing tape, carefully applied.

The bookmarks were then cut apart, punched with a hole at the top and threaded with a tassel. Ribbons, bows and other trims can also be added, creating a one of a kind, 3-dimensional work of art. If you don’t have a tassel, this tutorial will show you how to make one.

 Laura Boyle is the author of Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends. Through her shop Austentation: Regency Accessories, she offers a large range of custom made hats, bonnets, reticules and Jane Austen related items.

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Host a Regency Tea Party

Regency Tea

Hosting a Regency Tea Party

Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, is credited with creating the ritual of afternoon tea sometime in the early to mid 1800’s as a remedy against the “sinking feeling” she felt between luncheon and the late hour of Court dinners. The practice soon caught on among her friends in the upper class circles and the rest is history.

teapot

Taking tea during Jane Austen’s day was nothing like what the term implied a few decades later with the advent of Afternoon Tea. During the Regency, Tea was produced about an hour after dinner, signaling the end of the port and cigars in the dining room and gossip and embroidery in the drawing room. The lady of the house, or her daughters, if she wished to show them off to advantage, would make and pour the tea and coffee, seeing to it that all guests were served. After tea, the family and any guests might remain in the drawing room to read aloud, sew or play games together until supper (if served) or bedtime.

Sir John never came to the Dashwood’s without either inviting them to dine at the Park the next day, or to drink tea with them that evening.
Sense and Sensibility

If dinner had been late, supper might be replaced by light refreshments served with the tea, such as toast, muffins, or cake. Tea or wine and refreshment of some sort or other would be offered to visitors who stopped by throughout the day. During the Regency, tea was also served at Breakfast and could be found throughout the day at any of the popular Tea Gardens or Tea Shops, which served tea and light refreshments for a small fee.

A formal invitation to tea always implied an after dinner gathering with some sort of entertainment whether games or music or conversation. An evening such as this might end in an informal dance if there were enough partners and a willing accompanist.

teaparty

When having friends to Tea, the most important part is, of course, the tea. Brew fresh tea of the highest quality and serve it with coffee or cocoa if you prefer. Provide an assortment of breads, rolls, cakes, cookies and sweet treats. Use your best china and entertain with a variety of period games and music. Read aloud from the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries or have each guest read her own favorite passage.

As Anne Elliot says, “My idea of good company… is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.”

 

If you liked this article about Regency tea parties, and would like to have your own Regency afternoon tea, you might like to have a look at our Netherfield Collection of exclusive teaware.

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Create a Faux Bandeau

The Bandeau hairstyle was favored throughout the Regency as a throwback to ancient times. Here is an easy way to “fake” the look of this period court head piece using a modern headband. Traditional etiquette for presentation at court required white ostrich feathers to be worn, but getting them to stay in place could be tricky!

Court Dress, 1799
Court Dress, 1799

To create your own headpiece, you’ll need:

  • one fabric covered hairband (satin or velvet works nicely)
  • some feathers of various sizes
  • fabric glue
  • jeweled brooch.
louisapeacock
The “Louisa” style hairband is available in custom colors from Austentation.com
  1. Pin your hair up in your preferred style and slide the hairband into place.
  2. Pin the brooch onto the hairband where you want your plumes to begin.
  3. Experiment with your plumes to find the perfect arrangement.
  4. Remove the band in order to attach the feathers.
  5. Dip the ends of your plumes in fabric glue and slide into place behind the brooch. The pin should cover the ends of the feathers.

Viola! A lovely Regency look in just a few minutes! Don’t have time or resources to create your own? Order a custom made “Faux Bandeau” from Austentation.com

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Parlour Games

parlour games

Parlour Games – The Fun and the Flirtatious

Parlour games were a common way of passing an evening with friends and relatives. They might be mentally stimulating, physically assertive or even somewhat messy (like snapdragon or bullet pudding!) The Austen family is known to have enjoyed many types of mental games, which required memorization, or rhymes on the fly.

Book such as Winter evening pastimes; or, The merry-maker’s companion, by Rachel Revel (1825) offered stimulating and sometimes even daring diversions from the staid entertainments of reading, writing, music and card playing,  featured at the Netherfield Park house party.

1816what
An engraving by Bosio, attributed to Le Bon Genre, 1816

This illustration would seem to depict “The Bridge of Sighs” or possibly “The Beast of Burden”, as described in Winter evening pastimes; or, The merry-maker’s companion. Continue reading Parlour Games

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A Jane Austen Christmas by Maria Grace- A Review

jac

A Jane Austen Christmas – A Review by Laura Boyle

Award winning regency author Maria Grace has pulled out the stops this season, delivering A Jane Austen Christmas in time for holiday gift giving (and receiving!) Eager to beef up my own knowledge of Regency holiday traditions, I ordered this little volume the first week of December, based on the preview given on Amazon.com. Imagine my surprise, then, at finding our own site listed as a resource (accessed according to the time stamp, only weeks before) in the very extensive bibliography given. It is clear that this was a “full steam ahead” project from the Austen oriented “White Soup Press”. Continue reading A Jane Austen Christmas by Maria Grace- A Review

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Rendering Lard, the Regency Crisco

While researching Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, I found many recipes that called for lard or suet (the beef alternative). It was often not immediately clear whether or not the authors were talking about straight, diced lard (like the kind used for adding fat and flavor to drier cuts of meat, as in “larding your roast”) or rendered lard, however a trip the local living history museum helped put my questions to rest. A basic rule of thumb when looking at period recipes, if it goes into the food (larding your meat, dicing it for mincemeat, etc.) you are talking about lard straight off the meat, often with tiny bits of meat still attached. If you are using it for frying or in pie crust, basically anywhere you might substitute modern Crisco or solid shortening, use rendered lard.

800px-HomelardAccording to Wikipedia, “Lard is pig fat in both its rendered and unrendered forms. Lard was commonly used in many cuisines as a cooking fat or shortening, or as a spread similar to butter. Its use in contemporary cuisine has diminished; however, many contemporary cooks and bakers favor it over other fats for select uses. The culinary qualities of lard vary somewhat depending on the part of the pig from which the fat was taken and how the lard was processed.

Continue reading Rendering Lard, the Regency Crisco