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

So JaneThis 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. Hand 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 (more…)
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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 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 (more…)
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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. 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. (more…)
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Host 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. 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. Tea was also served at Breakfast (more…)
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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 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. The “Louisa” style hairband is available in custom colors from Austentation.com Pin your hair up in your preferred style and slide the hairband into place. Pin the brooch onto the hairband where you want your plumes to begin. Experiment with your plumes to find the perfect arrangement. Remove the band in order to attach the feathers. 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 (more…)
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Parlour Games

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.

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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

jacAward 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