Saturday, June 1, 2019

The Ultimate Jane Austen Tag

Hello, all! I have made an amalgamation of tags from here, here and here. I thought about waiting to post this till the anniversary of Jane's death, but that seemed a bit of a morbid way to remember the day, and plus it's always a good time for Jane Austen. Today is perhaps better than some to publish this, for I am going to a Box Hill picnic.

I used to dislike tags because I couldn't come up with enough people to tag, since I follow so few active bloggers. Then I realized that filling out questionnaires is really fun. So this is really not a tag, per se, because I am not tagging anyone (except readers who may wish to answer the questions in the comments). Without further ado,

Which did you experience first, a Jane Austen book or a movie based on one? 
Technically neither. I first read a Great Illustrated Classics Pride and Prejudice, because I liked the cover. Then I read several of her novels before I saw any movie adaptions.

Have your Austen tastes changed over the years? 
Oh, for sure. I think I loved the abridged Pride and Prejudice from the first page. I liked the story so much that I attempted the actual text. It took me several weeks at least, but I made it through. Being only eight or nine, however, I thought it was unnecessarily wordy and a bit difficult to read. Somewhere around the third reading of Pride and Prejudice I changed my mind. :) 

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much of a Jane Austen fan do you consider yourself? 
10! At age thirteen I had read all of her novels. At age twenty, I've read all of her short stories, unfinished stories, poems, and letters. I love everything about her and her writing. I've been remember of the Jane Austen Society for three years. I've yet to read an official biography or visit her birthplace, but those are among my goals for the next several years.

What is your favorite Austen book and how many times have you read it?
Do not ask me to pick a favorite! I always say my favorite is whichever I have read last. I have probably read P&P the most (six times?), and all the others at least three times.

Which Austen book makes you laugh the most? (Or do you not laugh over any of them?)
Hm, probably Northanger Abbey or Pride and Prejudice. MP, P, and S&S are rather more serious. Emma is also very amusing at times, though.

Favorite heroine? Why do you like her best?
Elinor Dashwood. She is so strong, compassionate without being melodramatic, practical, and selfless. Anne Elliot is a close runner up, for the same reasons.

Least favorite heroine? 
Marianne Dashwood or Catherine Moreland. I like Marianne, but her drama can get on my nerves. Catherine Moreland, though humble and sweet, is so naive that I don't always see how Henry (spoiler, sorry) could be attracted to her.

Favorite hero? Why do you like him best? 
Duh, Mr. Knightley. I know Darcy's the most frequent choice and there's a solid Wentworth group, but I love Mr. Knightley. I like that he is quick to notice other people's feeling and reactions, is is kind but not a pushover, and makes decisions based on reality and not just emotions (not saying emotions aren't real... but sometimes you need to consider facts as well). He's also intellectual, without being snobbish, and a good conversationalist.
Henry Tilney is the next runner up. I didn't use to appreciate him quite as much, simply because I sort of forgot about him, through dent of not reading NA as much as some of the other novels. But he is so witty! And also very understanding, sensitive and sweet. I still choose Mr. Knightley over Henry, however, because I'm afraid he is too clever for me. I'd rather have a sensible conversation than have someone run 'round me with their witticisms.
I love the part when Mr. Knightley shuts down Mrs. Elton (quite politely, of course):
“No,”—he calmly replied,—“there is but one married woman in the world whom I can ever allow to invite what guests she pleases to Donwell, and that one is—”“—Mrs. Weston, I suppose,” interrupted Mrs. Elton, rather mortified.“No—Mrs. Knightley;—and till she is in being, I will manage such matters myself.”

Least favorite hero?
Edmund Bertram. I'm sorry to any Edmundites, but he is a weenie. For all his professed value of principles and morality, he is completely blindsided by a heartless woman because she is pretty and clever.

Who's your favourite Jane Austen 'villain'?
The Eltons. They are annoying but also amusing. The others are either completely despicable (like Wickham) or so realistically annoying that they are unbearable (like Mrs. Norris and Lucy Steele).

Who, in your opinion, is the funniest Jane Austen character?
Ooh, that's tough. Maybe Mrs. Jennings? Or Mrs. Bennet? Oh, wait, no, Mr. Palmer. With Mrs. Elton as a close runner-up.

Which Jane Austen heroine do you relate the least to?
Probably Anne Elliot. While I value the opinion of authority figures in my life, I think I'm too headstrong to be persuaded against matrimony on purely a financial basis. I'm also not as long-suffering as she is.

Which Austen parents do you think do the best job of parenting?
If we're just dealing with the families of the main characters... There's not much to choose from. Can we count Mr. Darcy as kind of a parent to Georgianna? She turned out pretty well, which says a lot of him. Otherwise, pretty much all of the parents are lacking. The Morelands and the Dashwoods neglected to teach a daughter sense, the Bennets, Prices, and Woodhouses let their offspring run wild, the Elliots had all kinds of issues. In the end, though, Catherine's only issue is confusing fact and fiction. Her principles are sound and she has an affectionate, humble heart. So I'll go with the Morelands.

Who writes better letters, Mr Darcy or Captain Wentworth?
Trying to start a showdown here? I'm going to go with Captain Wentworth.
You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope... I have loved none but you... You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating in F. W.

Do you have a favorite film adaptation of Austen's work?
I've really enjoyed all the Emma adaptions I've seen, particularly the 1996 (Paltrow) and 2009 versions. I also like Sense and Sensibility (1995) quite a bit.

What's your favourite Jane Austen dress (from one of the movies)?
What, just one?? I like all three of these pink frocks:

If you could make a new movie version of any Austen book, which one would you adapt, and who would you cast?
Mansfield Park. We need a good adaption of this. I started the 1983 version but it was so downright boring that I didn't finish it. The two modern ones I have not seen, but in both I've heard they try to make Fanny Price into an Elizabeth Bennet. Unfortunately I'm not sure we'll ever get a good MP adaption because Fanny Price isn't the sort of heroine to be liked by a modern audience. Though Jane Austen declared that Emma was a heroine that no one would like but herself, I think Emma's independent, can-do character is more appealing to The Liberated Woman than quiet, moral Fanny Price. Friends, not everyone is Elizabeth Bennet and not everyone should be or has to be. Fanny is just as strong as Emma, even if she's not as commanding. She's also very patient, humble, and a victim of unrequited love.
Soapbox aside, actually coming up with a cast list is tricky because I don't know that many actors.
Morfydd Clark or Claire Foy as Fanny Price.

Michelle Dockery as Mary Crawford.

For Mr. Crawford: Maybe Tom Hiddleston or Mathew Goode?

It's hard to think of an actor who can be as moral and weak as Edmund Bertram. Maybe Dan Stevens?

Rupert Everett as Tom Bertram? Assuming he was about 15 years younger. ;)

Honestly I feel like just about anyone could play Sir Thomas — perhaps Hugh Bonneville, he has plenty of experience with stuffy old noblemen. :) I think Judy Parfitt would be excellent as Lady Bertram, except that she's a bit old. Pam Ferris could be a good Mrs. Norris.

Who would you most like to play in a Jane Austen movie?
Honestly, I would love to play any character in a Jane Austen movie, because even the most minor characters are loads of fun. I think Emma might be the most fun heroine to act.

Do you quote Jane Austen randomly in public?
Yes, I do, even though most people don't get the reference.

Is there any felicity in the world superior to a walk?
No, indeed, unless it's sitting on a deck on a misty day with a cup of tea and a friend. Or lying in the grass reading a good book.

What is your reaction when you hear that an acquaintance (e.g. A lady at church) of yours loves Jane Austen? 
I instantly feel that we are kindred spirits, and if I judged her/him (especially if it's a him) as not friend-material in the past, I resolve on making further efforts to get to know him/her.

Do you have any cool Austen-themed things (mugs, t-shirts, etc)? 
Why yes I do. I have a Jane Austen mug that's covered in quotes, some JA stationery, way more copies of each book than is reasonable, and I have her silhouette framed on my wall. (I did win an "I Love Mr. Darcy" shirt a few months ago, but it was too large and not really my style anyway).

Do you know any English country dances? 
Yes! I have been dancing for six years and actually teach ECD on occasion.

If you could ask Jane Austen one question, what would you ask her?
I think I would ask her about her faith. We know Jane was a pious woman and very traditional (she disapproved of the new Methodists) but there's not a lot else recorded about her religious beliefs. I know a lot of people want to know what was in the letters Cassandra burned and think there was some hidden love story, but I personally don't believe there's anything in that. Like any woman, there were men Jane was attracted to and may have had a little dalliance with, but I don't think anything went beyond that. Except with Mr. Bigg-Wither, which was clearly a Charlotte Lucas situation.

Share up to five favorite Jane Austen quotations! 

Hm, I shared almost all my favorite quotes already above or in this post
"If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am. — You hear nothing but truth from me.— I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it." (Mr. Knightley, Emma)
"I have been used to consider poetry as the food of love," said Darcy. "Of a fine, stout, healthy love it may. Everything nourishes what is strong already. But if it be only a slight, thin sort of inclination, I am convinced that one good sonnet will starve it entirely away." (Pride and Prejudice)
"I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible." (Northanger Abbey)
Her family had of late been exceedingly fluctuating. For many years of her life she had had two sons; but the crime and annihilation of Edward a few weeks ago, had robbed her of one; the similar annihilation of Robert had left her for a fortnight without any; and now, by the resuscitation of Edward, she had one again. (Sense and Sensibility)
"Those who do not complain are never pitied." (Mrs. Bennet, Pride and Prejudice
As far as walking, talking, and contriving reached, she was thoroughly benevolent, and nobody knew better how to dictate liberality to others; but her love of money was equal to her love of directing, and she knew quite as well how to save her own as to spend that of her friends. (Mansfield Park)
My dear Alicia, of what a mistake were you guilty in marrying a man of his age! just old enough to be formal, ungovernable, and to have the gout; too old to be agreeable, too young to die. (Lady Susan)
I give you joy of our new nephew, and hope if he ever comes to be hanged, it will not be till we are too old to care about it. (Letter to Cassandra)

Oops, it said only five. So much for struggling to find that many. :)

Where would you live in Austen's works?
For my own part, I am excessively fond of a cottage; there is always so much comfort, so much elegance about them. If people do but know how to set about it, every comfort may be as well enjoyed in a cottage as in the most spacious dwelling. Thus, Barton Cottage is the most appealing to me, despite being a defective sort (but the shutters could be repainted, you know).

And that concludes today's monstrously long tag. Look for an Austen "Would you rather" in the future.

P.S. I've decided that, as a true Janeite, I must watch all of the film adaptions ever made of a Jane Austen novel (the ones in English, that is, and which don't have Objectionable Content). So far I've seen:

  • Pride and Prejudice (1940)
  • Pride and Prejudice (1995 - duh)
  • Pride and Prejudice (2005)
  • Pride and Prejudice (2003) - Set in modern-day Utah
  • Sense and Sensibility (1995)
  • Sense and Sensibility (2008)
  • Scents and Sensibility (2011)
  • From Prada to Nada (2011)
  • Emma (1972)
  • Emma (1996) - with Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Emma (1996) - TV movie
  • Emma (2007)
  • Mansfield Park (1983) - I got very bored and could not finish.
  • Persuasion (1995)
  • Northanger Abbey (2007) - Did not finish because it started going in Awkward Directions
  • Love and Friendship (2016) - actually Lady Susan
  • Austen fan films: Miss Austen Regrets and Austenland - I started Lost in Austen but honestly it was so bad I couldn't finish.

On the to-watch list:
  • Mansfield Park - 1983 miniseries, 1999 movie and 2007 miniseries. I've heard that all of these botch the story and Fanny's character but I figure a true Janeite does not depend on the representations of others. (I mean they sound pretty terrible but why not).
  • Pride and Prejudice (1980)
  • Sense and Sensibility (1981)
  • Northanger Abbey 2007 and 1987
  • Bride and Prejudice
  • Becoming Jane - I KNOW it will be terrible (as Miss Austen Regrets was) but I feel I ought to see it for myself.
  • Austen Country (a documentary)

Any I forgot?

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Thoughts on health and cognitive dissonance

My diet has evolved greatly over the years. 10+ years ago we were a typical bagels-and-cereal family. Pop tarts were a rarity and we bought the plainer cereals, so I thought we were doing pretty good. Early in my elementary years, my mother began to read more about health and the bagels all but disappeared, while [now organic] cereal was relegated to Sundays. We began adding things like buckwheat porridge to our breakfast fare and reducing prepackaged dinners. Fast forward a few years (with various minor diet changes) and my mother decided to try an anti-fungal diet, which involved eliminating all sugars completely (I mean, seriously, you could only eat green apples and berries. Occasionally.). I put up a fit about this, but adjusted. Then we became friends with a passionate vegan. Not only is she passionate, she is educated. She showed us documentaries, articles, and books all demonstrating the detrimental effects of animal products and the revolutionized health of those who decided to eschew them. I began to feel that, while I would never want to be a vegan, it was no doubt the ideal state of being, if we only had the will power to live that way. We ate less and less meat, and, never being a huge meat eater, it became unappealing to me. For several years, I was pescatarian (I never gave up fish entirely). Along the way, I had picked up the idea that if the National Dairy Council a doctor suggests you eat something, you should definitely do the opposite. 

Then our diets changed again, by necessity this time, and it became clear that avoiding meat was simply too difficult. Not that I ever started craving meat, but it was one of the few things on the menu. I had really become a vegetarian by habit; I was sure there were good reasons to avoid meat, but I couldn't really explain it. I remembered reading that the highly-touted calcium in milk wasn't actually abled to be absorbed by the body, though I didn't know the exact mechanism by which this was explained. We were also gluten-free at home, but this too had become habitual over the years, and, without a good reason to avoid it, I continued to indulge in wheat when traveling, with friends, etc. 

For a while, I had an "everything in moderation" philosophy, and just generally tried to avoid engineered food or eating the same thing more than three times a week. I tried dairy free a few times, but often ended up caving in to eat my favorite breakfast, yogurt and granola. So I just ended up with a lot less diary and a lot more guilt. 

Through all this, I've been what most people would consider "healthy." My weight is fine, I don't have any serious health concerns, etc. But I have had persistent skin issues, and lately, my teeth have become seriously demineralized. Of course there is a place for conventional medicine and diet alone cannot change every problem. However, I have tried conventional medicine, to no avail, and I also believe that what you eat each day is either healing your body or the slowest form of poison.

Not wanting to face my first cavity or pump my body full of fluoride, I read the book Cure Tooth Decay by Rami Nagel. Similar to the paleo approach, this book is based on the research of Weston Price in the early twentieth century, when he studied the diet of primitive populations who had excellent health, especially oral health. He found that dairy and meat were not the culprits: many of the societies he studied consumed meat, eggs, and dairy on a daily basis. By contrast, grains and sugars were either absent, or extensively prepared, by soaking, cooking and/or fermentation. In reading this book, I have come to the reluctant realization that my nearly-vegan, high carb diet was either the cause or collaborator in destroying my teeth.

However, this causes a lot of cognitive dissonance. After believing in the value of veganism for so long (at least believing that animal products should be consumed in small quantities), it is hard to accept that all of that wasn't true, at least for my body. Wait, you mean I should be drinking milk daily? So is the medical profession actually right about this? What about other things?

Now, if you look a little further into my diet plan (modified paleo/keto), you'll see that it's a far cry from the Recommendations By American Medical People. Yes, I'm accepting the need for milk, but I don't think it should be pasteurized or antibiotic raised. Contrary to the mainstream acceptance of combining sugars with added vitamins, I believe in getting nutrients straight from food and eliminating sugary foods not found in nature. And most revolutionary of all (to me), I'm going to drastically decrease my grain consumption. What if vegan advocates were looking at the Standard American Diet and thinking the animal products were the reason for such ill health in America, when really its the grains that are the culprits? (Plus the opioid epidemic, the antibiotic age, vaccinations, GMOs, pesticides and over-processing of food).

Going grain-free works out, since my mum has been working towards keto. I've been decreasing the grain content in our meals already (looking at you, almond flour and spiralizer!). But oh my goodness, friends, no oats in my yogurt??? I did without yogurt for more than six months. Now that we're back together again, I'm not sure I can break up with my oats.

Summarizing the tooth protocol I have been following, then:
  • Using remineralizing toothpaste from Wellness Mama
  • Oil pulling (I'll be starting this in June, when I'll have more time in the morning) 10-20 minutes a day
  • Eating nearly grain free, and for those grains I do eat:
    • Brown rice: soaking to remove phytic acid. Soak brown rice in water 16-24 hours. Reserve 10 percent of soaking liquid (discard remaining). Cook rice with clean water. The next time you make rice, add the 10% soaking liquid reserved from last batch. Repeat this cycle. As long as you have some starter on hand, almost all the phytic acid is removed.
    • Oats. The author does NOT recommend oats in any way, but he also made a point of saying that if you ARE eating grains, you can somewhat balance the effect by making sure you have a healthy fat with it. For me, this means yogurt/granola, yogurt in pancakes, etc. If I'm still not noticing effects I will *gulp* eliminate it completely.
  • Eliminating most sugars
    • I was already doing this for the most part, but I'm going to stick to these three added sugars: honey, maple syrup, stevia. 
    • Avoiding high sugar fruits as much as possible and combining with a healthy fat (e.g. green apples and cheese)
  • The author pointed out that teeth can drastically improve from just one good meal a day, even when the other parts of the diet are unchanged. This is encouraging to me, because the thought of overhauling my diet is intimidating, even as a person who has done this multiple times! Luckily, as mentioned above, my parents are starting the keto diet, and several of the protocols (emphasis on healthy fats and protein, grain free, avoidance of high-carb fruits) match up with the remineralizing recommendations.
  • Upping my vitamins C, D &A and calcium uptake through broccoli, bell peppers, sauerkraut, cooked green vegetables, grass fed dairy products, and cod liver oil
  • Bone broth as much as possible. I haven't yet felt comfortable drinking this by the glassful, but that is one of my goals for June.
  • Possibly trying blotting:
I'm excited about the possibility of healing my teeth, but also tentative. I don't doubt the ability to heal oneself through diet, but I doubt my ability to read my body and know what is best. It seems like there is so much contradictory research and debate, along with real life stories of healing on all sides. However, I'm also super excited about combining my dietary experiments with homeopathy! My mother and I have started a homeopathy group to learn more about this fascinating, time-tested medicine and I have been so encouraged to hear the stories of people who have been healed. If you've never heard of it, I suggest you check out

That's all for today, friends. Because some people might go into shock if I post three times in two days. : )

P.S. How do you feel about home birth?

Monday, May 27, 2019

I hope no one smells a rat

Hello readers! A forewarning that this post will be very picture-heavy — I kind of go crazy when pouring over historical fashion eras.

I have decided that the mid 1950s in Britain is my favorite fashion era. I think this might be due to the fact that it is more "wearable" to me than other eras (this also applies to shirtwaist house dresses from the 1930s/early 40s). I love Regency dresses, but I can't actually picture living my every day life in one. The same applies to 1790s Anglaise dresses (which I adore). However, I could see myself wearing this to church:

This apron could be a daily affair:

Probably a bit more 40s, but still adorable.
If you can't tell, I've been watching Call The Midwife. I know I'm late to the party, but this series is so fun. I am loving all of the outfits, accents, and characters. It's probably not for you if childbirth makes you uncomfortable, however, as there is at least one birth in every episode. It isn't graphic at all, though, and nothing is shown besides occasional bare pregnant bellies.

Strangely, there is a deplorable lack of screen captures available, which is unfortunate because I loooove all the scenes of Jenny cycling through Poplar because there are so many lovely ordinary day dresses and aprons that I could see myself living in. You'll just have to check it out yourself. :)

Funnily enough, the only other time I've seen Jessica Raine, she was playing another 1950s British gal, equally stylish though quite different:

Sigh. I love this era. My other fashion period of which I'm consistently fond is the late Edwardian period. This can also be represented by a series I came late to: 

The first season of Downton Abbey has some really delicious Edwardian frocks (the really only delicious thing about the series, actually).

Prepare yourself for an onset of pictures, because I get a wee bit out of control when I see a white lawn tea dress.

I especially like the afternoon gowns from this period because, as I said in regards to 1950s frocks, they seem more "wearable." Not that it would be normal to wear one of these, but they seem so light and casual, as though one could relax while wearing one. By the start of World War I, the s-corset shape had fallen out of fashion, so one probably would be more relaxed than in previous years. 

I love the soft sailor-collar on this one.
This dress is a reproduction of a 1914 pattern:

This one is a little bit earlier — probably 1906-ish. Not quite so wearable but oh-so-elegant.
I also have a thing for the walking suits of the time.

Don't you love old fashion photos?
And naturally, old fashion advertisements.
It's so fun to think of having a dress just for traveling.

Though the afternoon wear is my favorite, I couldn't write an exposition on Edwardian garments and not mention the evening gowns.

I didn't use to like square necklines, but I really love it in this period.

You might wonder what exactly has brought on a wave of research into Edwardian fashion. And perhaps feel a bit of curiosity as to the meaning of the title of this post. Well, readers, I am playing Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion. I am certainly excited about playing a heroine from one of my favorite musicals, but I may or may not be more excited about getting two use two smart little hats which have long languished in my collection. 

Well, "little" really only applies to one of them. The other is a straw hat with an 18-inch diameter, which has to be held on with a hat pin. Which means, of course, that I have to have a suitably voluminous hairdo to stick it into. As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently cut all my hair off my hair. It used to go to my waist, the perfect length for period hair styles, but now falls just below my shoulders. I do not regret my decision to chop it, but what's a short-haired girl to do when she wants an elegant Gibson look?

Doesn't this look good enough to eat? The lighting, lace, and locks are all so soft.
Just what the Edwardians did, of course! Hair rats to the rescue. I do not, of course, refer to small, beady-eyed creatures that make frightening noises. The fact is, despite pictures like this, many women did not have ample hair to create the kind of giant creation which every lady aimed for. Backcombing helps, of course, but it cannot do everything. This is where hair 'rats' come in: a small roll which hair can be wrapped around to bulk up the style. There are little foam rolls one can buy, but one runs the risk of the roll peeking out. The simplest and best hair rat is simply a coiled ball of one's own stray hairs (this will enable it to blend in perfectly). There were even special little crocks with a hole in the top to poke in hair during the collecting process. Alas, I have no hair receiver, but I am in the process of collecting loose hair to make a small rat to add volume to my style. 

The directions I read specifically warned readers about broadcasting the information that one is collecting hair, as it may be slightly disgusting to some. Here I am, posting about it on the internet, which is the exact opposite of concealment. However, I would remind you that if you own anything made of wool, it is composed of someone's collected hair. Furthermore, my hair rat will simply be placed with the rest of my hair. I'm not going to do anything truly nasty with it, like making an embroidered decoration. (Sorry, I shouldn't have put that image in your head. But it was a thing, back in the day. We can't cover up history's mistakes just because they offend our sensibilities.) 

Anyhow, I am very excited about wearing my favorite hat being in Pygmalion, and will forget to post try to post an update about my final wardrobe. In the meantime, tally-ho!


P.S.  Since turning sixteen I've tracked my age according to a Jane Austen heroine. I have now reached the age of Lizzie Bennet.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Such a Sister, Such a Friend

"I have lost a treasure, such a Sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed,—She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow, I had not a thought concealed from her, & and it as if I had lost a part of myself."

-Cassandra Elizabeth Austen, writing to her niece Fanny after Jane's death

In case you didn't know, college life can be very busy. Currently I'm waiting for a pot of water to boil (and thus bound to the kitchen but forbidden to stand by the stove, since, as you well know, a watched pot never boils), so I have a stolen minute to write this.

No matter how busy I am, though, I like to read a little before bed to put my brain to sleep. I rarely read more than a few pages a night, so I go through my bedtime books fairly slowly. I started Jane Austen's Letters, edited by Deirdre LeFaye, on October 10 and finished at the end of March. This isn't truly indicative of my speed in reading, however, as of course there were some nights I read something else. These nights increased as I neared the end of the book; I like to finish things but I did not want to be done with Jane.

(The water has now come to a boil, but I must remain to watch it and be sure my eggshells do not boil over. Yes, eggshells. I am making homemade calcium powder to make tooth paste.)

It would be grossly unjust to pretend I know Jane Austen the way Cassandra did. However, in at last finishing this volume, knowing I have now read every word the dear creature wrote (which remains to us, anyway), I cannot but feel in some small way that I've lost a friend. For months I read a letter before bed nearly every night, feeling comforted after the stress of the day that still Jane was there, with her good sense, frank humour, lively wit, and deep affection for her family. 

Her kindly notes to her young nieces were delightful. She wrote that she was "quite tired of so many children" and recommended "the simple regimen of separate rooms," yet she doted on her many nieces and nephews. She wrote to Fanny and Anna as though they were sisters and treated her younger nieces, such as Caroline, as though they were adults. And imagine getting literary criticism from Jane Austen! As an Aunt myself, two passages stuck out to me:

"Now that you are become an Aunt, you are a person of some consequence & must excite great Interest whatever You do. I have always maintained the importance of Aunts as much as possible, & I am sure of your doing the same now."
(Letter to Caroline Austen)

"His having been in love with the aunt gives Cecilia an additional interest with him. I like the idea,—a very proper compliment to an aunt! I rather imagine indeed that nieces are seldom chosen but out of compliment to some[284] aunt or another. "
(Letter to Anna Austen Lefroy, regarding Anna's novel)

I laughed out loud many times and frequently identified with her concerns. As she lamented that her handwriting was never as small or as neat as she could wish, or that too-perfect heroines made her feel "sick and wicked," I wanted to tell her, "Me too!" 

I love Regency clothing, the manners, and the old British idioms. I'm drawn to Jane Austen's novels and other writings for all those reasons, but also because of the "me too" feeling one gets while reading. No, I don't spend my days taking country walks, writing letters and changing for dinner. But it is absolutely delightful to read a 19th century novel and to encounter the same human emotions, desires, idiosyncrasies, and disappointments as those found in 2019. Two hundred years removed, I feel more of a kinship with this woman than with any of my classmates. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Projects and end of an era

Well, on Tuesday I went back to school. College is not my favorite, but I've had a long, lovely break. In the past five glorious weeks I've been...

Researching. Since watching Vaxxed in 2016, I have been researching vaccine safety and efficacy. Someday I will be able to sit down and write a post about this issue. At the moment, I have so many thoughts and pieces of research wanting to burst out of me that I'm not even sure where to begin. All I can do is to implore you to research this topic, whether you're old, young, liberal, conservative, a parent or a monk. Googling "vaccine safety" is insufficient. There are excellent studies out there, but unfortunately you can't trust other people to find them for you. I suggest starting with The HPV Vaccine on Trial, a thoroughly well researched book which puts the information in your own hands.

Enjoying. Unusual amounts of snow, plant sojourners in my room, and Jane Austen's letters. (I pretend she is writing just to me.)

Reading. As mentioned two years ago, Christmas puts me in the mood for old-fashioned British mysteries. This year, it was Georgette Heyer's A Christmas Party (appropriate) and No Wind of Blame. I also worked on (and continue to work on!) Les Miserables in audiobook form and Hard Times, my first Dickens book to read in print. In the nonfiction department, I loved Beyond Colorblind by Sarah Shin and The Fine Art of Small Talk by Debra Fine.

Hanging. Since writing this post, I've had to expand to a larger bookshelf (it happens to the best of us. You can never have too many books). And since that changed the look of that wall, I eventually (18 months later) decided, with advice from my home design consultant (AKA my mother), to rearrange/update my paintings. Gertrude, the disapproving white peacock, will now preside over the bed. To make room for her, The Tempest will be sold. Two silhouettes (Anonymous Gentleman and my dear Miss Austen) will now keep watch over the bookshelf wall.

Exercising. Somehow this exercise-hating girl turned into an exercise junkie. Almost. In mid-2018 I started using Fitness Blender and over the summer discovered strength training. Being able to follow Kelly via video really helps me to stay motivated through a 30- or 40-minute workout; plus the calendar feature satisfies my list-loving, box-checking nature. I have started adding in HIIT workouts once a week (or per month, if I'm really honest). I still feel like something the cat dragged in afterwards, but I hate it slightly less than regular cardio. (Strength training, though... don't get me started. I love it, man.)

Listening. My most important musical discovery in the last month was Michael BublĂ©'s Christmas album. Some of my favorites + a person whose voice is like butter... but why try to tell you about it? Have a listen yourself. 

As always, I really enjoyed playing and listening to traditional Christmas carols, especially featuring the violin. (Interestingly, in the 2016 post I mentioned this same genre and linked to a beeaautttiful I Saw Three Ships version.) I've also rediscovered my love for folk songs, most recently 'Land o' the Leal' and 'Buffalo Gals.'

Knitting. In the past month, I've made two baby hats and started one blanket. No, no one in my life is expecting. I just find baby things easier to complete and more fun. Tomorrow I'm going to drop off this adorable panda hat and mitten set. The mittens were done within 40 minutes (not counting the duplicate stitch to add the paw detail). I enjoyed this project especially because it was simple and quick, but forced me to learn three new skills: casting on in the middle of a project, picking up stitches, and duplicate stitching. The hat pattern can be found here, but I applied the paw idea onto some thumbless baby mitts for a newborn.

Mending. Working 30 hours a week in the summer + a busy fall semester worked together to create a large mending pile. From socks to jeans to a lunch bag, I was finally able to finish some sorely needed mending.

Gluing. Hot glue has been a constant in my life since mid November, when my mom, middle sister and I created a Harry Potter themed tree for a fundraiser. I had great fun making wands by creating hot glue shapes on wooden skewers, then painting and mod-podging. My greatest triumph (which, alas, I do not have a good photo of) was The Monster Book of Monsters. First, I made a small box out of cardboard (thank you once again hot glue), covered it with a piece of fake fur, and painted the sides to look like book pages. A set of fake teeth, cut to fit, were added, as were fake eyes. A title sticker (only one of many pieces that my printer father did for us) and a braided leather strap completed the creation.

After the tree was donated, I decided I wanted to finally finish another project which has languished in my closet: a gourd fairy house. Being an avid Tolkienite, I felt that it ought to resemble a hobbit house. Which, naturally, entailed painting the front door emerald green and installing a gold doorknob.

A view through the front door.

It is a very small and simple house, consisting of a front room/study/kitchen, a tiny dining room/parlor, and a loft. The furnishings are for the most part natural — a mushroom serves as a built-in stool, the dishes are made from acorns, and a leaf comprises the pillow.

Through the right window to the parlor, set for tea.
Looking in the left window to see the sink. 
Other details you might notice are the lace curtains, the sink made of a shell, the letter box with party RSVPS, and There and Back Again lying on the desk. (Not pictured: a cuckoo clock by the door and a painting from a bottle in the dining room.) Though spending time on a fairy house with no practical purpose felt a little childish, I enjoyed the quiet detail work and look forward to displaying it in my children's nursery (which will be literary-themed, of course).

Cutting. My hair! I was eight years old the last time I cut my hair. I went home and cried in my parent's bathroom, and regretted it so much that for eleven and a half years I only got trims. Until January 2, 2019, when I cut sixteen inches off.  There was definitely some mourning the day before, but I am pleased to announce there were no tears after the fact this time.

Baking. Dozens of muffins, luscious peppermint brownies, delectable gingerbread biscotti, spicy pfeffernusse, and scones of various varieties, all accompanied, of course, by copious amounts of tea.

Watching. Besides the old Christmas favorites, over break we watched three movies which were new to me: The Man Who Invented Christmas, Castaway, and Saving Mr. Banks. All three movies were very different and very delightful. (Not quite as well-liked was The Remains of the Day. I did not feel the ending had resolution. The addition of one line would have reformed it for me.) Emma Thompson is just an amazing actress, and it was fun to see Tom Hanks in some different roles as well.

After such a wonderful break, it's hard to go back to the constant busyness of school. It is so easy to step into a mindset of complaint when I think about college. There have been some very real frustrations, and I do legitimately feel that I learned more when I was homeschooled (I certainly enjoyed it more). I enjoy being around people, but it is exhausting to be so often gone from my home or too busy to see my family.

But I also have much to be thankful for. When I received a scholarship to this college in spring 2017, I praised the Lord over and over for His provision. I have a great job cleaning an office — in addition to working a few hours a week at a preschool, with 50 people under the age of six who constitute my best friends on campus — which allows me to graduate debt free.

In addition, I feel closer to the Lord than I ever have before. My first year of college was hard. I don't mean academically. I mean being in a secular environment five days a week which constantly whispered, implicitly if not explicitly, There is no God who cares for you. I quickly realized that without the Body of Christ, living in a God-cursing world is very, very difficult. Even once I was able to get into a Bible study at my church, I struggled with feeling alone or unheard by God. I am so thankful the semester ended when it did. I wasn't thinking suicidally or considering leaving the church; but I was in need of a detox from the foolish rhetoric preached day in and day out at school. Over the summer, I had the necessary time to examine my heart, pour over the Bible, and remember the One who cares for me, who is nearer than a brother, who has a husband's heart for me.

The fall semester had difficult moments as some of my classes examined issues of homosexuality and I had to be in very dark places. But it was different than my first year. In all the hard times I knew that the Lord is unchanging, that He gives us laws only to bring freedom, and that He is present and loving.

When I constantly complain about this season of life — which in reality, is really very short anyway — I dishonor the One who regulates time, who provided this scholarship, and who made my life. Besides the fact that it doesn't bring me much joy, either. It may be a stretch to say I'll ever love my university or that, at this point, I want to love my university. But I am tired of living in a state of dissatisfaction that dishonors God, when I could live by gratitude. I have made this resolution before — to be thankful and stop complaining about college. Now, I nervously post this to the Internet, because even if only two people read this, saying it "aloud" gives me a measure of accountability.

It's good to be writing again, dear readers. I would love to hear how you spent your holidays.