Saturday, September 7, 2019

A brief comparison of Howard's End (1992) and Howard's End (2017/2018)

Okay, folks, here's how this is going to work: I'm a reader first and then a movie watcher, so any novel-to-film review will mostly examine the faithfulness of the adaption. Secondly, I love historical costuming, so I can never review a period drama without touching on the clothes. Thirdly, I'm short on time because right now it's 8:45 pm, my bed time is 9:00pm, and I still haven't finished my reading my 8:00am class tomorrow...heh. And even though I'll be working this in more than one sitting, the likely case is that I will have homework calling my name regardless of when I finish this. So basically, you're going to get the down and dirty version of my thoughts, so to speak (except I'm not speaking. I'm typing and you're reading. So take that for what it's worth, I guess).

I'll attempt to talk in veiled terms so as to be spoiler-free for those of you who haven't read the book or seen either of these adaptions, but I'll also be referring to "that one scene where the guy talks about his job," which will obviously make no sense if you have no frame of reference for the story. I do recommend reading the book. I listened to it, but think I would have appreciated it more reading it. I didn't immediately know what I thought about it when I finished. It seemed sort of abrupt, and had some "unreliable narrator" moments which I'm not a fan of. However, I think it's really quite a progressive book for its time (written by a E.M. Forester in 1910) and deals with such complex themes as women's roles, sexism, classism, extramarital affairs, the spiritual relation to the physical, and the intellectual life. It would make for a great book group discussion, I think (which is sort of ironic, as some of the book reflects on the fact that it is only the wealthy, privileged class who has time for intellectual pursuits and discussion clubs).

A Hasty Overview of Plot Points

1992: For a fairly short movie, this stuck to the plot very well. The main important episode that was omitted was the drive down to Evie's wedding. The car hits a cat and the Wilcox clan blows it off as the fault of the peasants who were in the road, while Margaret leaps from the car to check on the people. This basically shows to demonstrate, once again, the worldly, money-fixes-everything, spiritually deficient nature of the Wilcoxes.

The iconic keys-in-the-grass scene.

2018: As a miniseries, they were able to be a bit more detailed, but they also omitted the cat-turned-pancake scene. Surprisingly, for having more time than the 1992 movie, I thought that it was a little bit less faithful to the book. 

Evie being fake nice, as usual.
For instance, in the scene were Leonard Bast has tea with the Schlegels, they changed the dialogue. In the book (and the original movie), Len takes the hint about his business being likely to "smash" as though the Schlegel girls are trying to "pick his brain" (i.e., use him to get information about his company for some devious underhand purpose). He simply is not used to people who have the leisure to do an act out of pure (if misguided) benevolence. 

However, in the 2017/2018 miniseries, Tibby comes in as Helen is trying to smooth things over with Len and says something like "Is this the fellow you talk about in your social club? Part of your experiment?" I think this was the writers' attempt to make one of the themes of the book —interaction across social classes and how that can benefit or harm both parties — more obvious, but it was very clumsy in my opinion. It put an entirely new spin on Len's irritation and/or embarrassment that I didn't feel was in the book at all.

Even more importantly, I was pretty shocked that they entirely skipped the conversation between Helen and Margaret that takes place when Margaret surprises Helen at Howard's End. In the book and the 1992 adaption, when Margaret bursts in they have a long conversation, as Helen is angry and Margaret explains, etc. In the movie, they show Margaret walking in and then cut to a scene presumably an hour or so later, alluding to the fact that they talked but entirely dismissing the viewer from participation in this important conversation. Also, I felt they rushed one of the most important scenes of the story, where *SPOILER* Meg confronts Henry and drops the keys on the grass. *End spoiler* Also, why was Aunt Julie with the Schlegels the first time they met Leonard Bast? But overall, I'm pleased with this transfer of book-to-screen as well.
A Quick Sketch of the Cast
1992: Overall, I thought the cast was very well chosen. I love Emma Thompson, but I felt she was too old for the role. In the beginning of the book, Margaret is 29. She is still viewed as a naive girl, even though she is more mature and firmly grounded than Helen through virtue of being the oldest child and having basically raised Helen and Tibby. But Emma Thompson is such a good actress that by the end of the movie she had convinced me into loving her. Plus she and Anthony Hopkins are a great pair. 

I love Tibby.
Can we all just take a minute to appreciate how amazing Anthony Hopkins is as an actor? Helena Bonham Carter was good as Helen, but not all that memorable in my opinion. Tibby was quite good. The actress for Jackie was fine, but the way they made her up gave the impression that she was quite a bit more disreputable than I got the impression she was in the book. Both of the adaptions did a good job of showing that, while the Basts' marriage was not perfect and was in some ways unsatisfying (especially to Len), Jackie does care about him. This movie has my favorite Charles and Dolly. Dolly is honestly the most hilarious personage.

Dolly's ability to always say the absolute wrong thing is priceless.
2018: As with the other film, I'm generally satisfied with the cast. Charles and Evie were just as nasty as necessary. Margaret seemed a bit more the proper age in this one — and Hayley Atwell is really good — but Helen and especially Tibby seemed too young. Tibby is 16 at the beginning of the book but is at Oxford by the end. In this adaption, he seems all of 14 years old throughout (and was as annoying as a fourteen year old boy would be expected to be). I did feel that the siblings seemed a little bit more like a real family than in the 1992 version. 

The actors/directors did a really good job showing the close relationship and mutual oddness between the Schlegels. I love Matthew McFadyen so of course he was great. I liked that in this version, Mrs. Bast seemed a little bit more respectable — yes, I know she has a past, but the book does not imply she has a present, if you know what I mean. This Mrs. Bast wears actual clothing instead of hanging out in a corset and dressing gown all day (in general, this film makes the Basts' seem less destitute — they have walls instead of curtains and decent furniture to sit on. Not sure whether that's more faithful to the book or not, but there you go). 

The Basts

A Disproportionate Amount of Pictures (ie. The Costumes)

1992: There is not enough space on this blog (nor enough screen captures available on the internet) to showcase the costumes from this film. I loooooveed all of Margaret's outfits (though Helen's not so much). Absolutely lovely white frocks, shawls, hats, etc. What I can't figure out is why Helen had her hair down in almost every single scene. Yes, she's young when the story starts, but she's twenty-two, not thirteen! I thought maybe they would use her hair to show her aging, but nope, it stays down. This is the Edwardian era, not the 1970s. Going out without a hat, let alone leaving your hair down, was a social faux-pas.

 I'm sorry, Helen's hair is just a mess and her costumes were not very appealing to me. I love the black and white dress Margaret wears to Evie's wedding, though.

The coat!
2018: Overall, I preferred the costumes in the 1992 film to the miniseries. In the first couple episodes, Margaret wears a lot of plaid and dark colors, which was surprising to me as one usually sees so many light colored tea gowns and blouses in Edwardian fashion. 
Just not feeling the plaid.
Some of Helen's ensembles were downright strange.
In the last two episodes, she wears a lot more of the white, lacy frocks that one expects. I read another reviewer suggesting that they were trying to contrast Margaret's independent, emancipated-woman situation in the beginning with her position after *SPOILER* marriage, as she molds herself to the expectation of the submissive woman. *End spoiler*

I love all the details of this dress.
 I absolutely loved Margaret's hair. I know it's a wig but I'm missing the time when I had hair long enough to do that kind of thing. Can someone put out a tutorial for that, please? 

This movie had the same issue with Helen's hair as the 1992 version. Once again, I thought they would use the transition from loose hair to up-do as a way to show time passing, but she has it hanging loose up to the very end. Perhaps they were trying to show Helen's indifference to social customs that she deemed unnecessary? But I don't get the impression, from the book, that her frankness and independence extended to a flagrant disregard for modesty, which is what this would have been considered.

In Summary

I have compared both versions for the benefit of anyone interested, but I leave the choice up to you, as I cannot pick a favorite. All in all, both versions are excellent adaptions, and I highly recommend you watch them both — always provided that you've read the book first. ;) 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Don't cry over spilled milk

...even when it's precious raw milk.

Well, internet world, it is Labor Day, and being that it is only the second week of college, I have a respite from homework. While I have more posts in "drafts" than I care to see, I thought I might take the chance to write one I've been pondering today.

However, I feel little motivation to write here anymore, because I simply wonder if anyone reads this.  What, indeed, is the point of jettisoning one's thoughts into the atmosphere if no kindred spirit will be edified, amused, or at least have the pleasure of recognizing mutual feelings? Why not simply journal? (Especially if I'm writing a soul-searching post like this one; I'm a blog reader, too. I know the witty reviews get more reads.)

And yet, a part of me feels guilty for abandoning this corner of cyberspace (does anyone use that word anymore?).

In fact, guilt drives more of my behavior than I'd like to admit, or that I am always conscious of. I read about the keto diet, which restricts carbs so severely that bananas (which are obviously very high in sugars) can not be consumed. For a few months I stop buying bananas in preparation for this diet. Then, even when I'm not following the rules of the diet, I only reluctantly and guiltily start buying them again. To make green smoothies. And feel an inward shame that I'm destroying my health by doing so.

Another example: Today I made yogurt. I started buying raw milk over the past couple months to make my own yogurt, because grass fed yogurt is basically liquid gold. Well, I recently found a grass-fed, organic raw milk source, and that stuff is liquid silver (or maybe copper; the point is, it's not cheap). I believe it's worth it, but I'm pretty conscious of what I'm using it for and making sure I get the right amount. Well, in the process of making yogurt, I spilled rather a large amount on the counter, because our large glass measuring cup doesn't pour the best when it's very full. Now, this is a frustrating thing, because every bit of milk becomes delicious yogurt, and I hate waste. It's natural to be a bit annoyed or distressed. But I didn't just feel a bit put out; my feelings quickly escalated to anger and taking offense at everything around me. All glory to God, the Holy Spirit was quick to point out the shift in my attitude, and I was able to reorient myself, in his strength.

Later on in the day, I was making a big batch of hummus, and realized I had less than 1/2 cup of tahini, an essential ingredient. Again, I felt more than a little frustration, beyond what was reasonable about having to make a quick trip to the store (about a 5 minute drive).

As I analyzed my reaction to these two situations, I realized that it wasn't about the wasted time or money — at least, only at a superficial level. Friends, I'm sure I spilled less than 1/4 cup of milk. At $8/gallon, this comes to the equivalent of about $0.13 wasted. So, yeah, I think our budget will be able to handle it. Ha.

The point is, both of these situations jabbed at my false self, my worldly identity. I desire to be an efficient, capable housewife, and in many ways I'm fairly good at this. Thus, it's easy to mistake my human confidence and positivity for the secure identity that is only possible when rooted in the unchanging love of the Father. Because everything else is changing, friends. It doesn't matter if I made a great batch of brownies, homemade yogurt, and cleaned the bathroom, if I can't even pour out of a measuring cup. It doesn't matter if my last several grocery trips were well planned and I got the best deals if I forgot to buy tahini. The authors of a popular book on budget meal planning say that the one best practice is reducing your grocery trips — if you don't have an ingredient, it's better to change your plan than to make a trip just to get that one item. Thus, in the rules-driven, guilt-ridden mind of a Katie, it doesn't matter if I planned to make hummus weeks ahead so that there would be lunches for the week; it doesn't matter that I soaked the beans from dry instead of using cans; it doesn't matter that I live five minutes away from a grocery store: I failed in planning, and thus in housewife-ing, and thus as a person, because I forgot tahini.

Writing this out, I can't decide if it sounds pathetic or like a subtle form of comedy. I suppose it's a little of both. Sometimes, I have to actually write out my fears to recognize their foolishness; I have to tell myself "I'm practically on the shelf," in order to laugh myself out of insecurity about lack of a suitor.

But while it may be funny (because really? no one in my house cares a pin whether I have to go to the grocery store twice in a week or twice in a day. get over yourself, girl) it is built on an insidious lie, that my identity is based on what I can do, that I'm only worth what I'm able to accomplish, cook, clean, earn, write, or prove.

These words remind me that, yes, who am I, compared to the Living God? All my good deeds, my attempts to prove myself, are like filthy rags. Yet, in the glorious riches of his love, I can sing that I am who he says I am. 

P.S. College is busy. Long posts are hard. So if I maintain any kind of presence here over the next nine months, I'm thinking about doing mini-posts. I can't do a full fledged review of a movie with thirty pictures (that was probably too long in the first place), but I could do a ten-bullet-point comparison with my three favorite costumes. Etc. So look for that. Maybe. Haha.

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.