Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I'm in love - I'm in love - I'm in love - with Jane Austen and her writings. I have not just recently discovered her. Pride and Prejudice was required reading for me in high school. But I had so little appreciation for this style of writing as a teenager.

This infatuation has been growing and growing in recent years. I am a vintage linen collector. I love old  books, furniture, and films, especially PP and SS and Emma. I am addicted to Downton Abbey. But seeing a Hollywood production is vastly different than reading a book.

As an homage to the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice, my local library has been hosting some events.  Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813, after many revisions by the author. Her first title for this piece was First Impression.

I understand that Jane began writing for the amusement of her family when she was about 11-12 years old. This was the family entertainment of an evening after dinner - reading, embroidery, play acting. It takes an imagination exercise for us to recreate in our minds, a family evening without a TV, gameboy, blueray, CD's, ipad, ipod, lights that come on at the flick of a switch, a pantry filled with snacks, a fridge filled with cold drinks and ice cream. In families like the Austen family, the evening's entertainment consisted of one member reading to the others...................

It was very difficult to have a manuscript, especially from a woman author,  accepted for publication in London at that time. Incredibly, she wrote it all out in longhand. Without the sponsorship of one of her brothers, it would have proved impossible for an unknown woman to get any notice by publishers. It would have to be self published. The cost would be prohibitive. The manuscript could not be passed around from publisher to publisher as there was only one - hand written. It languished for many years.  But was eventually published and gained in scholarship and reputation - finally becoming "required reading" for high school English classes and loved by generations.

My library presented a lecture on Ms. Austen, given by Edith Lank, an octogenarian, a retired English professor whose specialty is JA. She's a member of the Jane Austen Society.   Her lecture was so interesting and informative. Included with the lecture were items from Ms. Lank's extensive Jane Austen collection. (copies of JA's books translated in many languages). Also included were movie clips of Hollywood's versions of the novels.  The 1940 version of PP with Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy and Greer Garson is her favorite.

She's expert in the fashions worn in that historical era. The dresses were Empire style, not Victorian and often times misinterpreted by Hollywood. The Bronte' novels, on the other hand, would be Victorian style.

As an extra, added bonus, on the actual 200th anniversary day (1/28/1813-1/28/2013), the library showed the most recent Pride and Prejudice film. The 2005 version, starring Keira Knightly as Elizabeth Bennet. I was privileged to be there.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

More Traditions

Baby showers usually have a prescribed schedule of events. There are generally no surprises. People arrive bearing appropriately wrapped (in nursery themed paper with ribbons or rattles attached) gifts, they mingle a bit, possibly have a glass of punch and a canape', may have a light lunch, the new mom - to - be opens gifts, holding them up or passing them around for all to see. They may pull a number for a door prize or a game may be played for which there is a prize for the winner. Opening of gifts continues until there are no more to open. Then there may be coffee and cake and good-byes. End of shower.

At the baby shower I attended on Sunday, a request was made to bring an unwrapped gift!!! The gifts were carefully displayed on a table. They were arranged at differing heights, so that all were visible in their wonderful nakedness. There was noshing and mingling and examination of gifts. The new mom was not relegated to a chair away from her guests. She was part of the noshing and mingling.  There also was a not - so - light lunch.

       In the background, guests are examining the baby gifts displayed on the table.

And the "game" for which there were no winners prizes was all laid out on another large table. It was more fun than any game I ever played at any other shower. There were piles of white blank onesies, tee shirts, and bibs, accompanied by containers of various colors of fabric markers. The guests personalized, with their own artwork, one or more of these for the new baby. It's a baby boy this couple are expecting so there were kites, trains, dress shirts with ties, turtles, and toy boats, etc. all hand painted and signed by the guests.

The gifts artfully displayed on the table - is what reminded me of a tradition that I had not remembered in years.   Watching DOWNTON ABBEY, I saw wedding gifts arriving at the bride's home in the days preceding the wedding. These were then artfully displayed until the wedding was over.

Couples received gifts in advance of the wedding. It was considered gauche to bring a wrapped gift to the wedding. It was, however, socially acceptable to bring a card with a cash gift and usually there was a discretely placed container for this purpose. Today this tradition is almost entirely the card/cash with a not-so-discretely placed box in which to place them.

I had almost forgotten these wedding traditions until I noticed them on DOWNTON ABBEY. Gone are the days of receiving a place setting of silverware or a place setting of china or of crystal or a beautiful vase. People do not live with that formality any longer. Life is much more casual today. And of the "throw away" variety. It's stainless steel forks, everyday tableware from Target and plastic glasses. When the dishes get chipped or there is a nicer pattern of stainless steel flatware, it's back to Target to replace the old with a brand new (expendable) set.

It was not so with the china, crystal, silverware crowd of DOWNTON ABBEY. Oftentimes those possessions were passed down to the next generation (becoming heirlooms) - they lasted - they had substance - they had value.

Sometimes this makes me a little sad....................

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


 The English translation of Pizza Fritta is Fried Dough. This a a treat you usually can get at a street carnival, an outdoor faire,  art show or something of that nature. It is deceptively simple to make. In an Italian household, it's a treat, something you whip up in a flash when people get the "hungries".  It would be of the same nature as popcorn. Something you whip up for a snack while watching football or a movie or to nosh on out on the patio while the kiddies are on the swing set.

The only ingredients you'll need are a tube of PILLSBURY CRUSTY FRENCH LOAF from the dairy section of your supermarket, a bit of oil for frying, and granulated sugar for sprinkling.

Put about 1/2 cup of granulated sugar into a brown lunch size paper bag and set aside. I let the bread dough come to room temperature before cracking open the tube. I lay the dough out on a flour sprinkled counter. Heat 3-4 tbs. of bland oil (canola or vegetable) on medium heat. Cut off a small portion (1" to 1.5") of the bread dough with the kitchen shears. I roll out that piece with the rolling pin, then I stretch it with my hands until it is stretched as much as possible without tearing. Immediately fry it on both sides, in the oil. You want to see a golden brown color and the dough bubble up.  Drain on paper towel for a couple minutes. Then shake it in the brown paper, sugar filled lunch bag. Remove and set on a serving dish until all the dough is used up in the fashion.

Optional: a bit of cinnamon can be added to the sugar.

I got one dozen pizza fritta from one tube of French Loaf.

It's messy and addictive, therefore, very wise to eat outdoors. I guarantee your children and grandchildren will have special memories of this treat and often request it when they come for a visit.........

Note: If the oil in your fry pan begins to have burnt flour sediment,  change pans and use fresh oil. Always being careful not to burn.  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Christmas Traditions

One of the Christmas traditions that I share with almost everyone on the planet is the Christmas Tree. This year, mine was a bit unorthodox. I am in a position of getting familiar with a "new normal". I just was not excited about pulling out all sorts of decorations from their hiding places (for just me to enjoy) then having to put them all away again in a few weeks. But I still was up for Christmas. I wanted to get carried away with all the other traditions I was used to - like seeing the gingerbread houses made by locals at the Eastman House Museum, going to the craft sales, sacred presentations of the Christmas story, watching the old movies, etc., etc.

So you might say, my home was very sedately "Christmassy". My fireplace mantle has a snow people panorama. Many snow people standing on vintage lace "snow" in a tiny forest of evergreens under a big rusty star. Most of these snow people were hand made by me. I love this scene so much, I'm temped to leave it up all year.

For my unorthodox tree, I made cupcake papers trees that I saw on Craft Gossip. I did put my tiny presents under them. Fortunately, I did receive tiny presents (gift cards and earrings).

Another lovely tradition  is the Secret Santa that we have on the Christian Artist team on etsy (CAST). Those who want to participate fill out a questionaire about themselves, their wishes and dreams. A "director" pairs up the participants. I gifted a sister from the midwest and I received from a sister in the state right next door to my own state. But some sent and received gifts from the UK, from Australia, Canada and other hinder parts of the planet. And some from right next door. Amazingly, the gifts were perfect and such a blessing to both sender and receiver.

My gift arrived from a sister who's had some health problems recently and was also greatly affected by hurricane Sandy, therefore, unable to shop outside the home. I'm sure she has no idea how much her gift blessed me and how precious it is to me. She purchased from another CAST sister a pair of pearl earrings. I'm sure she didn't know my name means "pearl".

The formation of this gem involves a great amount of irritation and pressure happening inside that little mollusk before a beautiful pearl is formed. I love to think about heaven's gates being formed by this jewel and how our Savior always changes for good whatever He touches.

Here are the beautiful earrings I received from my Secret Santa (you know santa means holy).

One final tradition for the Christmas season in my neck of the woods is a White Christmas. Everyone was longing for it. We had spring like weather until just a couple weeks ago..............then, voila!!!

A Christmas Card sort of Christmas