Our Jane Austen Birthday tea on Sunday November 24 was such fun. We had the event at Heavenly Special Teas in Spokane. The food was delicious, and the holiday decorations were a delight. We raised funds for our region through a raffle of items such as Regency bonnets, basketball tickets, tea cups, books, a Jane Austen advent calendar, and other Jane Austen-related items. Thank you to all the members who donated items for our fundraiser: Debra P., Yvette T., Chuck P., Anne H., Cassandra B., Sara T., Roseann T., Colleen D., Vickey B., Michele L., and anonymous. Jane Provinsal took all the pictures (see the Photos of Past Events page for the pictures) and made cinnamon ornaments of a Regency man (Mr. Darcy perhaps?) that was the party favor. We also had the premier dramatic reading of “Jane Austen’s Juvenilia: Wicked Funny”, adapted by Michele Larrow. There were three acts from “The Three Sisters”, “Jack and Alice”, and “Love and Freindship”. The members who read were dramatic and funny. Thank you to our readers: Chris, Colleen B., Chuck, Yvette, Sara, Debra, Colleen D., Melody, Diana, Cassandra, Amy, and Michele. The video below is most of the first act from “The Three Sisters” (the very beginning was cut off).
’Good gracious! I have had such a time of it! I never saw Lucy in such a rage in my life. She vowed at first she would never trim me up a new bonnet, nor do any thing else for me again, so long as she lived; but now she is quite come to, and we are as good friends as ever. Look, she made me this bow to my hat, and put in the feather last night. There now, you are going to laugh at me too. But why should not I wear pink ribbons? I do not care if it is the Doctor’s favourite colour. I am sure, for my part, I should never have known he did like it better than any other colour, if he had not happened to say so. My cousins have been so plaguing me!– I declare sometimes I do not know which way to look before them.’
She had wandered away to a subject on which Elinor had nothing to say, and therefore soon judged it expedient to find her way back again to the first.” Sense and Sensibility, p. 272 Oxford U. 3rd Edition
Poor Miss Steele is vulgar, unmarried at 30, and left broke by Lucy. She only wants someone to kid with her about the Doctor and to have the warmest seat by the fire. She does not get much love in Sense and Sensibility, but it is through her good offices that the truth about Edward and Lucy comes out, so that Edward can be disinherited and Lucy can release him from her grasp. I think we all have a little bit of Miss Steele in us. I, for one, love pink ribbons. This sewing project, which I created for our Spring Tea, was my homage to Miss Steele’s joy in pink ribbons. I used a sewing machine for most of the sewing and I also used a shirt for the top of the over-dress, so this is beginner-level Regency sewing.
Note: the pictures of the sewing in progress were taken by me. The pictures from the Spring tea were taken by Jane Provinsal.
To create the over-dress, I used a short-sleeve white cotton shirt I had with ruffles sewn onto the top in a diagonal pattern. The bottom of the dress was made out of some white shirting fabric that I found at a second-hand store with a pink window-pane pattern with a pink medallion in some of the squares. It was rather sheer, but had good body. I cut the bottom using my trusty Simplicity #4055 (Sense and Sensibility) pattern, putting the front panel on the selvedges instead of the fold to create a front opening. I cut the length a little shorter than full-length, but longer than the overlay pattern that comes with View A of the Simplicity pattern.
For my under-dress, I have a sleeveless full-length lined silk petticoat with a drawstring neckline that I had already made for a previous outfit. Both the top and the bottom of the over-dress had to be gathered some—the top just a little bit and the bottom quite a bit to create the gathered back. I sewed the bottom sides together and pressed the seams open, then sewed a small hem along the front opening and the bottom (using the sewing machine). I basted the back as instructed in the pattern to create gathers and then pinned the right side of the shirt to the right side of the bottom of the dress, gathering the shirt slightly below the bust. I basted the shirt and bottom together before cutting off the lower part of the shirt to make sure that the fit was correct.
Once I was sure that the size was correct, I trimmed the lower part of the shirt and then used the sewing machine to sew the basted high waist. To give the high waist seam some reinforcement, I covered over the raw edges with the seam allowance of the cotton shirt (which I left a little longer) and then sewed that down to the top through all layers about ¼” from the waist seam. I made belt loops out of the pink ribbon I was using for the belt (hand sewn after folding in thirds) and then basted and sewed them on the seam of the bottom of the dress and straight up on the shirt. The dress was a little large around the empire waist, but cinched nicely with the ribbon belt (1 ½” grosgrain ribbon). I left the plastic buttons on the top because I was not able to find anything more authentic looking that was small enough for the button loops.
The Drawstring Mob Cap
I really liked the lace that was at the bottom of the shirt that I was cutting up, so I thought I might be able to preserve it by incorporating it into a mob cap with a pink ribbon behind it. When I cut the bottom half of the shirt off, I trimmed it close to the lace and sewed the front two sides of the shirt together, creating a circular band. I pinned the right side of the band onto the right side of a round piece of cotton (leftover lining material from the petticoat), leaving about an inch and a quarter around so that I could create the space for the ribbon. After sewing the ruffle and making sure that I was at the very edge of the lace, I flipped it out and then sewed around on the inside of the cap, creating about a 7/8” channel for the 5/8” ribbon. I cut the seam in the center of the lace in the channel so that the ribbon would be at the center of the cap when threaded. Once I made sure the ribbon worked (threading it with a safety pin), I tacked the ruffle into the inside of the cap, over the seam allowance, so that the ruffle was not too big and had a little puffiness. The cap itself was not very large due to making it the size of the ruffle band, but for a first attempt, I think it came out well.
The shawl was created using a purchased Ralph Lauren Home white viscose/cotton bed throw (found on clearance!) that had 8” fringe and measured about 70” by 50”. I cut the throw about 21” from the long side so that it would sew to a 20” by 70” shawl (plus the fringe). I took the fringe off of the cut side where I was going to turn it in (it had a double thickness) and sewed it on the long edge, as close to the edge as I could get it. The hardest part about sewing the shawl was making the side even, since the inside of the fabric was slippery. I was glad I had my shawl the day of the tea because the weather was cool.
None of these projects took great sewing skills. I especially liked the ease of using a blouse for the top of the over-dress. Other than using the Simplicity pattern for the bottom of the over-dress, I eye-balled the other measurements, such as when creating the mob cap. Basting before cutting really helps. It was fun to create a full outfit for the Spring Tea (although I did not have time to make a reticule). Several other members came in outfits that they had sewn too. You can see more pictures in https://jasnaewanid.org/photos-of-past-events/. Wishing you happy sewing! Michele
Our Spring Tea on Sunday April 28, 2019 was wonderful. Pamela Aidan spoke on “Creating the Regency World” and enthralled listeners with information about the Regency era, her writing process for creating the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series, and stories about the Prince Regent. A highlight for many attendees was getting to talk with Pamela individually as she signed copies of her books. If you have not had a chance to read the interviews with Pamela we did on the website before the tea, scroll down on the blog to find them.
Thanks to all our attendees, many of whom drove long distances to join us. They were patient with us when we were not quite ready on time. We appreciated their enthusiasm for Pamela and their love of all things Jane Austen. Our members are the best!
There were three businesses that helped to make our day a success. The setting of The Seasoned House was beautiful and appropriately historic. Goose House Bakery made the tasty scones and wonderful desserts. Since we had lots extra, happy attendees took home goodie bags! Sam’s Apothecary in Pullman created tea blends with a Pride and Prejudice theme, including the Mr. Darcy (Rooibos Blue), Elizabeth Bennet (Madame Grey), and Mrs. Bennet (Brain Off), and members were able to take home samples or buy larger jars.
Many people contributed to the success of the day. Cassandra Dole Bates and Michele Larrow did most of the shopping and prep work of the food, and they attempted to organize the chaos of the day! Cassandra, our new treasurer, moved to our region from the JASNA Mississippi region. Although not originally from the South, she imbibed all the rules for hosting a proper tea and her contributions to the day were huge. Jane Provinsal, Amy Lyons, and Chuck Pierce did our set-up and clean-up. Vickey Bolen, Sara Thompson, and Nancy Tschida were an amazing team who helped the day happen with tea sandwich making and cleaning the dishes! Jane Provinsal created the beautiful menu party favors with the teapot charms and got people settled with their choices of tea.
Goat Cheese-Pecan Jane Austen Silhouette Tea Sandwiches
This is an adaptation based on a recipe from Southern Living.com. That recipe used pepper jelly. The fruit paste makes this recipe sing! Cassandra made the filling, and Nancy, Sara, and Vickey constructed them and decorated them the day of the tea.
- 4 ounces goat cheese, softened
- 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup finely chopped toasted pecans
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, with about 30-60 cleaned leaves for decoration
- Rutherford and Meyer fruit paste (apricot and cherry were used)*
- 15 bread slices (we used Franz Hawaiian-style sliced large loaves)
Using a JA silhouette cookie cutter**, cut two Janes from each slice of bread. Stir together goat cheese, cream cheese, pecans, and parsley. Spread on the bread Janes. Cut one fruit paste (cherry) for hair and a strip of the other flavor (apricot) for the dress along the bottom. Tuck 1-2 parsley leaves as ruffles behind the dress fruit paste. Makes 30 silhouettes.
* We found the fruit paste, which is from New Zealand, in the deli section of the Pullman Walmart! It is on Amazon too or they have their own website.
**Thank you to Roseann Thompson, a long-distance member of our group, who sent me a JA silhouette cookie-cutter made on a 3-D printer!
Mock Clotted Cream
Several people asked for the recipe of the clotted cream that Cassandra made (you can see it in the black tea cup in the top picture or in the last picture). The recipe is from the Pioneer Woman website by a food blogger named Erica: https://thepioneerwoman.com/food-and-friends/how-to-make-mock-devonshire-clotted-cream/. It uses three simple ingredients: butter, sour cream, and cream cheese. No wonder it was so decadent!
Kentucky Benedictine Tea Sandwiches (adapted from Southern Living.com)
- 1 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup peeled and seeded cucumber, grated on the large holes of a box grater and drained of some liquid (or more, use English cucumber if possible)
- 1/4 cup minced green onions (or less to taste)
- 1/8 cup chopped fresh dill (or more to taste)
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 16 bread slices (used Franz Hawaiian-style sliced large loaves)
Stir together first 7 ingredients. Spread mixture on 1 side of 8 bread slices; top with remaining 8 bread slices. Trim crusts from sandwiches; cut each sandwich into 4 rectangles with a serrated knife. Makes 32 large quarters.
The tea was such a wonderful experience. Pictures will be coming soon, but we wanted to get our thank yous out quickly. Michele
Cassandra Bates, our treasurer, has shared another wonderful recipe from the past for Negus. Whether you can attend the dance this Saturday March 9 or not, this seems like a most intriguing recipe to try at a ball or at home. Let us know if you try to make it and how it turns out.
“There were more Dancers than the Room could conveniently hold, which is enough to constitute a good Ball at any time.”
Letter to Cassandra, January 9, 1799
Even though in the Inland Northwest, Spring seems far away, but it will be here soon and that will bring flowers, new plant growth, green grass, and warmth. In Jane Austen’s time springtime was also the most active time for the London Season, which meant Balls! Food at Regency Balls ranged from simple fare to elegant dinner settings. Since it is still cold here in the Inland Northwest, here is a recipe for Negus. Negus is a mulled wine of sorts invented by Col. Francis Negus in the early 18th century. During Jane Austen’s time it was a popular beverage at Balls, however it slowly lost favor and became a popular children’s drink (not recommended).
To Make Negus:
“To every pint of port wine, allow 1 quart of boiling water, 1/4lb. of sugar, 1 lemon, grated nutmeg to taste.
Put the wine into a jug and rub some lumps of sugar (equal to 1/4lb.) on the lemon rind until all the yellow part of the skin is absorbed, then squeeze the juice, and strain it. Add the sugar and lemon-juice to the port wine, with the grated nutmeg; pour it over the boiling water, cover the jug and, when the beverage has cooled a little, it will be fit for use.”
From Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1861
Negus is mentioned in Mansfield Park, in Jane Austen’s inimitable description of Fanny leaving the ball where she danced with Henry Crawford (pictured below at the beginning of the dance in a Brock illustration):
Shortly afterwards, Sir Thomas was again interfering a little with her inclination by advising her to go immediately to bed. “Advise” was his word, but it was the advice of absolute power, and she had only to rise and, with Mr. Crawford’s very cordial adieus, pass quietly away; stopping at the entrance door, like the Lady of Branxholm Hall, “one moment and no more,” to view the happy scene, and take a last look at the five or six determined couple, who were still hard at work–and then, creeping slowly up the principle staircase, pursued by the ceaseless country-dance, feverish with hopes and fears, soup and negus, sore-footed and fatigued, restless and agitated, yet feeling, in spite of every thing, that a ball was indeed delightful” (280-81, Oxford Edition).
When I think of Jane Austen and winter, I always think of Emma. The snow that occurs during the Christmas Eve party at the Westons is pivotal to the plot as a way to get Mr. Elton alone with Emma. It is also another example of how characters’ various responses to the same event reveal their personalities and whether they treat others with compassion or not. I like that once the snow has set in for several days, Mr. Knightley still trudges through the snow to Hartfield to spend time with family. There is so much humor in Mr. Woodhouse’s response to the snow:
“It was weather that might fairly confine everybody at home; . . . [I]t was very pleasant to have her father so well satisfied with his being all alone in his own house, too wise to stir out; and to hear him say to Mr. Knightley, whom no weather could keep entirely from them,–
’Ah! Mr. Knightley, why do you not stay at home like poor Mr. Elton?’” (138-9, Oxford Edition)
Of course, winter in the Pacific Northwest means snow, especially in February this year. We debated whether to reschedule our Spokane book discussion from 2/10 and ultimately decided to do so. We were glad we did, based on the road conditions that day. Both the Moscow Book Discussion on 2/17 at One World Cafe and the Spokane Book Discussion on 2/17 at Mary Ellen’s house were fun explorations of Northanger Abbey. The weather and roads were clear enough that members were able to travel from significant distances (in some cases) to attend. The group in Spokane enjoyed the treats everyone brought and the discussion so much that the meeting went over 3 hours, instead of the usual 2. Unfortunately for the Moscow meeting, many members were ill and not able to attend the meeting. We will try to reschedule something in warmer weather for those who missed. With a smaller group in Moscow, we discovered all sorts of connections, like that two of the three attendees had both gone to Michigan State (and had very strong reactions against Ohio State). It was nice to have time to get to know our fellow members more deeply.
In January we did a virtual movie night on our Facebook page for the movie “Love and Friendship”, Whit Stillman’s brilliant tribute to “Lady Susan”. We had participants from Idaho, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Washington. It was so much fun to interact with people from across the country and the comments were often hilarious. Since it was online, we did not have to worry about the weather.
One of the best parts about winter for me is making a cup of tea and snuggling under a blanket to read Jane Austen. I think reading when it is cold outside is especially enjoyable. In addition to re-reading Northanger Abbey for our book discussion, I have been re-reading Emma because it brings me such joy and is a way to de-stress for me. I also read all three of Pamela Aidan’s books in the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series in preparation for our tea at the end of April (see our Events page for more information). I thoroughly enjoyed these books and am looking forward to hearing Pamela speak. She will have books for sale at the tea and will be autographing books, so I plan to stock up!
I hope that you all are surviving the snow, winter illnesses, and the cold. Most of all, enjoy some Jane Austen to brighten the days and warm your heart. Michele
There is something truly breath-taking about reading Jane Austen’s novel-in-letters “Lady Susan”. Most scholars believe that she wrote it before she turned twenty. In the Oxford Edition of the Minor Works, Brian Southam hypothesizes that it was written between 1793-94 (MW, 243). Because it is a novel in letters, we get to see how characters portray themselves to different letter recipients and then how they are perceived by others who write letters. So the main dynamic of point-of-view is between Lady Susan and her sister-in-law Mrs. Vernon. According to Juliet McMaster in Jane Austen, Young Author, “‘Lady Susan’ features a totally self-seeking female protagonist whose considerable power lies in her freedom from moral scruple” (12). The language of the letters and the variations on perspective are a pleasure to read.
You can see the dueling perspectives of Lady Susan and Mrs. Vernon in the following quotations. First, Lady Susan being candid with her confidante:
“There is exquisite pleasure in subduing an insolent spirit, in making a person pre-determined to dislike, acknowledge one’s superiority.” “Lady Susan”, Jane Austen Letter 7, Lady Susan to Mrs. Johnson (about Mr. De Courcy) Minor Works, 254
Next, Mrs. Catherine Vernon portraying her view of Lady Susan in a letter to her brother:
“[Lady Susan] is clever & agreable, has all that knowledge of the world which makes conversation easy, & talks very well, with a happy command of Language, which is too often used I beleive to make Black appear White.”
“Lady Susan”, Jane Austen Letter 6, Mrs. Vernon to Mr. De Courcy, Minor Works, 251 (spelling and capitalization from MW)
The male characters are rarely given a voice in their own letters, with the exception of Reginald De Courcy, who has a few to Lady Susan and one to his father. Juliet McMaster calls him “a bag of goods contested over by the women” (Jane Austen, Young Author, 12). In a reversal of the reality of the time, the men are portrayed as dominated by the women (McMaster, 12).
“Lady Susan” is such a fun read. If you have never read it, I encourage you do so. You can download a free copy through Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/946
I think the quotation in the header of this article, “Facts are such horrid things,” is remarkably post-modern. And I must close with another favorite quotation from the work, that shows that underneath it all, Lady Susan wants something else besides money:
Our new treasurer, Cassandra Bates, enjoys Regency cooking. Here is her blog post about black butter:
Shortly after Christmas, Jane Austen wrote her sister, Cassandra, about an evening party at her brother’s house in Southampton:
“The last hour, spent in yawning and shivering in a wide circle round the fire, was dull enough, but the tray had admirable success. The widgeon and the preserved ginger were as delicious as one could wish. But as to our black butter, do not decoy anybody to Southampton by such a lure, for it is all gone. The first pot was opened when Frank and Mary were here and proved not at all what it ought to be; it was neither solid nor entirely sweet, and on seeing it Eliza remembered that Miss Austen had said she did not think it had been boiled enough. It was made, you know, when we were absent. Such being the event of the first pot, I would not save the second, and we therefore ate it in unpretending privacy; and though not what it ought to be, part of it was very good.“ Jane Austen to Cassandra, December 27, 1808
The Black butter that Jane Austen referenced in her letter to Cassandra is not what one might think (a sauce of blackened butter), but rather a thick, dark conserve of fruit, often apples (much like American Apple Butter). The other is a French style “beurre noir” and is a sauce of brown butter (if it goes black it is ruined, why the name, who knows, French Culinary).
Below is a rather traditional Black Butter similar to the one in Jane Austen’s letter:
Take 4 pounds of full ripe apples, and peel and core them. Meanwhile put into a pan 2 pints of sweet cider, and boil until it reduces by half. Put the apples, chopped small, to the cider. Cook slowly stirring frequently, until the fruit is tender, as you can crush beneath the back of a spoon. Then work the apple through a sieve and return to the pan adding 1lb beaten (granulated) sugar and spices as following, 1 teaspoon clove well ground, 2 teaspoons cinnamon well ground, 1 saltspoon (about ¼ tsp) allspice well ground. Cook over low fire for about ¾ hour, stirring until mixture thickens and turns a rich brown. Pour the butter into small clean jars, and cover with clarified butter when cold. Seal and keep for three months before using. By this time the butter will have turned almost black and have a most delicious flavour. – Maria Hubert von Staufer March 1995