Here we have the answers to last week’s game of failed New Year’s resolutions. Thank you all for playing along—your hemming and hawing and theorizing in the comments was delightful! Let’s play again soon.
1. Resolves to practice the power of positive thinking. Is already so thoroughly positive as to succeed just by getting up in the morning. Is impressed by the power of positive thinking. - MR. BINGLEY
2. Resolves to run off, experience the world, and achieve self-actualization, possibly becoming a lady-pirate with much cooler younger sister in the process. Fails to account for the medium-sized drop-off, meant to thwart wandering cows, at the edge of the estate. – FANNY PRICE
3. Resolves to be more in control of her emotions. Is in raptures about how controlled her emotions are going to be, now that she’s resolved. Faints with excitement. – MARIANNE DASHWOOD
4. Resolves to get out of bed. Is seduced by cuteness of pug face. Stays in bed. – LADY BERTRAM
5. Has no resolutions. Life is already perfect: wife supportive of gardening habit; house next to awesomest house in the world. – MR. COLLINS
6. Resolves to be a lady with a grasp on reality. Is pretty sure husband is pushing her towards this resolution in order to lure her into cave of godlessness and drink her blood. But at least she likes her father-in-law. – CATHERINE MORLAND
Austen Nation! It is Christmas Eve Day! (“It’s both an eve and a day! It’s a Christmas miracle!”) (Name that quotation? Anyone?)
We got you a present! It is called “a post.” Yes, yes, we do our Christmas shopping late. But you know our heart is in the right place. Also, it’s not a dancing Coke can wearing sunglasses, so I think we can call this a victory? YESSSSSS.
We at Austenacious, well, we opened our present long ago—it’s you guys, reading and commenting and emailing and Tweeting all year long, and sharing yourselves with us in a way that is totally amazing. Whether we’re reading nobody’s favorite Austen novel, introducing Mrs. F to Firth-as-Darcy, or dissecting EXACTLY what we love about Sense and Sensibility, you all are right there with us, in all your smart, funny, thought-provoking glory. We are incredibly fond of you, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for showing up, cracking us up, and making this site a joy to produce.
Now that the mushy stuff is over with, go! Drink some eggnog! Eat some cookies and/or fruitcake and/or, if you are related to me, Chinese pork buns! Decide on a favorite holiday song and sing it at the top of your lungs! Find something wrapped and mysterious with your name on it…and SHAKE IT!
Merry Christmas and happy New Year, Austen Nation.
If you blow out all the candles on that cake, we will be seriously impressed.
(I bet Lizzy Bennet could do it. She’s ALWAYS blowing out candles in the movies.)
Here’s to 237!
It has been a long time since I’ve been to a ball. Er, dance. Whatever. From prom to the annual college Christmas swing dance (what up, late ’90s?) to the occasional Saturday night at a friend’s salsa club, my sashaying hips are…out of practice, to say the least. (By the way: Does anybody else associate the noun “dance” with the camp dance scene from the original The Parent Trap, where they cut off the back of the girl’s dress? No? Just me? No wonder I don’t go to these things.)
It’s not that I don’t like to dance. I love dancing, especially when there are prescribed steps. I do well with instructions. Not so much with just move to the music and do what feeeeeels right! Because what feels right? Is having steps to follow.
Which is why I would have made such a good Regency ball guest, or so Susannah Fullerton tells me in her awesome article on ball etiquette for The Lady. Such common sense: Don’t show up without an invitation! If you see a lady without a partner, dance with her! Only turn down an offer if you’re ready to gossip on the sidelines! It really is an excellent article, and you all should read it…and then impose its order the next time you’re out on a Saturday night. Right? LET’S BRING BACK THE REEL, YOU GUYS. Who’s with me?
While many of you were suffering through sweltering summer temps, I was surviving the arctic: that special brand of shiver-inducing weather that is San Francisco in July and August. You see, I was lucky enough to have a very short commute in the temperate East Bay for over a decade, and now I know I was spoiled. This summer I spent a good portion of my time commuting to the far reaches of San Francisco—specifically, the Presidio (see X on the map). The view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Presidio is delightful . . . if you can actually see it! Which you can’t. Not in the summer. It was so cold that I made a roast in August. A roast! The up side is that making a roast gave me an opportunity to finally try my hand at one of the most British of foods—Yorkshire pudding. Now that it’s almost fall (which, ironically, for us Bay Area folks means heat and sun-sunny-sunshine), I highly recommend having pudding with your meats. It’s really easy to make. Just be sure to keep your noggin away from the oven door when you open it or you’ll melt your mascara when the 450-degree air hits your face.
(From Nigella Lawson)
1-1/4 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon beef drippings or vegetable oil
herbs (such as chives, rosemary, and/or thyme) optional
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Mix the milk, eggs, and salt, and add pepper, beating all well together with a whisk or mixer. Let these ingredients stand for 15 minutes, and then whisk in the flour. Meanwhile, add the beef drippings a large heat-proof pan and put it in the oven to heat for about 10 minutes. Pour the batter into the hot pan and bake for 20 minutes, or until well puffed and golden.
You can make one large pudding (as in the recipe above) or you could also make a bunch of individual ones. I did that by pouring the batter into oversize muffin tins. I also used the herbs. Not traditional, but I liked having a little extra flavor, as pudding is a bit bland on its own.
If you want to read more about pudding and enjoy old-timey books, check the delightful The Whole Duty of a Woman, Or, an Infallible Guide to the Fair Sex: Containing Rules, Directions, and Observations, for Their Conduct and Behavior through All Ages and Circumstances of Life, as Virgins, Wives, or Widows : With … Rules and Receipts in Every Kind of Cookery from 1737. (Phew, that’s a mouthful!) There’s an entire section about puddings.
Photo Credit: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=79119
Welcome, yogis, to Jane-asana, and thank you for taking this time out of your day to do something good for your body and spirit. Today we’ll be focusing on core strength, flexibility, and deep truths about life and love, while finding our inner plucky heroines and searching for love among our intellectual and emotional equals. Any requests today? Handsome scoundrels? Yes—I think we can work that in.
Cow Pose: Kneel on all fours. Inhaling, drop the belly, finding a back bend and allowing your head to rise last. Make mean comments about the countryside and about your crush’s crush’s dirty hem. Find yourself summarily smacked down, to the remorse of absolutely nobody.
Peaceful Warrior (for Colonel Brandon): With one leg bent deeply and the other straight and strong through the knee, windmill your arms up to horizontal for Warrior II pose. With the breath and finding a back bend, drop the back arm down the hamstring and raise the front arm vertically, as if it were a bow. Wear flannel waistcoats, provide for the abandoned illegitimate daughter of another man, and eventually marry a much younger woman, whom you love for her emotional acuity.
Wild Thing Pose: Beginning in Downward Dog, flip your dog by lifting one hand and flipping upside down in the opposite direction, supporting yourself in a back bend with both feet and the remaining hand. Extend the leg on the same side as the supporting hand, and with the non-supporting hand, make a clawing motion. Run off to Scotland with a handsome scoundrel, only to return and brag obliviously to your sisters when he’s been forced to marry you. Hope for the best.
“Captain Wentworth is on a” Boat Pose: Sit with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend one leg and then the other, shifting your weight backwards so that your torso and upper legs form a V and your lower legs are parallel to the ground. Lift one arm and then the other to extend alongside your legs parallel to the ground. Pine. Repeat for seven years, then return to check out the situation with the girl you secretly wanted to marry this whole time.
Corpse Pose (Mrs. Woodhouse-asana/Mr. Dashwood-asana): Settle onto your back with the legs as wide as your mat, allowing the feet to splay sideways. Allow the arms to fall at a forty-five-degree angle to the body, or, if it helps you to connect with your inner Mrs. Woodhouse, place one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart. Allow the spine to become long, tucking your chin slightly. Remain here until your daughter marries a nice but vaguely judgmental young man. And, well, beyond.
This is heartbreaking to me on a number of levels. She was relatively young—only 71— and apparently ill, which I hadn’t realized. She had projects in the works; she was doing things. As a woman who writes, and as a human being who likes things that are funny and true, Nora Ephron was my heroine—not my only heroine, but my heroine nonetheless—and it pains me to think that the last thing we’ll know about her is that she feels bad about her neck. I always thought her neck was rather nice. (Maybe I’m just saying that.)
My parents owned a VHS copy of When Harry Met Sally, which they watched on a VCR whose remote control had a cord (but no Stop button), long before I was old enough to see it. Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail came along, in less scandalous style, but it was When Harry Met Sally that stuck with us: now that we’re all adults, the world and words of Sally Albright and Harry Burns hang over us with what might be considered an unusual closeness. There is too much pepper in our paprikash (but we would be proud to partake of your pe-can pie); we’re gonna be forty…SOMEDAY!; pesto is the quiche of the 80s; “on the side” is a very big thing for us. I personally own a set of days-of-the-week underwear, gleefully bought for me by my mother after years of dedicated hunting. In case you were wondering, they do make Sunday.
A lot of people loved Ephron and her work, and a lot of people are writing about her today—as well they should. But I think her canon speaks especially clearly to Austen fans. She was one of us, clearly; witness the heavy referencing of Pride and Prejudice in You’ve Got Mail (“and I bet you just LOVE that Mr. Darcy!”), and one of her current development projects, a new adaptation of Lost in Austen. But it’s more than that: far be it from me to compare anybody to Jane, or to Nora Ephron, for that matter, but I don’t think “a certain parallelism” is too strong a phrase here. Jane wrote funny, wise stories about the interactions of men, women, friends, and families in her time, and published them as a woman in a sea of professional men; Ephron did the same, only in Manhattan and with a Twitter account. Jane’s magnum opus concerned a couple who meet, hate each other, become friends, and fall in love; my family can’t stop quoting Ephron’s version, twenty years later. Without Jane, perhaps there would be no Nora Ephron; without Nora Ephron, would the world love Jane a little bit less? (The specific calling-out of Jane’s work just in the middle of the Great Austen Boom makes me wonder.) They wrote about women—smart women and less-smart women and rebellious women and obedient women and women you’d want to be friends with and women you’d want to marry off to Mr. Collins—and they saw women, and we’re indebted to them for it. Come to think of it, if I were to compare anybody to Jane, maybe it would be Nora Ephron. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem so bad.
Go read something smart and funny today, people. Jane and Nora would want it that way.
What is Mother’s Day without fondly remembering the times when our mothers were looking out for our best interests? Mrs. Bennet certainly took great pains to ensure the future happiness of all of her daughters. When Jane asked for the carriage to visit the Bingley sisters, Mrs. Bennet replied, “No, my dear, you had better go on horseback, because it seems likely to rain; and then you must stay all night.” Always thinking ahead, that Mrs. B. And she wasn’t wrong, was she?
To celebrate Mother’s Day this year, I have collected some wisdom bestowed on me and my friends by our dear mothers.
On marriage prospects…
• When you get on the plane, you have to be nice if there is a man sitting next to you. He might be single and marry you.
• The entire family is going to fast for one meal every day until you find someone and get married.
• After receiving an email saying I was dating someone, her response was, “I’m so happy! I’ve been praying for this for so long!”
On personal safety…
• No, you can’t go to the New Kids on the Block concert. If you were to go to a concert, you’d probably stand up on a chair to see better. Then you might fall off the chair and break you neck!
• Whatever you do, don’t try on clothes in a Parisian boutique. If you do, you will be abducted and sold into white slavery in Saudi Arabia! I read about it in a magazine.
On the lack of hardiness of subsequent generations…
• Your Great Grandmother Lizzy would wipe her arse with a broken gin bottle.
On becoming a lady of musical accomplishment…
• Don’t bother playing those country songs. Just scream rock ‘n’ roll and kick up your leg and shake your bum!
On the importance of an heir…
• Just get pregnant, you don’t have to get married. I want great grandchildren.
• What? Why would you adopt? You don’t know where that baby came from! If you can’t find a husband, just go out and get pregnant. (Note: This occurred when I was in my 30s.)
On appropriate clothing…
Beloved Sisters, I do not have a Tumblr. I think about getting one all the time. I mean, let’s review: this is a free platform almost entirely for the enjoyment of an endless string of enthralling and amusing images (and, okay, occasional text), curated more or less for one’s own tastes and interests. What could possibly go wrong? I certainly read a lot of other people’s Tumblrs, and it would be so nice to have them all in one place, like a normal person acquainted with the many conveniences of the Internet. (Before you so kindly comment: I am well aware of Google Reader and RSS feeds. I have a SYSTEM, OKAY?) (My system is called “Reading Things.” It is a very exacting system.) And yet: it’s just one more thing, one more place to exist on the Internet, and I never can quite click that little blue “Sign Up” button.
HOWEVER. Let us not allow my old-lady ambivalence to keep us from the riches of the World Wide Web! Let us venture out into the massive temporal sinkhole that is Ryan Gosling memes and animated .gifs!
In other words, let’s find ourselves some good Jane Austen Tumblrs and get to scrollin’. Here are a few gems:
The Other Austen, the Tumblr-iest of the lot
and, for all you Shuffle aficionados, the Jane Austen tag.
*Sorry, Mom; convention of the medium.
Aaaaand we’re back! Welcome to Pride and Prejudice ’95, MST3K-ed by Mrs. Fitzpatrick, Miss Ball, Miss Osborne, bosom friend Miss Tarango, and special guest Mrs. Ball, who missed the first half but is mostly in it for the cake anyway.
We open as Elizabeth Bennet and Colonel Fitzwilliam take a turn in the forest…
Miss O: Lizzy should ditch Darcy and just hook up with Colonel Fitzwilliam. He’s so nice and normal.
Mrs. F: Yeah, but in the book, he explicitly says he won’t marry her.
Miss O: So? That never stopped anybody.
Miss B: Minds can be changed.
[Darcy proposes like a big fat jerk]
Miss O: I can’t imagine having that conversation with so many words. Who argues like that?! I would just say, “….Well, uh, screw you!”
Miss B: “I don’t like you anyway!” [cries]
Miss O: Exactly. There are just a lot of WORDS going on in that fight.
Miss B: Wickham is so Snidely Whiplash in this part. I kind of love it. But also…fifteen. Ick.
Miss O: Lady Catherine’s got crazy eyes. She’s like Marty Feldman.
Miss T: Why are putting out and being put out such different things?
Miss B: Well, you can do both.
Miss T: But hopefully not at the same time.
[Lizzy and Co. tour Pemberley]
Miss T: Maybe we’re going about all this wrong. Find a nice house and see if the guy who lives there isn’t totally repulsive?
Miss B: And ask whether we can come over and take a tour. I’ll try it next time.
Miss T: The housemaid sounds a little like Gollum.
Mrs. B: …and kinda looks like her, too.
[Darcy + pond]
Miss T: Doing okay over there, Miss O?
Miss O: I am doing GREAT. Really, really well.
Mrs. B: Wait, which actor is that?
Miss B: Colin Firth!
Miss T: HAVE YOU TAUGHT YOUR MOTHER NOTHING?!
Mrs. F: What’s up with Kitty’s hair?
Miss B: 1995.
["Lydia, get away from the window!"]
Miss B: What’s he so afraid of? Snipers?
Miss O: Snoopers.
Miss B: At least she’ll be okay in an earthquake, I guess.
Miss O: Lizzy needs a sports bra. Always running!
[Plot happens. We get sucked in.]
Mrs. F will be back later with her thoughts after the first time. Thanks for tuning in! Until next time.