Happy holidays, everybody! Keep warm, make merry, and we’ll see you in 2012.
Merry Christmas! I mean, Happy Hanukkah! I mean, happy birthday!
Oh, man, you must get that a lot. Four days before Hanukkah and nine days before Christmas? How’s a lady writer supposed to snag the spotlight for the big 2-3-6 when there’s a baby in a barn AND a chubby dude in a fur suit AND eight days of magic lamp oil to compete with?
To be fair, Christmas was a more reasonable affair in your time, having not yet been crazified by those wacky Victorians (but what were you thinking, picking currants out of flaming brandy with your bare hands?). So maybe it’s just us: we’re so busy trolling the mall, watching the mail, plopping kids on the laps of strangers with beards for photographic purposes, eating candy cane Joe-Joe’s, and generally making merry that birthdays just don’t register. Ask anyone born within two weeks of Christmas, in either direction, and they’ll sympathize: that nice present you got! Yeah, don’t expect another one. It’s not that we don’t care! It’s just that…well, you know. There’s a lot going on, and we may not have time to do the whole “celebratory Jane Austen canon re-read” in between trips to the attic to dig out our stockings. Sorry about that. May I interest you in a Joe-Joe? It has candy canes in the middle!
Anyway, I got you this fruitcake. Which, considering your cookbook, you’re probably super into. Sorry! I mean, you’re welcome!
With all affection and liquor-soaked baked goods,
Is it just me, or are people diving into the holidays with extra gusto this year? More than one of my friends confessed, with a definite air of asking for forgiveness, to breaking out the tinsel and Bing Crosby before Thanksgiving. (They shall remain nameless…FOR NOW.) My day-job officemates hung lights before I even arrived at work on Monday, and keep them lit despite the specter of blowing various circuits in our electrically dubious building. I even realized earlier this week that, if I don’t cool it, I might be sick of my favorite Andy Williams rendition of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” before it’s actually time to hear what Andy hears. What is going on here? Is it because Nordstrom wouldn’t decorate early? Whatever it is, apparently we all need a little Christmas, right this very minute. (If the New Christy Minstrels just popped, fully formed, into your head…well, you’re welcome.)
If you’re feeling the Christmas spirit this first day of December, well, you’re in luck: get to know this pile of classic Austenacious Christmas cheer! And if you’re not yet in the groove, what are you waiting for? Pull your Action Jane off the shelf, turn up your preferred version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and consider the month ahead. After all, you only have twenty-five days to explode from holiday-induced stress/joy. Better get on it.
- Looking for the perfect gift for the Austenite in your life? Check out our 2011 Jane Austen gift guide! Still looking for some inspiration and maybe some Etsy stores to peruse? See previous gift guides here and here.
- Everything you can do, Jane can do better: Action Jane’s Christmas!
- There’s no combination like Jane, classic holiday ballet, and a short-story contest: Jane and Mrs. Fitzpatrick take on The Nutcracker.
- Looking for a Christmas craft with a Jane twist, or just need something to put on top of the tree? Make your Action Jane into a Christmas tree topper!
- For your holiday cheer and possibly a nice outing for the fire extinguisher: How to make plum pudding!
- From the English countryside to the north pole: Play the Letters to Santa game, Jane Austen style!
Gentle readers, whatever your religious leanings we hope you had pleasant weekends filled with good friends, good tidings, good cheer, and good food. We here at Austenacious HQ had a very Jane-y Christmas.
Jane arrives at the scene on her reindeer, ready for action . . .
She treks through vast wastes of candy cane forest on her journey to the Christmas village . . .
And after a long and arduous struggle against some amazing wrapping paper, Jane conquers the Christmas village!
In tribute, the Three Wise Relatives offer gifts to Jane: greetings cards, a calendar, and . . .
Pride and Prejudice: The Game!
Jane is so pleased with the tribute that she slays a wild turkey-beast that has been ravaging the village. She even cooks the beast in the traditional Ninjane style, and serves a banquet to her new subjects.
The banquet finishes with a handsome Yule log. Sadly, the documentary crew on hand was busy playing Tripoley, and was not in time to photograph the whole log. In fact they barely managed to hold Jane off of it long enough to capture this shot. It was worth it, they felt, in order to properly document Action Jane’s adventures.
This concludes Jane’s Christmas adventure. Three cheers for Jane! Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray!
Happy New Year, everyone. We will see you, as they say, on the flip side.
Photo credits ©2010 by Heather Dever and Liz Ball. All rights reserved.
Readers, we know how fond you are of your Action Janes. We know you’re pals. We know you’ve bonded. We know you all take your Janes everywhere, sharing every confidence and frolicking in fields of flowers together, or whatever. (Just us?) But as the holidays approach, we also know that Action Jane can serve a vital purpose in holiday-ifying our respective homes: with her open but relatively narrow skirt and semi-movable legs, Jane makes an awesome and unique Christmas tree topper/instant conversation piece.
So if you’re in possession of an Action Jane, but not of something to stick on top of your tree—or if you have both, but like the idea of Winged Jane and her Feather of Holiday Goodwill—we think you’ll love these instructions for your very own Jane Austen Christmas tree topper:
1. Crank up your favorite holiday tunes. No skimping on this, you hear? Otherwise you will surely be black of heart and devoid of cheer, and Jane will know. Jane always knows.
2. Draw and cut out the angel wings of your choice. This may take a couple of tries, as you realize that the birth of Jesus was not actually presided over by a fairy.
3. Cut a narrow strip of aluminum foil a few inches in length.
4. Shape the aluminum foil into a tiny halo for Jane; if you prefer a slightly elevated “floating” halo, cut another piece of foil and shape it into a support piece. Wrap one end around the seam of the halo and leave the other end straight.
5. Tape the wings to Jane’s back; either set the halo directly on top of her bonnet or tape the support to the back of her head.
Voila! Stick Angel Jane on top of your Christmas tree—arranging her legs as necessary; we won’t speak to modesty—and revel in the way she oversees all festivity and merriment. Jane was made for festivity and merriment.
But, you know, some of us have bigger Christmas trees—the kinds of macho trees that won’t fit underneath Jane’s slinky skirts (ooh la la!). Some of us can’t get enough of the decidedly un-Regency hoop skirt look. And some of us just like making things more difficult for ourselves. For these special classes of readers, we have Action Jane Christmas Tree Topper: The Advanced Class, with an extended and arguably more angelic-looking skirt and the opportunity for extra craftiness. If decorating angel skirts sound like your cup of tea, read on:
1. To make wings and a halo, follow steps 1-4 of the basic instructions.
2. Using a square piece of paper, trimming two diagonal corners as shown by the dashed lines—this will be Jane’s skirt.
3. Decorate as you see fit. Tiny stars, tie-dye, applique poodles, whatever. The skirt is your oyster.
4. Roll the paper into a cone-shaped skirt around Jane’s tiny waist and tape in the back—once at the top and at least once farther down.
5. Proceed to Step 5 of the basic instructions—tape the wings to Jane’s back and secure the halo to her head.
Ta-da! Action Jane saves the day once again, poised for any and all Christmas hijinks you might throw at her. Now, get on with the drinking of mulled wine, or whatever it is we’re doing to celebrate.
Christmas time is upon us, and what says “holiday spirit” better than steaming up a magical mixture of Guinness, candied fruit peels, and straight-up Anglophilia—and then setting it all on fire? For hundreds of years, plum pudding has been known to bring families together and save ships in wild Atlantic storms, despite its lack of actual plums or resemblance to any kind of American-style pudding. Best of all, we’re pleased to announce that the recipe has morphed over the years and no longer requires meaty bits (as was common in the 1400s)—much to our relief, it’s managed to stay firmly in the dessert category since the 1800s.
Bring on the flaming brandy sauce!
(Adapted from a recipe provided by the delightful Mrs. Varley, whose diligence in preparing this treat annually will always be fondly remembered.)
5 cups fresh bread crumbs
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup currants
2 cups raisins
1 and 1/3 cups golden raisins
1/3 cup chopped candied mixed peel
½ cup candied cherries
8 oz suet or veg fat equivalent (Crisco) [I used Crisco]
½ teaspoon salt
2–4 teaspoon mixed spice [I used half cinnamon and half nutmeg]
1 carrot, grated
1 apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 orange rind, grated
Juice of one orange
2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups Guinness (or whiskey) [I used Guinness]
Butter for greasing
Mix brandy, confectioners sugar, and butter. [I didn't have specific measurements, so I winged it. There is, after all, no going wrong with these three ingredients.]
1. Put bread crumbs, sugar, dried fruit, and peel in large mixing bowl.
2. Add suet, salt, mixed spice, carrot, apple, and orange. Mix well.
3. Stir eggs, orange juice, and Guinness into bread crumbs.
4. Leave mixture overnight, stirring occasionally if possible.
5. Butter two 2-pint heatproof bowls and place fitted parchment paper (cut into circle to fit in bowl).
6. Stir mixture and turn into bowls. Top bowls with buttered parchment paper that will fit just over mixture on top of bowl. Cover bowls tightly with more layers of parchment paper and then a top layer of foil that folds over sides of bowl (secure tightly).
7. Steam bowls in a couple of inches of water for 6–7 hours. Keep checking them to make sure water is maintained at that level and steams bread pudding (no water can get into mixture).
8. After pudding is cooked through, cool, recover, and store in cool place.
Invert the pudding onto a serving dish. Put a sprig of holly in the top of the pudding, pour warm brandy, on top and light. (If you value your eyebrows, be sure to stand back.) After the applause and the flames have died out, serve slices of pudding. It’s handy to have warm brandy sauce in a small jug (or a measuring cup will do) to pour over each slice before it’s served. Don’t be shy about using plenty of sauce!
Makes 2 puddings, each serving 6–8 people.
Dear readers, I’ll be honest with you. Making a plum pudding is a pain in the arse! I couldn’t find candied peels, and ended up making those from scratch (which wasn’t difficult, but I was pressed for time); I also had trouble finding a day when I could watch over the steaming pudding for six hours. (I also didn’t pay much attention to the directions and didn’t realize that the mix was supposed to rest overnight. I only had it sitting around for two hours—quelle horreur!—but it came out fine.) Annoyances aside, it really is delicious . . . particularly if you’re liberal with the brandy sauce!
Photo credit: ©2010 Christine Osborne. All rights reserved.
Austenacious readers, today’s post is not for you. Today’s post is for your loved ones—those wishing/required to give you a gift this holiday season. Specifically, those hoping not to find themselves in a picked-over Walgreens on Christmas Eve (or, you know, Kwanzaa Eve; Hanukkah folks, it’s probably too late for you), weighing the costs and benefits of a pair of LED-lighted Babylon 5 socks. So just hand this on over to them, and you’re welcome.
To the friends and family of the reader at hand, it’s nice to meet you. We’re here to help—we’ve scouted the coolest, funniest, prettiest, and Jane-iest stuff at our beloved Etsy and laid it out here for all your gift-giving needs. We recommend shopping early, as shipping time is of the essence, but we hope you’ll find what you’re looking for and give the Austen fan in your life something a little special to get excited about this season.
Pimp out someone’s actual ride and test the historical knowledge of everyone around them with this hotass “My Other Ride is a Barouche” car decal. Just remember: in keeping with the spirit of this gift, Regency folks had big rims. Like, really big rims…which we promise to bring up and then leave to the discretion of you, the esteemed gift-giver. Who, we’re sure, has excellent judgment and in no way deserves financial pressure towards excess in the area of transportational luxury. We would never! We’re just saying: RIMS.
On the long trek home—or, hey, maybe Aruba? Just a thought?—for the holidays, keep an eye on every drop of your favorite Jane fan’s favorite hot beverage. Or cold beverage. Or whatever it is he or she’s taking along to drink out of a coffee mug/coconut. This mug is charmingly hand-lettered with a travel-oriented quotation from Jane and colored on the inside with a pretty modern-y robin’s-egg (or shall we say…Tiffany?) blue, and we’re pretty sure it’ll make any journey a better one…even if all that waits on the other side is fruitcake and a man in a reindeer jumper.
Every girl likes flowers—and what Austen fan wouldn’t like this beautiful lotus blossom made from the pages of a vintage Jane Austen novel? Each five-inch flower is handmade and attached to a bed of green paper lotus leaves; whether it’s romance, spiritual peace, or just a one-of-a-kind gift (or, hey, gift topping, if you’re Donna Reed or are just a terrible gift-wrapper, like me) you’re seeking, surely an Austenian paper lotus is an appropriate and not-to-be-forgotten choice.
The listing says “wedding confetti,” but this is a space for honesty, people, and so let’s all bare our souls, shall we? Whether someone’s getting married or not, nobody (or, nobody we know or want to know) doesn’t love/deserve a good whoosh in the face—if said whooshing involves whimsical, romantic heart-shaped Sense and Sensibility confetti floating down around them, showering the world with romance and happiness. Well, okay, maybe not Colonel Brandon. He’s not so much into the parties or the spontaneity, or, for all we know, the adorable paper products. But, you know, everybody cool likes the confetti. (Sorry, Colonel. Hugs and kisses!)
This holiday season, give the Jane fan in your life a lesson in meta. Let her put her entire life—including the Austen novels we assume she carries around at all times, as we ourselves have been known to do—inside an Austen novel. She takes it everywhere! Brilliant, am I right? This handbag is made from a gorgeous, repurposed copy of Seven Novels (for maximum completeness, don’t you know) and lined in a pretty speckled blue, with a blue-and-white beaded handle, and is sure to blow the mind of any bookish young lady. Or gent. We’d never dream of judging.
The only problem we can see with incorporating some Jane—in the form of this classy and beautiful Christmas tree ornament, naturally—into one’s holiday decor is, we think, the constant temptation to hold it in one’s hands, rotating it like a globe to get the full effect of the novel at hand. Even if it’s just bits and pieces chosen at random. Because how can you have a story, in words, on your Christmas tree or hanging in your house somewhere, and not want to know how it goes and how it ends and oh gosh, do they fall in love at the end? Unless you’re using it to sub in for mistletoe, in which case we say: more power to you. Jane says yes.
Chez Miss Ball, we have a long history with the Christmas wish list. After Thanksgiving—and by December 1 at the latest—there’s a certain amount of familial pressure to inventory our needs and desires, type up the ones that can realistically be satisfied with a credit card and some fancy footwork by the USPS, and distribute the results. Woe and irrelevant gift cards to the family member (except apparently my father, who mostly abstains and then sometimes gets weird presents, Dad) who fails to furnish a list.
The Jane-verse is, of course, jammed with characters and their desires, from prettier hat ribbons to lifelong love and just a little bit of respect—and the subject’s just ripe for a game. Below, check out the anonymous Christmas wish lists—then guess their authors. Leave your answers in the comments!
1. Dear Mr. Claus,
I’ve been mostly good this year—and when I haven’t, it’s mostly been my sister’s fault. Perhaps she deserves a double helping of coal? I, of course, hope to receive only nice things, including an inhaler and a will of my own.
2. Dear Saint Nicholas,
If I must make a supplication to a saint so beloved by children, I’d like a new flannel waistcoat and the love of a pretty girl, preferably of an inappropriately young age. Bonus points if accessories include a scoundrel of her own generation.
As always, I want books. Lots and lots and lots of books. Also, please send common sense and a cute boy whose dad definitely isn’t a murderer. XOXOXO!
4. My Esteemed Mr. Claus,
I already have nearly everything I need, and anything else my father can and will buy for me. Instead, I’d prefer that you conferred upon my friends and family the shared realization that I am always right, and not bossy in the least. This action would help me out a great deal.
5. Dear Most Kind and Generous Sir,
I ask from the bottom of my humble heart for a stairwell half so elaborate and expensive as my neighbor’s, and also the esteem of that same neighbor…though I do believe she likes me already!
What do you think, readers?