Friday, March 29, 2013

Pride and Prejudice: Afternoon Tea

Mr. Collins's triumph, in consequence of this invitation, was complete. The power of displaying the grandeur of his patroness to his wondering visitors, and of letting them see her civility towards himself and his wife, was exactly what he had wished for; and that an opportunity of doing it should be given so soon, was such an instance of Lady Catherine's condescension, as he knew not how to admire enough.

"I confess," said he, "that I should not have been at all surprised by her ladyship's asking us on Sunday to drink tea and spend the evening at Rosings. I rather expected, from my knowledge of her affability, that it would happen. But who could have foreseen such an attention as this? Who could have imagined that we should receive an invitation to dine there (an invitation, moreover, including the whole party) so immediately after your arrival!"

~ Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice Chapter 29 

At a family dinner last weekend, I expressed some of the wishes I have for the food at my funeral.  No---I am not mortally wounded, I am not chronically ill, I am a pretty careful driver, and I always pay attention to the flight attendant when she is going over the safety instructions.  My death is anything but imminent.  But why leave things to chance---especially when food is on the line?

I announced to my family that if they tried to serve anything "buffet style" in a casserole dish that I would haunt them.

Instead, I wish my life to be celebrated with a tea party.

And this is why.

These are pictures from my recent trip to the Grand America Hotel where I took afternoon tea with some of my sisters and my grandmother.

 And if the lobby isn't stunning enough for you, here is a view of the hotel patio. 

Our elegant table was happily situated next to a window where we could watch the dancing fountains.

We started our afternoon with a tantalizing dollop of fresh berries and cream.

 We then ordered steaming pots of berry tisanes and mint-lemongrass herb tea to accompany our trays of jaw dropping sandwiches and savories.

The mango chicken salad sandwich and the pecan crepe with smoked salmon still visit me in my dreams (where I rapidly devour them while still managing to lose weight).

  It's hard to believe that it tasted as good as it looked!

 We then savored some buttery currant scones.

 I slathered mine with strawberry jam and clotted cream (as if they needed it . . .).

 And just when I thought I would have to roll myself out to the car, our server brought out a dessert tray stacked with candies, cookies, and cakes.

 Don't you just love this adorable little s'more tart?  The crust is made of graham crackers and the dome is filled with chocolate fudge and marshmallow creme.  Yum.

Some days it is hard for me to remember what life is like outside of chicken nuggets, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and macaroni and cheese.

But when I sit down to a tea party, I am reminded that life is brimming with small yet beautiful, exciting moments.  And sometimes, we even get to eat them.

So I ask you:  What better way is there to celebrate a life well-lived than with a tea party?

In 50 years (knock on wood), when that fateful day arrives, I want you to know that you are all invited to my funeral tea.  Bring your shiniest pearls, your loveliest hats, and fanciest heels.  

But PLEASE . . . Leave the casseroles at home.  (Or I'll have to haunt you, too.)

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pride and Prejudice: A Toile Powder Room

"How nicely we are all crammed in," cried Lydia. . . ."Dear me! we had such a good piece of fun the other day at Colonel Forster's. Kitty and me were to spend the day there, and Mrs. Forster promised to have a little dance in the evening; (by the bye, Mrs. Forster and me are such friends!) and so she asked the two Harringtons to come, but Harriet was ill, and so Pen was forced to come by herself; and then, what do you think we did? We dressed up Chamberlayne in woman's clothes on purpose to pass for a lady, only think what fun! Not a soul knew of it, but Colonel and Mrs. Forster, and Kitty and me, except my aunt, for we were forced to borrow one of her gowns; and you cannot imagine how well he looked! When Denny, and Wickham, and Pratt, and two or three more of the men came in, they did not know him in the least. Oh how I laughed! and so did Mrs. Forster. I thought I should have died. And that made the men suspect something, and then they soon found out what was the matter." 

~ Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice Chapter 39 

I never get tired of toile.  I love it in bedrooms.  I love it in kitchens.  And I especially love it in bathrooms.  

There is something about toile in a little powder room that feels perfectly feminine, fancy, and even indulgent.

Here is a peek at my own little corner of toile heaven.

This is the powder room off of the living room and kitchen.  It is truly a water "closet" in size: it is only about 3 feet wide and 5 feet long.  

 And while this little room's dimensions force me to take it easy on the Raspberry Blackout Cake and Blueberry Scones, its small size makes it the perfect candidate for patterned wallpaper.

 In honor of our Pride and Prejudice theme this week, I hung these framed prints of Regency era clothing above the towel rack.

I think I love the frames almost as much as I love the prints . . . if not more!  (Thank you, dear Hobby Lobby, for having a 50% off sale!)

I chose this print in particular because the woman's coat perfectly matches the cranberry shade of the wallpaper.  (I also like the pose the cherub is pulling on that pedestal.  It looks something akin to a disco move.  A touch of whimsy, I say.)

And as the finishing touch to my Pride and Prejudice-inspired powder room, I hung this monogrammed towel on the rack.  Yes, it does happen to be the letter of our last name, but I like to think that the "P" stands for "Pemberley"!

If you are looking for a touch of Pemberley for your own powder rooms, here are some adorable prints you could use.  I wish I could have hung ALL of them in my powder room.  Alas, 3 feet by 5 feet doesn't allow for more than just a few.

 {These prints all came from this website}

Three cheers for girly bathrooms and toile walls and regency gowns!  May all of your powder rooms be your own little corners of Pemberley heaven . . .

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Pride and Prejudice: Fordyce's Sermons

After some deliberation he chose Fordyce's Sermons. Lydia gaped as he opened the volume, and before he had, with very monotonous solemnity, read three pages, she interrupted him with,
"Do you know, mama, that my uncle Philips talks of turning away Richard, and if he does, Colonel Forster will hire him. My aunt told me so herself on Saturday. I shall walk to Meryton to-morrow to hear more about it, and to ask when Mr. Denny comes back from town."
Lydia was bid by her two eldest sisters to hold her tongue; but Mr. Collins, much offended, laid aside his book, and said,
"I have often observed how little young ladies are interested by books of a serious stamp, though written solely for their benefit. It amazes me, I confess; -- for certainly, there can be nothing so advantageous to them as instruction. But I will no longer importune my young cousin."
-"Pride and Prejudice," Jane Austen, Chapter 14

 Some days you need a sister. Some days, you need to have someone call just to shoot the breeze, and then you need to take that opportunity to have a COMPLETE MENTAL BREAKDOWN on them. I had one of those days earlier this week. (Erika, you're welcome.)

I can't even pinpoint why, but everything just started to feel heavy.

Let me assure you: my burdens are small. I have nothing to complain about right now, other than a busy life.

So having the wonderful sister and blogmate that I have in Erika, I basically started freaking out about all the things I SHOULD be doing; all the things I HAVE to do that aren't getting done; and all of the things I WANT to do that I haven't even been able to think about for weeks. And how no matter how much effort I put in, I just feel like I am failing at all of it.

She listened like a good sister, and she made me feel better like she always does. After I hung up the phone, I remembered a scripture that's been running through my mind this month:

"Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meed and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." 
- Matthew 11:28-30

I had been wanting to print it out for my nightstand as a good reminder to pray and study scriptures at bedtime, but hadn't found the chance. So I finally had a few moments around 2am a couple of nights ago, and whipped up the printable. I didn't have time to pick up a copy from the photo lab, so I just printed it out, which is why my copy is kind of purple.

I love knowing I can come to my Savior with the little problems that feel so big to me. And I love that He gave me a sister who is so willing to help me carry them. 

Happy Easter Season!

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pride and Prejudice: Lemon Crinkle Tea Cookies

"Good gracious!" cried Maria, after a few minutes' silence, 
"it seems but a day or two since we first came! and yet how many things have happened!"
"A great many indeed," said her companion with a sigh.
"We have dined nine times at Rosings, besides drinking tea there twice! 
How much I shall have to tell!"
Elizabeth added privately, "And how much I shall have to conceal!" 

~ Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice Chapter 38

I had the most inspiring talk with a friend today.  She told me that her "word for the year" was  

AUTHENTICITY.  Authenticity, inside and out.  I don't know why this idea comes as such a revelation to me.  After all, I'd like to think that I am already an authentic person:  I say what I think (sometimes), I am a natural blond (mostly), and I wear minimal makeup (but only because I don't want to spend the time or money to wear lots of makeup).

But who am I really?  Sure, I dream of discovering that I am really a Pulitzer Prize writer with the heart of Gandhi who has the coordination of a Russian gymnast and the legs (and knee caps) of a Princess Barbie.  But that's not really me.  So, if I were being authentic to my true self, what would I do with my time?  What choices would I make?  How would I treat others?  How would I treat myself?

I'm realizing that in order to answer these questions, I am going to need a lot of heart-to-hearts with myself, God, and a really affordable therapist.

But here is one thing I do know:  I am girl who loves a beautiful tea cup. There is something about the graceful curve and melodious "clink" of a china cup that makes my heart flutter.  Maybe it's because I have three liters of English blood pumping through my veins.  Or maybe it is because I am going through "Downton Abbey" withdrawals.  Or maybe it is just because it is who I am--no explanation needed.

So in an effort to be "authentic" today, I bypassed the water bottles and the mismatched plastic tumblers in the cupboard and treated myself a drink from a blue chintz tea cup instead.  I could have sworn that while I held its delicate handle in my fingers, I was nicer, thinner, and smarter than I had been without it.

 The best part is that I paired my cup of passion fruit herbal tea with this lemon crinkle cookie.  These are a fresh, delicate, and zesty cookie that are the PERFECT accompaniment to ANY cup of tea.

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

1 stick of butter
1 cup of sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups flour
1 cup powdered sugar (in separate bowl)

Cream butter and sugar.  Add egg, vanilla, lemon juice and zest.  Mix in dry ingredients.  Form into 1 inch balls and roll in powdered sugar.  Place on a cookie sheet at bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until the bottom of the cookie is golden brown and the top of the cookie has a matte (not glossy) finish.  When cool, dust with remaining powdered sugar (I hate to waste it) and serve with your favorite cup of tea.

So if whatever it is that your "authentic" self loves---whether it be tea parties or picnics in the orchard or feminine bedrooms --- EMBRACE IT!  As for me, I'm going to go embrace another cup of herbal tea and a Lemon Crinkle Cookie (or two).


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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pride and Prejudice: A Handsome Home Tour

"The rooms were lofty and handsome, and their furniture suitable to the fortune of its proprietor; 
but Elizabeth saw, with admiration of his taste, that it was neither gaudy nor uselessly fine; 
with less of splendour, and more real elegance, than the furniture of Rosings. 
 "And of this place," thought she, "I might have been mistress! 
With these rooms I might now have been familiarly acquainted! Instead of viewing them as a stranger, I might have rejoiced in them as my own, 
and welcomed to them as visitors my uncle and aunt."
~ Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice Chapter 43

I recently read an article on the internet wherein the author enumerated the ups and downs of blogging.  She said that blogging has taken a lot of her time, but that her "house has never looked so good."  
Never looked so good?  Seriously?  Every time I sit down to blog, I steel myself because I know that as soon as I hit "publish" on my post, I will return to a houseful of disasters, from lipstick smeared on the shower, to rolls of Charmin in the toilet, to mysterious pools of liquid in the upstairs hallway.  
And yes, all of the above mentioned surprises have indeed happened here this week.
Miriam and I have been blogging for over a year now, and at times, it seems that our homes have never looked WORSE.  But then again, we're in the thick of this child-rearing/toddler-wrangling stage.  We do our best, but sometimes kids and blogs just don't mix.

This is why I am not going to show you my home today.

(Unless you were REALLY hoping for a visual feast of gym socks, Legos, and smashed pears.)

Instead, I am going to show you a fair-prospect-of-a-model-home that I have taken the opportunity to visit SEVERAL times in the past few months.

It is nothing special from the outside, but as soon as you enter the front door, you can't help but fall in love with its soothing and comfortable living room . . .

and its rich and inviting dining room.

I would have never thought to pair satin celadon draperies with this wallpaper.  So daring!  So fun!

The kitchen is clean and sleek, but just traditional and cozy enough that I could see my family gathering here for an after-school snack.

The family room is the perfect fresh and organic complement to the rest of the house.

And who wouldn't love a slightly bohemian master bedroom with a stunning four-poster bed?  (I sometimes like to call my own bedroom "bohemian", but in those cases "bohemian" is really just a code word for "strewn with wrinkled laundry.")

Just writing this post inspires me to make my own house look better than it has ever looked before.  And I promise I'll get to it someday.  But for right now, you'll have to excuse me.  I just spied my toddler drawing on a ceramic centerpiece with a purple crayon.

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Pride and Prejudice: Happiness Printable

Dear Goodreads: You need a 'Report' button on your quotes page so that people like me who are obviously book nerds to the extreme can report when quotes submitted are not actually from the book, but the movie instead. And yes, I do have time to worry about these things. 
Probably should be cleaning my house right now.

Yep, That seriously gets on my nerves. But come on, people! "Scars help us know that our past was for real." doesn't even sound like Jane Austen. I don't even know what movie version that must have come from, but I KNOW it's not in Pride and Prejudice. I even searched the text in case I was crazy. Probably should have been doing laundry.

However, let me state that I love me some movie quotes too. "You have bewitched me, body and soul," anyone? And many of them deserve repeating. This one, for example:

"I must learn to be content with being happier than I deserve."

I think I needed this quote this week to remind myself of how undeserving I am of the many blessings in my life. We all need that reminder when three of our kids have the stomach flu. ;) So here's a happy little reminder from the Pride and Prejudice film, and you can feel free to use it, print it, whatever :)

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