I was privileged to attend the festive 20th anniversary celebration of the Puget Sound chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) at the elegant, Georgian-style Mayflower Park Hotel in downtown Seattle this Sunday last. The beautiful paneled library of this landmark hotel was filled to capacity with many ladies and gentlemen in Regency-attire who enjoyed a warm welcome by Regional Coordinator Marian LaBeck, followed by a set from Jane Austen’s songbook by the talented Charlene Kern. A champagne toast to our dear Jane by Kimberly Brangwin, one of the chapters founding members, was the highlight of the day for me. Kimberly kindly agreed to let me share her moving speach with my readers.
Over the ensuing years, we have analyzed and argued over all of Austen’s writing.
We have learned about
Fashion and foodstuffs
Regency and religion
Navy and nobility
Love and loss
Estates and entails
Family and friends.
After all this time together, we have made a family from friends.
And so a toast—To us and the muse we adore—Jane Austen.
I had arrived in Seattle unfashionably late after encountering a traffic accident on the 520 bridge and had the great fortune to be seated next to chapter newsletter editor Julie Arnold who graciously introduced me to many members during the course of the day. She enthusiastically showed off her gorgeous new Kate Spade Pride and Prejudice clutch handbag that I had only heard tell of on Facebook. You can see by the photos that it is a stunner and perfectly finished off Julie’s fashionable summer frock.
The Mayflower Park presented an elegant three-course meal of chicken saltimbocca, garlic mashed potatoes, prosciutto, goat & asiago cheeses in a roasted garlic-tomato-basil sauce, or vegetable Wellington, with Portobello mushrooms, zucchini and sundried tomato pesto for our enjoyment. While savoring my dinner, I had remembered that some of the cast members from the popular television series Downton Abbey had stayed at the hotel while they were in in town for a PBS donor event that I attended the following week. Dan Stevens had Tweeted about his visit to Oliver’s, the hotel watering hole, where bartender Steve had create a martini in honor of the show. Inspired to discover the drink, Julie and I ventured into the bar and asked the bartender on duty for a Downton Abbey. The look of surprise on his face was classic, but he soon found the recipe stashed in the cash draw and proceeded to mix the cocktails while we watched in anticipation. For those interested in designer martinis, it is made from Hendrick’s gin, St. Germain (elderflower liqueur), lime juice and a splash of champagne. Wow! It did not disappoint and may be my new signature drink. Back at our table, it was certainly the conversation piece and Marian LaBeck soon followed our example and trekked off to the bar to order her own glass of the potent concoction.
Lest you think that the afternoon was spent entirely in wine and song, there was also the premier of an original playlet written by member Judith Fiedler, featuring Mary Laney, Loveday Conquest, Kimberly Brangwin and Nichelle Hilton portraying Elinor Ferrars, Mrs. Ferrars, Fanny Dashwood and Lucy Ferrars respectively in honor of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Sense and Sensibility. Bravo to the cast for an amusing reading, and to Judith for giving Lucy Ferrars the hilarious last line.
Even though I had met some of the Puget Sound members previously and corresponded with James Nagle (who was sadly out of town), I had not attended one of the local chapter meetings previously. It is a trek to drive from Snohomish to Seattle for events, but what is fifty miles of good road when Janeites are gathering?
Many thanks to the chapter members for their gracious and warm welcome. I look forward to many future soirees and am anxious to share my Austentini recipe at the next get together.
© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose
images © 2003–2011 James Petts & Julie Arnold