Holiday Austen Potpourri

Holiday Jane Austen stuff  (2011)

I am so behind in blogging, so here are the whirlwind highlights of what I have been doing at Woodston Cottage and in California these past two weeks…

My Trip to California

I left my snug cottage in Snohomish and flew to Los Angeles for a quick Jane Austen-inspired long weekend. On Friday, author Syrie James and her husband Bill picked me up at LAX airport and whisked me off to a screening at the Writer’s Guild Theater in Beverly Hills for a viewing of Twilight: Breaking Dawn. (is Edward really the new Darcy?). Inquiring Janeites would like to know!

Mr. Darcy or Edward Cullen?Darcy vs. Cullen?

On Saturday we attended the Jane Austen Society of North America – Southwest Chapter’s Winter Symposium at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. Four of my authors from Jane Austen Made Me Do It were in attendance: Syrie James, Diana Birchall, Laurie Viera Rigler and Brenna Aubrey.

We signed copies in between speakers and three of the ladies read excerpts from the anthology during lunch. The symposium was one of, if not the best run, events I have every attended. Beautiful historic building with amazing California plein air art, gourmet luncheon of prime rib and poached pears, and three fabulous speakers: Dr. Cheryl Kinney spoke on “A Dangerous Indulgence: Women’s Health in Jane Austen’s Time;” Arnie Perlstein spoke on “Concealed Pregnancies in Jane Austen’s Novels;” and Walter Nelson spoke on “Quackery, Snake Oil & Flim Flam Medicine.” Before lunch there was a wonderful toast to honor Jane Austen’s birthday cheered by all with mulled wine. What a fabulous event. Many thanks to JASNA – SW RC Nancy Gallagher and her team of organizers for graciously including me and Jane Austen Made Me Do It in your wonderful day in honor of Jane.

Yvonne Yao Jeweler Jeweler Yvonne Yao

Next we were off for a brief visit to a local craft show to meet Syrie’s daughter-in-law Yvonne Yao who is a talented handcrafted jewelry designer.  I was tempted — and succumbed. Who can resist beautiful bling?

Union Station, Los AngelesUnion Station interior

Then we were off to rejoin the event speakers and anthology authors from the JASNA event that day at dinner in the historical Los Angeles Union Station. Wow! Of course I had to tell the family story of how my father left Union Station in 1944 to go off to WWII. He almost missed his train because he was in the bathroom shooting craps! My dad always lived on the edge and fondly told that story.

A Day at The Huntington

Syrie and Bill James at the Huntington Library & GardensSyrie and Bill James

The Huntington Library and Gardens Rose GardenThe Rose Garden

Japanese Garden at the Huntington Gardens and LibraryThe Japanese Garden

Sunday saw us journeying to the happiest place in my Janeite world. The Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino. When I lived in California, I visited it frequently, but had not been there in over ten years. We were lucky to get in. The Pasadena area had been hard hit by a powerful and dangerous wind storm and the roads to the Huntington were littered with downed trees and debris. They had closed the grounds for two days to try to clean up.

Huntington Garden ancient live oak blow over after wind stormAncient California Live Oak blown over

There were still branches everywhere, paths blocked and huge live oak trees totally uprooted. That of course did not stop us. The weather was beautiful and clear (huzzah) and we walked the sumptuous gardens. I saw the new Chinese Gardens and many new building that they have added in the last few years.

Pagoda at the Chinese Garden at the Huntington Library and GardensThe Chinese Garden

The Tea Garden at the Huntington Library and GardensThe Tea Rooms

The highlight of the day was a high tea in the Tea Rooms followed by tour through the Art Gallery which includes the Thornton picture gallery and the rest of the palatial manor house. The art collection contains some of the most fabulous Georgian and Regency era portraits anywhere. I of course visited my two favorites:

Lady Emma Hamilton by George Romney

Lady Emma Hamilton, by George Romney

Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse by Josiah Reynolds

and Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse by Joshua Reynolds.

Both ladies were great beauties of their generation and infamous for entirely different reasons. Lady Hamilton was Admiral Nelson’s mistress, which scandalized Britain, and Sarah Siddons, the most famous dramatic actress of her day. Jane Austen wanted to see in London but missed the chance.

Art Gallery at the Huntington Library Dec 2011 Art Gallery

The Huntington is renown for it’s incredible library of books, including a Gutenberg bible, and first editions of all of Jane Austen’s novels. Scholars come to visit and study its numerous and unique selection, all locked up in the rare collection room. In the main house there is also a small library of twentieth-century editions that I always enjoyed skimming through in the past. All the classic are there, including a Chawton edition of Jane Austen’s Novels. Syrie’s eyes lit up when I mentioned that I always searched for them every time I visited the Huntington. It had become a ritual for her too. As we oohed and aahed over the leather bound volumes, a kind gentleman with a great camera took this shot for us and emailed it to me. The binding is much bluer in person, but it is great to have the image and know that Syrie and I, two ladies passionate about Jane Austen, had admire them so independently of one another until this day! Ironically, the set is next to an edition of The Brothers. Do any other Janeites see the humor in these two authors paired together? The first person to know the answer, and leave a comment, wins a signed copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It! (shipment Internationally)

Chawton Edition of Jane Austen at the Huntington LibraryChawton Edition of the Novels of Jane Austen

Of course the day would not be complete without a trip to the gift shop, one of the best museum shops I have ever been to. I purchased some treasures: Jane Austen magnets which I featured in my recent Austen-inspired holiday gift selections, beautiful tree ornaments of pie slices, candy and gingerbread houses and a hat! Syrie and I enjoyed the special Jane Austen section which featured her novel The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen and Margaret Sullivan’s Jane Austen Handbook. Monday I traveled to San Clemente to visit my sister and mother and then Tuesday I flew home. My cat Herman was VERY happy to see me after being looked after by family. It’s so nice to be missed! ;-)

Home at Woodston Cottage

Jane Austen attends the JASNA - PS Dec meetingJane attends the JASNA – Puget Sound birthday party!

Since I returned home, I have been trying to catch up on email and blogging — and the holidays. I attended my own Puget Sound Chapter of JASNA’s birthday celebration of Jane Austen birthday last Sunday.

Guest speaker, novelist and puppeteer Mary Robinette Kowal from Portland, discussed the challenges of writing a Jane Austen-inspired Regency era novel. Her highly acclaimed Shades of Milk and Honey was embraced by Jane Austen fans as very Austenesque in style and language. She discussed the evolution of language since Jane Austen day and its challenge to modern writers. Determined to get it right, Mary had used a database of words from Jane Austen’s novels and letters in an attempt to check certain words against her new novel, Glamour in Glass, that releases in April. I had a chance to chat with her after her talk and mentioned that she might find the Austen Thesaurus helpful. She was not aware of it – and if you are not either – you can put any word in and it will pull comparable words that Jane Austen used. It’s called Write Like Jane Austen – and they are not kidding.

Charlene Kern with Jane Newly elected Regional Coordinator Charlene Kern with a friend

The JASNA – PS celebration was very festive with toast to Jane by Debra Alderman, pictures with Jane, and a food spread that Jane would definitely have approved of. It was great to see my chapter friends Marian LaBeck, James Nagle & Julie A. A very enjoyable day was had celebrating our favorite author’s birthday.

Jane Austen Birthday Soiree 2011

The Jane Austen birthday celebration is building for Friday, December 16th, an all day long birthday bash by 32 bloggers. Don’t miss out of the blog hop with each of the participants writing a post in honor of Jane, and giveaways galore.

Austenprose's Jane Austen birthday giveaways 2011

Austenprose’ birthday swag

I will be joining the festivities with a discussion of the new Fourth Edition of Jane Austen’s Letters and a giveaway of Austen-inspired note cards by Jennifer Shaphren, designer of Jenny Did it!, a copy of Jane Austen Letters (third edition) and a signed copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It. It should be a very busy day on Friday hopping around the blogosphere and leaving comments on all the blogs to qualify for the giveaways.

Laurel Ann's Infamous Golden Fruitcake the fruit cake

Lastly, yes, I am almost finished. The holiday decorating continues at Woodston Cottage. I am decking the halls with wreaths, garland, candles, poinsettia’s and fruit cake. I talked about my famous golden fruitcake last year. It’s not that sticky, gooey, candied fruitcake that people joke about being shipped around the world ten times. This is made with dried fruit soaked in bourbon. It is a knockout and tastes fabulous. May I brag about it some more? It takes two weeks to make, and no time at all to consume! Here are few slices showing how the fruit and nuts make it so showy! I am now qualified to be called the fruitcake lady.

Slices of Laurel Ann's Infamous Golden Fruitcake the proof is in the pudding

Also on my dinning table are two new arrivals: Downton Abbey season two screener from my friends at Masterpiece Classic PBS (happy dance), and an advance readers copy of Forbidden, by Syrie James and Ryan M. James. She co-wrote it with her son Ryan and it is one of the most highly anticipated teen novels of the season. My reviewer Christina can’t wait to get her mits on it.

Phew. I did it! So much news that just needed to get told. Please check back on Friday for Jane’s birthday bash. It shall be an incredible day for Janeites!


Laurel Ann

Woodston Cottage

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

18 thoughts on “Holiday Austen Potpourri

Add yours

  1. Oh, thank you so much! I enjoyed reading about your lovely trip and seeing the pictures.
    The birthday hop sounds out of this world awesome. Really love the look of that fruitcake.

    Thanks for the post!


  2. Absolutely everything looks gorgeous, from the fruitcake to the Huntington! Glad you had such a lovely day there. I agree with you, the JASNA-SW meeting was one of the best-organized, most exciting Jane Austen meetings ever held anywhere. Loved seeing you there, beyond words! But what book are you referring to when you mention The Brothers? Do you mean Karamazov? You don’t say an author. Or is that the mystery you wish us to discover?


  3. What a lovely full adventure in All Things Austen Laurel Ann! – and how wonderful to share so much of it with Syrie! – I feel dizzy just reading all this!

    [I speculate that The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky is what you refer to, his final work, and also the name of Austen’s final unfinished work as she named it, what we know as Sanditon…]

    Welcome home to you – just in time to celebrate Austen’s birthday tomorrow…
    Best to you and Happy Holidays!


    1. Deb, good guess on the two final works on each of the authors. LOL. Leave it to a retired librarian to find that connection.

      As a mention below to Diana Birchall, it is not a set by Karmazov, but I think by Herbert. I will let you know when I hear from the Huntington librarian. Anyway, since you were the first to mention the Sanditon connection, you WIN a personally inscribed edition of Jane Austen Made Me Do It! Congrats. Being a Jane Austen geek does come in handy, now and again!


  4. Janeite Deb is much smarter than I–no clue on your mystery. But I am envious of your amazing trip. Thanks so much for taking photos so the rest of us can enjoy!


  5. I’m inclined to think that Deb is right, though I could not get the connection with Dostoyevsky. What I read before is Jane’s last unfinished novel due to her untimely death was called The Brothers before becoming known as Sanditon.

    I love reading your posts on Austenprose. It’s been some time I haven’t visited your blog and other Austenesque blog because I’ve been very busy lately because of the coming festive season. It’s great to be back (referring to you and me).


  6. Love, love, loved reading this blog, Laurel Ann! Your comings and goings are delightful. Thanks for sharing all of it with us including the photos of the cake.


  7. Well, it can’t be The Brothers as in Sanditon, because the question is what’s the humor in having “these two authors” paired next to each other. And I cannot think of a single link between Austen and Dostoyevsky! Come on, Laurel Ann, a teensy hint please? I wouldn’t claim the prize anyway as I’m IN it. Oh, and do you have ANY pictures from the JASNA-SW event with ME in ’em?


    1. Diana – you and Deb are both right on the connection of The Brothers to Jane Austen’s last novel Sanditon. That was its original title.

      The second set of books next to the Jane Austen set is not The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky. I forgot to write down the authors name of The Brothers, but I think it was Herbert. I wrote to the Huntington librarian for more info on the Jane Austen set and The Brothers, so we shall have to wait and see.

      The irony in pairing these two sets of books side-by-side was what you and Deb guessed. Austen tentatively titled her last book The Brothers. I thought it was the librarian having fun with us. Of all of the books to place together on the same shelf, and the library is not organized alphabetically, this must be an inside joke for Janeites, don’t ya think? Librarian’s do have a sense of humor! At least I like to think they do! It’s just geeky enough to make some Janeites day.

      Sorry, no photos of you on my camera. I will ask Syrie if Bill took any on his.


  8. Hey FruitCakeLady(sorry couldn’t resist this once!) Can’t wait to find out the mis-connection for Austen and The Brothers. I haven’t the foggiest. Also, I CAN’T WAIT to read Forbidden. Loved this capsule of your trip to Cali and the going ons here in the PacNW. I don’t suppose Charlene Kern sang at the JASPA gathering?? I have heard her sing once and I think she should sing at all the meetings– she is a talented songbird!!


  9. Googling suggests that the book next to the Austen set might be The Brothers: A Tale of the Frond by Henry William Herbert, a historical novelist. Congrats to alert Deb for remembering that The Brothers is Sanditon!

    JASNA-SW has just put an account of the glorious meeting on its website, Laurel Ann, and among many other things there is a picture of you and me absorbed in conversation while signing books with Laurie and Syrie. Here it is:

    I like the picture. Though small, it looks as if we were having a very good time – as we were! If the link doesn’t work, just go to the website.


  10. You tease us with that fruitcake and then don’t share the recipe! It’s too late for this Christmas, but if you share, perhaps we can try for next year!


    1. Hi Mary, you are too kind to be interested in fruitcake recipes – it is so long and involved that I fear that I would send my readers away shrieking! If you really want it, I would be happy to e-mail it to you as a Word doc. ;-)


  11. I forgot to inquire… how did YOU like Breaking Dawn?? To me, it is by far the best of the flicks — despite the uncomfortable few moments having to watch the sad CG/animatronic talking wolves. I just block those wolf scenes from my mind! Edward as the new Darcy? Well, I don’t know — when I am reading about Darcy, I never want to leave him. When I’m reading or watching the Twilight Saga/Edward Cullen, it’s pretty much the same.


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