Article by Maria Grace. She has one husband, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, six cats, seven Regency-era fiction projects, notes for eight more writing projects, cooks for nine in order to accommodate the growing boys, and usually makes ten meals at a time so she only has to cook twice a month.
Christmastide and the release of my new book are both coming soon upon us. To celebrate both, I am beginning a series on Regency Christmas traditions, possibly with a few of my family’s thrown in for good measure.
Regency Parlor Games pt. 1
Christmastide was a time for fun and frivolity. Parlor games made up a large part of the fun.
They were played by all classes of society and often involved overstepping the strict bound of propriety. Losers often paid a forfeit, which could be an elaborate penalty or dare, but more often were a thinly disguised machination for getting a kiss. Often, forfeits were accumulated all evening, until he hostess would ‘cry the forfeits’ and they would all be redeemed.
Here are a few of the games that might have been played during Christmas parties of the Regency.
Blind Man’s Bluff and variations there of
Many variations of this game existed, including Hot Cockles, Are you there Moriarty, and Buffy Gruffy. All the variations include one player being blindfolded and trying to guess the identity of another player who had tapped them or who they have caught. A great deal of cheating was generally involved, which only added to the sport.
Click here to read the rest of the article at Maria’s blog, Random Bits of Fascination.
I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart) I am never without it.
–E. E. Cummings
This week’s Favorite is a culinary treat, courtesy of Sasha Cottman. Born in England, but having lived most of her life in Australia, Sasha feels fortunate to have family on both sides of the world. Her love for Regency Romance derives from a lifelong passion for history and a mistaken enrollment in a romance writing course. You can follow Sasha and find out more about her and her books on her website: http://www.sashacottman.com
by Sasha Cottman
This recipe for apple dumplings comes from The Experienced English House- keeper, 1789.
For making the pastry you can either use these ingredients or buy pastry sheets.
8 oz (250g) flour, 1 egg yolk, 4 oz (125g) butter, or butter and lard, A pinch of salt.
4 good eating apples. Cream, or custard to serve. We used vanilla custard.
4 tsp marmalade, or sultanas, or jam or sugar and cinnamon. We used sultanas and cinnamon in one dumpling and blackberry conserve in the others. You could use any sort of sweet filing.
Preheat the oven to 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6.
Make the pastry or get the frozen pastry sheets out of the freezer. Divide the pastry into 4 equal portions and roll them out thin. This is why I used pastry sheets.
Peel and core the apples. If you don’t have an apple corer, you could cut the apple in half, cut out the seeds, etc. and then put the apple together again when you wrap the pastry around it. I did try to core the first apple with a sharp knife but made such a mess that only 3 apples made it into the oven.
Lay each apple on the pastry, allowing the pastry to come up a little more than halfway up the apple.
Put the filing inside the apple. Cut a small square of pastry to go over the top. I smoothed the pastry joins, etc. with a little warm water and clean fingers. The leaves and worm were an added decoration.
Spray an oven tray with some baking spray and a little on the top of the pastry to help it brown.
Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes and serve hot.
This is the time of year when people start talking about being thankful and counting their blessings. Normally, that’s an easy thing for me to do—I’ve been pretty contented with my lot in life over the past year.
Until the rains came.
My father became very ill in October and spent several weeks in the hospital. I was slated to attend a conference for Math Teachers during that time, and after speaking with the doctors, decided Dad was stable enough for me to leave. It was only for 3 days, but he took an unexpected turn for the worse, and I spent half the conference on the phone with my sister discussing medical options and DNRs. I made it home from CharmCity just in time to receive the call from the hospital, and be with Dad when he died.
His passing coincided with the end of the marking period at school, so I was also bombarded by stacks of papers that needed grading, and e-mails from parents wondering why assignments hadn’t been logged into our system. Every moment I wasn’t making funeral arrangements—or answering all those e-mails—I spent grading. I even enlisted the help of my mother, my sister, and my department chair in order to meet my deadline. And I did. Every assignment that had to go on the first quarter report cards got finished.
And all the while, I had the worst migraine I’ve had in years. It lasted a total of two months, and I’m still feeling the after effects. It was so bad that, during all that grading, I could only read a couple of papers before my vision went blurry from the pain. I shouldn’t have been reading at all, or even out of bed, but I did what I had to do. After the marking period deadline passed, I spent a week in bed in a dark room and another several days learning to be upright again. When I went back to school I kept the lights off, and had my students do all the reading and writing. And they were wonderful! They kept each other quite. They came to me with questions so I didn’t have to be on my feet and moving around. They told me silly stories to cheer me up. And I continued to improve.
Then, of course, I was pulled out of class to meet with the principal and superintendent. That’s when I found out I no longer had a job. I didn’t recover from the migraine fast enough, they told me, and couldn’t be an effective teacher. These people–who were supposed to be my professional family–decided it would be easier to cut me loose and find someone else. Not only did they completely sever my means of financial support and health insurance, but they hurt me personally. These people had promised to support me, and instead they turned on me.
After all that, what could I possibly have to be thankful for? Silver linings on clouds that dark are hard to find.
But I found five:
1. Family They drive me crazy most of the time, but my mom and stepdad are there when it counts. I’ve been living with them since my return to Michigan a year and a half ago, and was just about to sign a lease on my own apartment when I lost my job. They didn’t even bat an eyelash—I just wasn’t moving out. I have a roof over my head, food to eat, and all the wifi I can use for as long as I need it.
2. Friends I tend toward introversion, but my friends (both in person and electronic) have been massively supportive. They check in on me to make sure I’m okay, but give me space to be alone when I need to. They offered advice as well as condolences when Dad’s time came. And the best part: hugs, in real and virtual form. I’ve needed a lot of hugs these past months, and my friends were always there to provide them.
3. Doctor Who No, this isn’t just a cheap way to get in a pic of Matt Smith and David Tennant. The Doctor, his companions, his enemies, and his adventures have been like aloe on a sunburn for me. The show is smart, witty, funny, and exemplifies character development—all of which kept my mind occupied and soothed my soul as life became more and more overwhelming. Plus, the trips to Victorian England—complete with Matt Smith in a frock coat and beaver hat—were especially fun for this history geek
4. Audio books I discovered audio books over the summer as a means of distraction as I attempted to exercise away the extra pounds I carry. The rest of the time I prefer the written word to the spoken one. But over the last couple of months reading has been impossible. Lying in the dark with a crushing pain in your head is also rather maddening—a person can only sleep so much. What else can you do? Well, if you’re like me, you pull out the old iPod and listen to a book. It didn’t matter what the book was, it was something for me to focus on instead of the pain and frustration of being incapacitated but still conscious. I don’t think I retained much of the stories, but just having them available kept me from going crazy.
5. Flannel sheets and fuzzy blankets This time of year, when the temperature is dropping and the snow is accumulating, I start to miss my former home in Miami. And, to be honest, I complain about it more than I should. But as much as I liked it, there was one thing the MagicCity could never provide: the comfort of flannel sheets or a fuzzy blanket on a cold night. Add a soft pillow and a pet or two to the mix, and you’ve got an evening that relaxes the body like no humid tropical night ever could. Plus, no giant cockroaches to worry about
So those are my five silver linings in an otherwise dark autumn. What are you thankful for this holiday season?
Courage isn’t having the strength to go on – it is going on when you don’t have strength.
The Friday Favorite is back! And this week, we celebrate history, mystery, and Doctor Who all in one go.
Author Philip Pullman calls his four Sally Lockhart mystery novels “old-fashioned Victorian blood-and-thunder”. BBC liked them enough to make the first two into TV movies. PBS picked them up in the US as part of their Masterpiece Mystery series (staring Billie Piper as the title character, and Matt Smith as one of her trusted friends).
Information about the books from the author’s website.
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
–J. R. R. Tolkien