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Imagine Classic Literary Characters living in the Modern World. Read Jane Eyre Gets Real, a Novel by Annabelle Troy, available on Amazon!

https://www.amazon.com/Jane-Eyre-Gets-Real-Annabelle-ebook/dp/B00FAS3I7O

Cookies & Cocoa with Heidi

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Everyone’s favorite Swiss girl Heidi, a character in Jane Eyre Gets Real, misses her grandfather and Peter with especial poignancy at this time of year. In Switzerland, Santa Clause is known as Samichlaus and is accompanied by a rather scary sidekick called Schmutzli (who carries a bundle of twigs with which to punish naughty children; he’s like the human equivalent of getting coal in your stocking). This pair shows up on December 6, Saint Nicholas Day, and not the eve of the 24th. In many Swiss villages, on the night of December 5th, boys parade through the streets holding bishop’s miters cut from heavy paper and lit from within by candlelight. Known as iffele, they can be as high as six feet tall, and when lit up they are as translucent and colorful as stained glass.

It’s traditional to bake cookies at this time, not so much for Samichlaus–who rides on horseback, not a reindeer-drawn sleigh; but to put in baskets which are then distributed to neighbors, kids and those in need. The dough is often prepared the day before baking and left to “rest” at night; though this can be tempting for people–and pets–who might eat it before it is baked!

Heidi’s favorite cookies include: cinnamon stars; sables (you might know them as butter cookies, sometimes baked in chess or snail patterns and frosted with white icing sugar); basler brunsli (chocolate almond spice); and mailanderli–sugar cookies cut into the shapes of hearts, bells or mushrooms.  Christmas cookies are called Wiehnachtsguezli (say it out loud, it’s fun!)

Heidi likes to dip her cookies in her favorite cocoa, which she makes by boiling milk, cocoa powder, and sugar, then allowing high-quality dark chocolate–Swiss, of course!–to melt in this mixture. She boils again, stirring all the time; finally, she adds peppercorn. Grandfather is not adverse to adding a splash of rum. This cocoa is best served in tall glasses and garnished with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. (TIP: when pouring hot cocoa into a glass, place a spoon in the glass first–it helps break up the heat so the glass doesn’t shatter)

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

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War of the Squirrels: Red versus Grey

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As you work in your backyard today or take a walk in the park, you’ll be sure to see squirrels scurrying through the fallen leaves, frantically looking for more acorns to put by for winter. When you see these playful animals, give a thought to the British red squirrel. With a striking auburn coat that is almost vulpine, it is one of the most threatened species in the UK. Their remaining population is down to a mere 120,000; they are outnumbered by grey squirrels at the rate of 66 to 1.

Sherlock Holmes, a character in Jane Eyre Gets Real, can easily solve this mystery:

The grey squirrel, imported from the US in 1876, is simply far more aggressive than its red counterpart.  The grey is larger and more adaptable, store body fat more efficiently and enjoy higher natural immunity to disease. Not only do greys push reds out of their nests but they carry a squirrel pox, harmless to them, which is fatal to reds.

Another threat to the beleaguered red: climate change has destroyed the broadleaf and conifer trees they favor. The new trees which are planted tend not to be ideal species for the reds, though we hear the greys love them! When househunting, reds look for Scots Pine & Norway Spruce.

NOTE: it is only the UK red squirrel which is endangered. The type of red squirrel one may see in the US is of a different genus–and quite hardy!

Though historically the UK was the imperial power and the US a rebellious colony, let’s all spare a prayer for the gentle red squirrel. Remember, today’s victor can easily become tomorrow’s underdog!

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Jane Eyre’s November Garden

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Thanksgiving means food but it can also mean flowers and fruits: anything that celebrates the earth. Jane Eyre, an English girl at heart but now living in NYC between the pages of Annabelle Troy’s novel Jane Eyre Gets Real, reminisces about her garden at Thornfield in the autumn.

“Mr. Rochester and I were proud of these November flowers:

Calendula will flower until frost. They look like daisies, are orange, yellow or apricot, and grow to 2 feet in height.

Candytuft–delightful name–are known as “autumn snow” because of their pure white color; they bloom in fall and spring. Also known as iberis.

Cyclamen have been likened to butterflies or stars; they are beautiful and hardy. Look for them in brilliant shades of pink, rose or red.

Erica or heath are small flowers growing on needle-like leaves. Not the prettiest but there is something very Wuthering Heights about them.

Hellebores are like drooping bells, often found in distinctive purple shades, the flowers eventually turn green.

Icelandic Poppies thrive in the British climate; they have tall, leafless stems and grow in a variety of bright colors.

Asters are star-shaped flowers which attract butterflies and were once thought, when burned, to ward off serpents.

In the greenhouse, you might find such luxuries as oranges, pears, even pineapples. Pineapples were grown under huge piles of manure in what was known as a “pineapple pit.” Unfortunately, many of our greenhouse plants were routinely sprayed with arsenic. Mr. Rochester’s head gardener did not live past thirty-five; nor did many gardeners in those days.”

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Mr. Darcy’s Very Regency Problems

Gentlefolk living during the Regency era (1811-1820) had problems, too. Mr. Darcy, a character in both Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre Gets Real, shares some of his:

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You Dislike How Your Valet Ties Your Cravat

 

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Bath Has Gotten Much Too Tourist-y

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Too Many Peasants Are Poaching Your Pheasants

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Lord Byron Gets All The Chicks

 

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Even Sensible Ladies Persist In Wearing Stupid Shoes–Plus They All Seem To Know Your Yearly Income

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Food Is Inevitably Served In Aspic

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You Keep Forgetting To Return This Book To The Library–And It’s 500 Years Overdue

WE WANT CANDY

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No matter what your age, Halloween is the day to enjoy treats. The characters from Jane Eyre Gets Real share their own sweet picks below:

Sherlock Holmes: black licorice pipes

Hester Prynne: popcorn balls (popcorn being from the New World though actually not popular til 1820s when it was sold under the name “pearl”; however, Hester was always a trendsetter–single mom, big appliques on shirts–so we’ll say she discovered it first)

Mr. Darcy: marzipan

Jane Eyre: raisins, nuts & oranges

Emma Bovary: caramels sprinkled with fleur de sel

Heidi: Toblerone milk chocolate with honey and almond nougat

David Copperfield: saltwater taffy (as a boy he was in love with a sailor’s daughter)

Alice in Wonderland: White Rabbit Creamy Candy from Japan

Dorian Gray: Irish potato candy (chocolate shape like potatoes) OR bourbon filled truffles

Remember, always drive your broomstick responsibly!

 

 

Victorian Mean Girls

October third was Mean Girls day–not a day to be mean but a time to pay homage to the 2004 cult classic starring Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried and Lacey Chabert. Written by Tina Fey, the film depicts the attempts made by newcomer Cady Heron to infiltrate–and destroy–her high school’s most popular clique. Cady succeeds in defeating “Queen Bee” Regina George, as well as learning such valuable life lessons as “only wear sweatpants on Fridays”, “joining the Mathletes is social suicide” and “the more people are afraid of you the more flowers you get.”

The characters of Jane Eyre Gets Real put their heads together to come up with three mean girls from Victorian literature. Here are the winners.

David Copperfield thought of Estella Havisham, the young heroine of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations. Her father may not have been the inventor of toaster strudel but Estella, the brunette ward of rejected bride Miss Havisham, could teach Gretchen Wieners a thing or two about the rules of feminism. Raised to break men’s hearts, Estella is proud, cold and beautiful. Why are her ringlets so big? They’re full of secrets!

Mr. Darcy suggested Lydia Bennet, the youngest sister in Pride and Prejudice. Smitten with soldiers, she runs off with the notorious cad, George Wickham, who finally agrees to marry her–for a price. Airheaded Lydia, instead of being ashamed, lords her marital status over her unmarried sisters. She may not have “ESPN or something” but like Karen Smith, Austen’s 15-year-old bride is self-centered, loves to party and doesn’t know how to spell “orange”.

Jane Eyre’s nominee is Blanche Ingram, the gorgeous golden-haired socialite who tries to seduce Mr. Rochester–and pretty much succeeds except Blanche leaves him when she fears he’s about to lose his fortune. Blanche, a rich snob who is willfully ignorant and perfect on horseback, lives to taunt the help. She could eat Regina George for breakfast, not to mention a governess or two.

Who is your favorite Victorian mean girl?  Please let us know…and remember on Wednesdays we wear pink.

 

 

 

 

Mrs. Brown, With Mangoes

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Jane Eyre, living now in NYC courtesy of the novel Jane Eyre Gets Real, was surprised recently when she saw a coming attraction for Victoria and Abdul. The movie, starring Judi Dench and Ali Fazal, has just opened in New York. It tells the true story of the aging queen and how she makes an Indian butler her Muslim adviser. Directed by Stephen Frears, of Philomena fame, the film has a stellar cast and lavish production values. Normally it would be right up Jane’s alley–except it all seems to be suspiciously like the 1997 movie Mrs. Brown. 

Mrs. Brown also starred Judi Dench as Queen Victoria who, extremely saddened by the death of Prince Albert, emerges from depression with the help of her Scottish servant (played by Billy Connolly). Both films revolve around the premise of a melancholy old queen, draped in black and out of touch, who is brought back to life with the aid of a “foreign” man of lowly social stature. As reward, said man is elevated to high rank and given the queen’s royal devotion. In Mrs. Brown, Billy the gillie serves Victoria whisky, encourages her to ride out in rough temperatures and to interact with peasants. In Victoria and Abdul, Abdul endeavors to present the Queen with a perfect mango: symbol of her Eastern kingdoms, too far away for her to visit yet glowing with refracted exoticism. Same difference.

Victoria and Abdul, Jane imagines, is a treat as predictable and delicious as Victoria sponge cake. She’s sure it will be easy to watch, and will offer what American audiences seem to crave: the ability to savor the beauty of empire while remaining smug in their liberal beliefs. After all, even the prim and proper queen comes to love her Indian servant, “Munshi”, valuing him over prime minister Lord Salisbury (Michael Gambon) and her other po-faced courtiers. Meaning, in theory, that the film is supporting the virtues of the “humble.” In fact, apart from being a showcase for Dench’s amazing talent, Jane fears it’s just another opportunity to feature gleaming silks in jeweled colors, plummy accents, and endless green lawns beneath a watery English sun. Nothing wrong with that; just be honest about what exactly Victoria and Abdul is celebrating.

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When Hope Despairs, Turn to Fiction

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If you are feeling in despair, as the Bronte sisters–and brother Branwell–almost always were, reading is a good way out. Emily Bronte can attest to the power of the imagination, and so she did, in the poem at the end of this post (reprinted by kind permission of her spirit). If writing poetry on the moors isn’t your thing, read Jane Eyre Gets Real by Annabelle Troy, free on Amazon from Sept 16-Sept 20th. Happy Imagination!

To Imagination by Emily Bronte

When weary with the long day’s care,
And earthly change from pain to pain,
And lost, and ready to despair,
Thy kind voice calls me back again:
Oh, my true friend! I am not lone,
While then canst speak with such a tone!

So hopeless is the world without;
The world within I doubly prize;
Thy world, where guile, and hate, and doubt,
And cold suspicion never rise;
Where thou, and I, and Liberty,
Have undisputed sovereignty.

What matters it, that all around
Danger, and guilt, and darkness lie,
If but within our bosom’s bound
We hold a bright, untroubled sky,
Warm with ten thousand mingled rays
Of suns that know no winter days?

Reason, indeed, may oft complain
For Nature’s sad reality,
And tell the suffering heart how vain
Its cherished dreams must always be;
And Truth may rudely trample down
The flowers of Fancy, newly-blown:

But thou art ever there, to bring
The hovering vision back, and breathe
New glories o’er the blighted spring,
And call a lovelier Life from Death.
And whisper, with a voice divine,
Of real worlds, as bright as thine.

I trust not to thy phantom bliss,
Yet, still, in evening’s quiet hour,
With never-failing thankfulness,
I welcome thee, Benignant Power;
Sure solacer of human cares,
And sweeter hope, when hope despairs!

Queen Victoria’s Tramp Stamp

 

OK, Queen Victoria getting a tattoo may be a rumor started by Annabelle Troy…BUT, Alice in Wonderland, a character in Jane Eyre Gets Real, knows that tattooing was all the rage amongst grand ladies in the 1880s. The practice was first popularized in high society when that playboy trend setter the Prince of Wales got a cross tattoo in Jerusalem (Alice is not sure where on the body); his sons copied the cross design on their own flesh. Thus the rage for tattoos was born. After Czar Nicholas II. and Kaiser Wilhelm succumbed, aristocratic women started to get designs from the tattoo machine as well. Winston Churchill’s mother, Lady Jennie, had a serpent tattoo encircling her wrist–which she covered in public with bracelets. To have ornate designs inscribed on the skin, which only husbands or lovers would see, was definitely a Victorian lady’s well-guarded secret.

Late in the 19th century “tattooed ladies”,  sometimes inked from head to slipper, became a circus staple. These ladies were definitely NOT aristocrats. Eventually, when the rage for tattooing spread to the lower classes,  along with methods for procuring them on the cheap, “real” ladies began to forego them. If Kate Middleton has one, she’s not telling…though she does have “permanent makeup”–liner etched onto her eyes so that she will always look presentable. Still, it’s no serpent.

 

 

 

 

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