Saturday, November 15 I attended the kickoff event for a young man who has decided to run for a seat on the Board of Education in the Los Angeles Unified School District. He is running for the seat representing District 5.
His home is in District 5, as are the schools his children attend. Along with his community Andrew has worked and fought to improve the schools in the District and currently serves as a representative on the LAUSD parent advisory committee. Parent advisory committee you ask, why does he need to be on the board. His explanation is simple. The board can ignore the committee’s suggestions or comments, but as a member of the Board of Education he will give parents and children a voice. A voice the Los Angeles Unified School District desperately needs.
As a politician he has no experience, his expertise is as a parent and educator. He received a Ph.D in Urban Schooling from UCLA and teaches educational policy to educational professionals around the world. He helped reorganize Fremont High School in South Central Los Angeles, in fact he has worked with schools throughout Southern California. He is grounded, sincere and real. Don’t you think it’s time for the Los Angeles School District to get back to what it’s supposed to be doing? Educating for the future!
I believe it is time for Los Angele Unified School District to have a parent on the Board of Education. Unfortunately, I do not live in District 5. If you do, please go to the website and learn more about Andrew and his platform.
Don’t ever forget that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world, it’s the only thing that ever has.
Decisions are made by those who show up.
These two Aaron Sorkin quotes exemplify what Andrew is trying to do. Gather a few thoughtful people and change the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education. The change can’t happen unless folks show up. Show your support for a new face and voice on the Board of Education for the Los Angeles Unified School District.
We’re celebrating the launch of Syrie James’ newest blockbuster! Here’s your chance to win a copy!
“A wonderful, charming and lively story of what might have been.
James presents readers with an evocative and sweet romance that reads like Emma…
This enchanting tale will have readers recalling their first love:
the joy, the nervousness, and the sadness of parting.
Simply a lovely novel!” Romantic Times Book Reviews
“Syrie James is magnificent!…This early Austen adventure is truly unforgettable!”
“A fresh and engaging new story, which is a real feast for any Austen fan.
Jane–who is also the first-person narrator in the story–is enchanting,
while devilishly handsome Edward Taylor is temptingly irresistible.
This book can’t be missing on your Austenesque shelf and would be a very special
gift to young readers you want to initiate into Jane Austen’s world.” —My Jane Austen Book Club
With the family growing older now, birthday celebrations tend to be joint affairs, where we celebrate two or more at a time. This past Sunday was one of those days. Sam turned 16 in early August, Clara was 14 in May and mom Tanya had a big day in June. We all met up at the home of Sara’s friend Stella. A lovely old Craftsman home that she has furnished very comfortably, the pool and hot tub (salt water) gave everyone the cooling needed on a hot summer afternoon and evening.
Sara grilled some wonderful kabobs of lamb, chicken and beef, beautiful asparagus and couscous. I did deserts. Red velvet cupcakes and a summertime berry pie.
Sam and Clara My great nephew & niece
But the TriBerry Pie was the biggest hit, and it was wonderful. Just add ice cream or whipped cream. Here’s the recipe.
US Winner will receive print copy and our international friends will receive an eEdition.
An excerpt from
CHRISTMAS AT SEA PINES COTTAGE
The big yellow school bus eased to a stop amid the squeal of air brakes. By the time the young boy jumped down from the bottommost step, the puppies were already at the gate jumping and yipping their collective greeting.
The child unlatched the gate and as he stepped through was besieged by seven wiggly pups. He fell giggling to the ground as his face and neck were thoroughly licked and nuzzled.
The sound of his name brought him to his feet with the puppies scurrying around him vying for a free hand to receive his pets.
The older boy stood outside the gate. “Mom wants you to go in and rest or you won’t be able to go trick or treating tonight.”
The small boy ruffled the ears of each of the seven puppies and then left, skipping alongside his brother.
The older brother, with some distain said, “Just because dad breeds dogs doesn’t mean the puppies are yours.”
Without responding, as young children are wont to do, he asked his big brother, “Are you taking me trick or treating or is mom?”
Shaking his head at the unheeded warning he conceded, “I am. Mom thinks I’m too old, the only way she’d let me go was by my agreeing to take you. So Jimmy, Bobby and their pesky little brothers are coming over and we’re all going together.”
Getting excited, “Are you going to dress up, too?”
Grabbing his little brother up and pretending to carry him off, “Yeah, I’m going to be a pirate. Argh.”
The little boy giggled with pleasure and expectation.
Night fell and the only sound was the wind rustling the trees that surrounded the kennels.
Snuggly warm in the embrace of his siblings, the young pup suddenly raised his head, his acute hearing discerning a sound other than the wind. He sniffed the air, his sensitive nose recognizing the older of the two boys who had visited them earlier in the day.
The puppy got up and trotted to the gate in anticipation of a treat or ear rub. The other puppies roused by his movement followed. They waited at the gate sniffing the air and milling around the locked gate.
Suddenly three human forms darted out of the darkness, causing the motion controlled lights to come on. As they ran past the puppies’ enclosure, one of them tossed something into the center of the yard.
Expecting some tasty treat, the puppies rushed to where the object lay. One pup nudged the thing with his nose, in spite of the strange hissing noise it made and yelped when a small spark singed the fur of his muzzle. The other puppies stood back away from the thing as it continued to hiss and spark.
The light at the end of it grew brighter as it started to spin in a circle. As the puppies drew farther away from it, the objectionable thing started exploding, one small explosion quickly followed another. The animals running helter, skelter to get away from the horrid noise and find safety; piling into the deepest corner of the kennel. After what seemed an interminable time the loud popping finally stopped.
The puppies sensitive ears were still ringing when the three human boys rushed in through the gate and picked up the offending object.
The boy the pup recognized said, “Gotta get this out of here. My dad will kill me if he finds out about this.”
Another boy said as they locked the gate and walked away, “Yeah, but did you see they way they all scattered and whined?
Meteor is my name.
That is, of course, my human name. Or, more precisely, since I am not myself a human, it is the name that was bestowed upon me by Robert on the day I first arrived here at the gray shingled cottage sheltered among the pines on the wild dunes of Cape Fear.
Though my keen hunter’s eyes have since grown dim with the passage of too many autumns, each wondrous detail of the bright November afternoon when I was named remains as fresh and untarnished within my memory as if it had happened today.
It was the day after, what humans call, Thanksgiving. In the two weeks preceding, Sam had been able to sell ‘as pets’ my brothers and sisters. It disgusted him that we would never be of value as anything but household pets and he was glad to be rid of us. I alone remained.
After a whispered conversation with his female counterpart I was unceremoniously put in a cardboard box in the back of Sam’s truck. But before Sam could drive away the woman returned and secured a red and green bow around my neck, saying I was now a Christmas puppy. Then she gave me some wonderful meat that she said was leftover from dinner the day before.
“Be good,” she whispered as she kissed my nose.
Jumping down from the flat bed of the truck she walked around to the window and kissed Sam, gently reminding him that I was just a puppy. Sam snorted as the truck rumbled off past the sign identifying what had been my domicile, Prairiewood Kennels – Home of Champion Retrievers.
The truck came to a stop at a place with which I was unfamiliar. I could smell the sea and feel its mist on my fur. After peering over the edge of the truck I retreated again to the box, shivering from an unnamed fear rather than the fierce cold that was blowing in from the restless sea.
Robert, at twenty-four, was in the very prime of his youth then. Tall and tan and deep-chested, his tangled brown hair streaked gold from the white hot sun of the summer, he appeared like a young god to the bewildered pup he found shivering in the corner of a soggy corrugated box in the back of Sam Wilson’s old pickup truck.
I was that frightened pup.
Sick and dizzy from the noxious exhaust fumes that had swirled about me throughout a long cold ride in the clattering truck bed, my future could not at that moment have seemed more dismal. Sam Wilson had made it clear that I was a disgrace in his eyes as well as those of any other human who knew and seriously bred dogs for hunting in the great marshlands that dominate this sparsely inhabited region of the Carolina coast.
My life was over before it had properly begun.
Or so I had believed then. Less than a span of seasons had passed since I had been weaned from my mother’s milk. But though I was bright of eye and swift of foot, and despite my noble blood and the fine, strong features that had seemed to promise a happy lifetime filled with the honors that, rightly, accrue to champion retrievers, I had become an embarrassing burden to Sam Wilson; a useless creature to be disposed of as quickly and as quietly as possible.
Cowering in the corner of my foul box that afternoon, I was unwilling even to look up at the curious young man who had climbed onto the truck to look me over. Instead, I curled up in my box and whimpered at the cruel circumstance that had so abruptly reduced my life to such a sorry state. Then, without warning, I felt myself being hoisted high into the air, held up and closely scrutinized by Robert’s calm gray eyes.
Oh, those eyes! Warm and compassionate and wise beyond the years reflected in the smooth, unlined face that held them, they bored into my very soul, searching there for something–I knew not what–but betraying no trace of the naked contempt I had so lately seen in the eyes of Sam Wilson when he looked at me.
Suddenly, my soul was filled with an unreasonable hope. Perhaps this human would give me another chance to prove my worth. Although truly I dreaded the prospect of returning to the scene of my humiliation and was not at all certain that I would not fail again, still, I forced myself to cease my whimpering. And as pups will often do when they sense true goodness and compassion radiating from a human being, I lavishly licked Robert’s square, handsome face.
To my great surprise and joy he laughed out loud, a soft baritone sound that made me shiver with such pleasure that I even forgot for the moment the terrors of the grim trial I had so recently failed. Then Robert set me on the sandy ground and tossed a bit of driftwood far down the beach. It disappeared among the curling green waves that were crashing onto the cold sands in advance of a waiting Arctic storm moving in from the east.
Gulping in a huge breath of clean sea air, I felt my sickness vanish as if by magic. And I ran after that twisted stick of wood as though my very life depended upon it, which, in a way, I was certain that it did. For, from the moment I heard Robert’s exuberant laughter and looked into those placid gray eyes, I had decided that my only chance for happiness lay in gaining the approval of this young and handsome human.
Pounding into the chilly backwash of a receding wave, I pounced on the thrown driftwood with a spectacular splash. Then gripping the trophy tightly in my jaws I dashed back to where the men were standing, and heard Sam Wilson talking in low, serious tones.
My heart sank as I trotted up all dripping and salty to drop the stick like an offering at Robert’s booted feet.
Sam Wilson–who, for all his understandable lack of warmth toward me, was a fair and honest man–was carefully explaining to Robert in his slow Outer Banks accent that he wanted it clearly understood I would never be useful as a hunting dog.
“He will not stand to guns,” Wilson proclaimed, casting a disgusted look my way. What he meant, of course, was that the sound of a hunter’s rifle going off just above my head did remind me of that horrible night.
For though Sam trained me to know that the dreaded explosion would come and not harm me, and I could always steel myself to point the game and stand rock steady, ultimately the awful boom of the rifle shot never failed to take me by surprise, hurting my sensitive ears and throwing me into a blind panic from which my only instinct was to flee.
On that fateful November morning, after endless working sessions on home ground Sam Wilson had taken me along with my brothers and sisters out of our kennel for what he called a test. A test of what we had no idea but leaving the pen that had become a constant reminder of our terror initially brought all of us joy. And we happily jumped into the bed of Sam’s beat-up old pick-up truck.
The trip was fairly short although it was a place none of us recognized. Sam allowed us to run free amid the tall trees, frosty fallen leaves crunching under our paws. After a short time of sniffing out a banquet of wildlife we were all called back to the truck. Sam stood next to the battered old vehicle with a the shotgun on his shoulder. The sight made my stomached start to churn.
Once we were all standing at point around him, amid the strange surroundings, Sam raised the gun and fired a single shot into the air, a shot that sent all of us fleeing like frightened squirrels into the sun-dappled autumn woods.
His normally sallow cheeks as crimson as ripe apples, poor Sam had been forced to drag us all cowering from the woods, knowing that his months of breeding and training were a total loss and that not one of us would ever be a gun dog. His anger at the time, energy and money lost was palpable even to seven terrified pups. There would never be a champion hunter among us.
“I do not hunt,” Robert quietly replied after Sam Wilson had said his piece. Then he bent and gently ran his fingers through the thick mat of wet fur just behind my neck. “Nor do I ever intend to hunt,” he continued. “But I am going to be wintering over here on the Cape this year,” He jerked his chin toward the gray shingled cottage half-hidden among the blowing pines, “and I think that I’d enjoy having this little guy around to keep me company.”
Sam Wilson nodded and cast a dour look at the pair of us, the dog that couldn’t stand to guns and the strange young man who didn’t hunt and, to boot, was planning on spending a harsh Cape Fear winter in an isolated cottage on this remote coastal island, far from others of his kind. “Suit yourself,” he said in a tone that seemed to imply that Robert and I deserved each other.
Until that moment, I had believed that I completely understood Sam Wilson’s motive for bringing me out to this desolate island and its strange inhabitant. It had seemed obvious that he was hoping to recoup some portion of the feed and vet bills he had lavished on what had turned out to be a useless hunting dog by selling me to a lonely man who wanted only companionship. Therefore I was puzzled when the handful of wrinkled bills that Robert offered him were gruffly refused.
“Nossir,” said Sam Wilson, sweeping his old felt hat from his pale, balding head and looking down uneasily at his feet. “I could not take money from a man who has given what you have given for your country. The whelp is yours if you want him.” And with that, he clapped the hat back onto his head, climbed into his old truck and wished Robert a Merry Christmas as he drove away.
“Well now, you’re the first good thing I’ve ever gotten out of that damned war and a Christmas present to boot,” Robert laughed as we watched Sam’s pickup disappear behind a line of dunes. When it was gone, he looked down at me with a grin.
“Now what shall I call you?” he asked and bent to retrieve the soggy stick of driftwood hurling it skyward once more. I joyously streaked down to the beach with the chilly November sunlight flashing like quicksilver against my glistening amber coat.
“Meteor!” I heard him call as I plunged headlong into the bone-chilling maw of a towering Atlantic comber. “Seeing you run like that reminds me of a meteor streaking into the sea.”
Thus I got my human name. And thus began my life here at Sea Pines Cottage. It has been a life that I would not exchange for any other, even were the Maker in His wisdom to grant me an endless span of seasons in this world.
The release of my next book is delayed due to several different events, the most disruptive being a major plumbing failure in my condo, resulting in damage on all three floors. Walls and flooring were removed and it took weeks to dry out and then had to be put back together. Something on which I am still working. It appears that it will be a very long process. Living in a hotel for several weeks without my computer meant limited access; alas my ‘antique’ laptop and spotty wifi made maintaining the blog a bit more than a challenge. But I’m home now and putting it all back together, albeit slowly. Thankfully, my Rambi cat seems no worse for the wear and is back to normal.
Water pooled between drywall and latex paint
Down to the bare wood
Down to the ribs
On to more cheerful things. While the launch of my newest book, Days of Future Past, is delayed for another couple of months, I couldn’t be happier with it, thanks to the help I got from Victoria Lucas, my story consultant and Julie Luongo, my editor. And Janet Taylor (of Pride and Prejudice calendar fame) is creating the cover. Isn’t it beautiful? And wait ’till you see the back, it’s amazing. A picture created almost entirely by Janet. A wall to a secret garden.
What better time plan Elizabeth and Fitzilliam’s wedding, which mean Jane and Charles’ as well. This post ran on the Austen Authors site a couple of years ago but thought it deserved an encore. Hope you enjoy it.
Good gracious! Lord bless me! Only think! Dear me! Mr. Darcy!
And so began the planning for the double wedding of Mrs. Bennet’s two most deserving daughters. After the initial shock of learning that Lizzy would be marrying Mr. Darcy with his 10,000 a year and the possibility of a special license there is little doubt that foremost in her mind were the wedding clothes.
The marriages of her two oldest children to two of England’s most eligible bachelors would have put Mrs. Bennet over the moon and in a mood to plan an event to rival a royal wedding. As for the gowns it is clear that her preference would be specially made, elaborate white gowns, not the blue of the middle classes. And while Jane and Elizabeth would have objected to something as ostentatious or extravagant as silk and satin they would have conceded to specially made gowns of fine white muslin or lawn, perhaps embellished with white on white embroidery. As Jane and Elizabeth had their feet planted firmly on the ground, they would have chosen dresses that could be used after the wedding.
White was used not to represent the bride’s purity—as Austen said in P&P, “loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable; one false step involves her in endless ruin…”— virginity was assumed; white was the color of celebration and certainly Jane and Elizabeth would want to celebrate their marriages.
It isn’t a stretch to assume Mrs. Bennet would have wanted her girls to wear Mechlin lace veils. Originally veils were meant to hide the bride from evil spirits but by the 19th century they served no useful purpose. The eldest Bennet daughters would be opposed to the extravagance of Mechlin lace. No doubt they felt that bonnets would be sufficient, however, once again in the spirit of celebration they might have agreed to drape netting over their bonnets in deference to God and to make their mother happy. So Jane and Elizabeth would have worn white gowns, bonnets with veils, gloves and white satin slippers.
How our grooms would dress for their Regency wedding was, of course, a direct result of Beau Brumell’s style which became the standard in formal wear the world over. It would start with a white shirt in either linen or muslin and black or buff breeches buckled just below the knee. Natural silk stockings were set off by black pumps as boots were only for day wear so not considered formal. A black cut-away or swallowtail coat with self-covered buttons was left open to show off the waistcoat which could have been black but for their wedding certainly Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley would have worn white made of marcella for a quilted look. A white silk cravat for both of our grooms would have completed the ensemble.
Jewelry for bride and groom was a minor consideration. The bride might wear a lovelier, such as a cross on a necklace. The groom would probably wear a watch and fob and possibly, particularly in the case of Mr. Darcy, a signet ring. Both grooms would, during the ceremony give their brides a ring but it would not be an exchange for men did not wear wedding rings.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged” that the wedding ring was a sign of ownership but the circle has always meant eternity as far back as the Egyptians and Romans. It represented the sun and the moon to many civilizations. By the late 18th century the Church of England had made it a requirement during a wedding ceremony. The groom must give his bride a ring as a symbol of love and devotion. The Church also required the reading of the banns for three consecutive weeks which delayed weddings for a month or more. In that case a groom might give his intended a promise gift, like a ring, as a sign of his commitment. I can imagine Mr. Darcy presenting Elizabeth with such a ring, perhaps with a diamond to represent his indestructible love. Mr. Bingley might do the same but give Jane a ruby set in gold because the ruby represents the heart. Both gentlemen would give their brides a gold wedding band to show their never ending love.
Weddings as events were not the huge, over-the-top festivities of today. The wedding was simply the ceremony that solidified the marriage contract. Even in cases like Jane and Elizabeth who had true love matches, only family and closest friends would be invited. The invitation would not have been printed or engraved but hand written by the bride or her attendant.
It was traditional, as it is today, for a bride to have an attendant. Often a favorite sister, something Jane and Elizabeth would be unable to do for each other. However, for Elizabeth, I believe, her first and only choice would be Georgiana Darcy.
Jane’s decision was a bit more complex. The logical choice was Caroline Bingley but Caroline was party to Darcy’s attempt to separate Charles and Jane and had been very unpleasant when they met in London. Although Mr. Darcy apologized for his presumption and interference in the scheme; Caroline never did. But Jane’s sweet and gentle nature would never have allowed resentment to over-power her love for Charles and asking Caroline would be a compliment to him.
Now, whether Caroline would have accepted is another question entirely. Having to attend a woman she felt was beneath her brother and to be involved in the wedding of the man she wanted to marry would have been more than difficult for her. And as we know she did not hide her feelings. But Austen tells us that “Miss Bingley, although deeply mortified by Darcy’s marriage thought it advisable to retain the right of visiting at Pemberley so dropped all her resentment.” Keeping that in mind we can guess that, if asked, Caroline would have attended Jane.
As to the wedding guests, immediate family would have been present and few others. As I mentioned earlier weddings were not particularly important events, it was the marriage that was important. Obviously parents and siblings attended but after that there are a few obvious choices for the wedding of Jane and Elizabeth Bennet to Fitzwilliam Darcy and Charles Bingley.
Jane Austen tells us that Elizabeth and Darcy really loved the Gardiners and were on the most intimate terms with them, so they very likely attended the wedding. We know, too that the Collinses were at Lucas Lodge to avoid Rosings Park and the exceedingly angry Lady Catherine. And we know that Elizabeth was particularly happy to have her closest friend with her at such a happy time so can assume that Charlotte and Mr. Collins (a cousin of Mr. Bennet) also attended the wedding. If Col. Fitzwilliam was in the country he certainly would have attended. Mr. and Mrs. Hurst and Caroline, staying at Netherfield would have been in attendance.
Jane also says that Mr. Darcy was so offended by Lady Catherine’s abusive language when she replied to his announcement that it was some time and Elizabeth’s persuasion that finally prevailed upon him to reconcile with his aunt, so we know that she did not attend the wedding and certainly Darcy’s cousin, Anne, would not have attended without her mother.
Like the wedding veil, the bouquet was meant to keep evil spirits at bay and was originally garlic and dill (the smell I assume is what kept those pesky spirits away); by the Georgian and Regency eras brides carried bouquets strictly because of tradition and had gone from odious to fragrant. Since florists weren’t the norm for wedding flowers, bridal bouquets were chosen from what was available in the garden. For Jane and Elizabeth I’m hoping that there might still have been some pink blooms on the rose vine that climbed over the kitchen door and maybe even the last of the bush roses. Perhaps the mild weather had allowed the violas to stay in bloom and the tiny purple and yellow blossoms might be used as filler. If no flowers remained in the mid-November garden a simple nosegay of lavender would suffice. The other option might conceivably have been that Mr. Darcy had flowers sent from his greenhouses. However, Pemberley was about 180 miles from Longbourn and cut flowers transported that distance might not arrive in the best condition.
I have been unable to find any specifics on the bridal processional for Georgian or Regency weddings; however in the country the wedding processional seems to have consisted of most of the town’s people walking with the wedding party through the village. When they reached the church the bride and groom met at the door and walked in together. They were followed by those attending the ceremony. A father walking the bride down the aisle and ‘giving her away’ is a relatively modern element. In medieval time, before the bride and groom walked down the aisle, the father of the bride gave the groom one of his daughter’s shoes as a symbol that he was turning over responsibility to the man.
After the ceremony the bridge and groom would sign the parish registry and then go to the home of the bride’s parents for the wedding breakfast. In the middle of the table as centerpiece and focal point was the wedding cake.
The compliments of his neighbours were over; he was no longer teased by being wished joy of so sorrowful an even; and the wedding-cake, which had been a great distress to him, was all eat up. from Emma
So we know Austen considered cake an integral part of the wedding celebration. Cake, in fact, had been a wedding tradition for centuries, but not how you might imagine. Small pieces of cake were given to guests who broke them over the heads of the bride and groom or threw the crumbs at them, representing fertility, as rice and birdseed did in the 20th century. By the 18th century throwing the cake had stopped but the tradition of cake was so entrenched that it was served to the guests to eat. Sometimes a very large cake was made, not sure what it was supposed to represent but I found a recipe that called for 20 pounds of flour… that’s a big cake. If these huge cakes were common I suspect it is the reason tiered cakes were invented. The smaller layers make it easier to handle but still created a large cake. Before the invention of the tiered cake, the large cake was cut into small pieces for ease of serving. At some point in time a French chef decided to stack the small pieces into a mound, glaze with sugar and milk and decorate with marzipan flowers rather than having unadorned cake on the wedding table.
I’ll be giving away copies of The Man Who Loved Jane Austen and Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen to a commenter. If you’re international it will be eEditions and signed trade paperbacks for folks here in the US.
I’m completing the final edit of Days of Future Past, my next novel. Some of you may remember the original title as Physician, Heal Thyself. The story is about a psychiatrist who must come to terms with her past, present and future; all of which are inexplicably tied to one man.
While I finish writing, Janet Taylor is working on the cover which will include this painting (that I did not paint), and hopefully the book will release this summer.