Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Austen-tacious tea at Troy Public Library: Chilly temperatures not so important

Beautiful poster of the event from Troy Library

 In John Mullen's book, "What Matters in Jane Austen?:  Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved", Chapter 7 asks the question, "Why is weather important?" Although Mullan is directing this inquiry to the plot lines of Austen's novels, we saw applicability to the weather's importance with regards to a  Jane Austen tea talk - specifically this past Sunday as Barb's TEA Shop presented "An Austen-tacious Tea" at the Troy Public Library. With single digit temperatures and a threat of another snowfall this weekend, we wondered how many would venture out for tea and Austen. I'm happy to report, the library room was full and, at the end of the presentation, our teapots were depleted!

Almost ready to start as guests finish up in the tea line
We were thrilled to see such a great turnout on a chilly afternoon. Upon arrival, guests hung their coats on the back of their chairs and lined up for some hot and inviting Twinings tea (Jane's favorite!). Rachel (my daughter and business partner) served up the tea and after checking out the variety of tea cups attendees brought, I began the presentation.

Rachel serves guest Twining tea, Jane's favorite!
We touched upon Regency period influences, Austen residences, characters in her novels and even some Downton Abbey tie-ins. We covered a couple centuries in sixty minutes and, as always, the time travel goes by in warp speed. A great time with a delightful group of folks.

Our thanks to all who attended as well as Cassandra S., Librarian at TPL, who invited us to present this fun event.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Lord and Ladies get ready for the premier of Downton Abbey, Season Four

Ringing for Carson to serve tea during DA, Season 4
The countdown to Downton has begun! Tonight, the premiere of Downton Abbey, Season 4, debuts at 9:00 pm.  I shall join Lord Gulley in our drawing room this evening, seated comfortably between the fireplace and the flat screen TV, and ring Carson for a cup of tea. Months in anticipation, I am ready to rejoin the Crawfords as they once again meet life's challenges as the one-percenters of the Edwardian era.

Although fictional characters, they are as real to me as my own Lord Gulley, who, as of this month, may be truly addressed as "Lord" or "Laird", thanks to a Christmas gift of a small plot of land in Scotland, courtesy Highland Titles. (He may also be referred to as "The Much Honoured Gulley, Lord of Glencoe")

And, while we're talking Christmas gifts, I was the recipient of some wonderful DA-themed presents this year. I received the two books in the "Real Downton Abbey" series, written by the current Lady Carnarvon. The first is about Lady Alamina, who married the 5th Earl of Carnarvon and is the inspiration for the Downton Abbey family. (Much of the DA "upstairs" is filmed at the Carnarvon's estate, Highclere Castle.)

Lord Gulley , as estate owner, can empathize with Lord Grantham
The second book continues the family saga to the next generation, focusing on Lady Catherine who married Lady Alamina's son.  I have read the first one and enjoyed it greatly. It provides some interesting tidbits to the real-life aristocracy, however, be prepared for a lot of World War I history. The second half of the book spends a significant amount of time on the subject.

These books were a gift from my brother and sister-in-law and also came with a DA Christmas tree ornament that is pull bell, modeled after one in the servant's hall. I chose to mount this on my own front foyer wall and will ring for tea when necessary.

Another DA-inspired gift came from my other brother, Glenn, another family member who supports my addiction to this show.  This was a book, too, although, on the other end of the spectrum from real-life lords and ladies to an absurd, but hilarious parody, in the feline personification of the Crawley brood, entitled "Downton Tabby".

Studying up with DA books, from real-life lords to funny fat cats
Downton Tabby has all the silly things you might expect from a group of cats dressed in Edwardian garb with names like "Catson" for the head butler and "Tom 'Cat' Blarney", as the "chau-fur", but it also elicits some high-end wit with its insightful comparisons to the aristocracy and the lives of cats. Some of the basics for both groups:  "never do anything for yourself that someone else can do for you, get fed, groom, sleep, groom and, finally, loaf in a decorative chair in a highly charming manner."

My favorite page in Downton Tabby, however, is the diagram for the proper table setting. It includes not only a napkin and place card, but a stoat fork, vole fork, mouse knife, hair plate, four glasses for milk and one milk goblet. A tablescape that would make even  Grumpy Cat smile.

With my Downton Abbey collection close by and a warm cup of tea in hand,  the Lord Gulley and I will tune it at 9:00 pm to watch our favorite Masterpiece Theater drama begin its fourth season. It is how we will conclude our week-end, whatever that may be!