Thursday, January 27, 2011


I am very much obliged to you all for examining my writings as I am sure you could be otherwise engaged. We had a most enjoyable evening last discussing Emma at the book club meeting! Everyone was very amiable and in high spirits. 
All of us in our Regency inspired clothes
My very old version of all six of Jane's main novels.

I came across this joke which I found extremely diverting about what  Miss Bates answering machine message would be:

"It's so obliging of you to call, but then we have so many obliging friends that we are truly grateful, not that we wouldn't be grateful just for our health, but all these friends are so kind, and I know that you will forgive us for not being here when you called, except that my mother might be in but she can't answer the phone because she's deaf you know, not that she has anything else to disturb her, in fact she's remarkably healthy for her age, and she would answer but she probably hasn't heard the bell, so I'm sure you won't mind, and where was I? Oh yes, if you'd be so good as to leave your message just after the beep, that's the fourth long beep, not the first one, there are three short beeps and then a long one, that's the one to speak after, otherwise the machine won't record your message and we'd be ever so sad if we didn't receive it because I'm sure that it's very interesting, and I will call you just as soon as I get in ..."

There is nothing like reading it from an antique copy, it lends something special to the experience!
 The evening was so enjoyable with lots of lively discussion on the characters in Jane Austen's Emma. I felt like I was right at home talking about some of my very good friends. We started off talking about which Emma character we'd like to be and which was our favorite. Everyone agreed that Mr. Knightly was one of the favorite characters, however most would like to be Jane Fairfax and some Emma.
Which was your favorite?
A big topic of discussion was whether we actually liked Emma. She is very different than the main characters in Austen's other novels. About Emma, Jane Austen famously said, "I'm going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like. " I think in some ways, perhaps Jane wishes she could have had Emma's life. 

What do you think of Emma?

Emma is the character that grows on you throughout the book but can be hard to like at first. There were moments where I didn't love her her and hated how much she felt superior to those around her especially those not so fortunate as herself. However she is not above recognizing her flaws especially when they are pointed out by Mr. Knightly. We all agreed that when you see her feeling bad for mistakes she made and wanting to improve herself, we can't help but like her.

"Austen makes an unusual choice by selecting as her main character the most privileged woman in the book, the woman with "little to distress or vex her." The Jane Fairfax story line (which W.J. Harvey has called the "shadow novel-within-the-novel") has more traditional elements of tension and drama than Emma's story. Austen's own publisher traitorously said of Emma, "it wants incident and romance." "

Do you agree? Would you have rather read about Jane? 
A theme in every Austen story line is the classes of society and how they work.  In Emma, I thought it was very interesting how she talks about being single and never marrying, which seems quite opposite to the other stories where it was almost a necessary to marry. The difference is: Emma is rich. She will inherit 30,000 pounds a year! Emma states it very clearly to Harriet in chapter 10, "Never mind, Harriet, I shall not be a poor old maid; and it is poverty only which makes celibacy contemptible to a generous public! A single woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable, old maid! the proper sport of boys and girls; but a single woman, of good fortune, is always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as any body else."
I thought it was interesting how she looked down upon Mr. Elton but then was upset that he thought himself above Harriet. 
"But—that he should talk of encouragement, should consider her as aware of his views, accepting his attentions, meaning (in short), to marry him!—should suppose himself her equal in connection or mind!—look down upon her friend, so well understanding the gradations of rank below him, and be so blind to what rose above, as to fancy himself shewing no presumption in addressing her!—It was most provoking."

My sister did all our hair and I thought it turned out very authentic!
This was supposed to the serious one but a few smiles crept in

I had so much fun dressing up, besides not being able to breathe!!

Ready for tea and stimulating conversation

I'd love to hear your thoughts and discussion on Emma!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Got my tea, got my popcorn, snuggling in my pajamas, ready to relax and watch.....the Food Network! This is what I've been doing the last few nights. One of my new favorites is Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and Giada at Home. It's really inspired me to explore more of my Italian heritage in some more specialty dishes. We do a lot of Italian but I want to try some new combination that I wouldn't normally think of!

I always make my own pasta sauce and every year at Christmas we make raviolis and have the leftover dough for noodles! Now I'm craving some homemade noodles, bruschetta and Stromboli...just a few things that caught my eye last night!

One of the things I've been really into lately is trying different toppings on slices of toasted bread One of my favorites is to drizzle with olive oil and top with fresh basil, salami, prosciutto, fresh mozzerella or provolone and top with balsamic, salt and pepper. (mouth watering!)

Once a week or so, I have my sister over and we make some yummy snacks and watch Jane Austen or period movies while enjoying tea and whatever creations we have. Last week we had hummus and chips, salsa with avacados and of course tea. Along with that we had a twist on bruschetta and cucumber sandwiches. We toasted Artisian bread, spread cream cheese on it and topped it with tomato and cucumbers. It was addicting!!

So tonight I am going to make Stromboli for dinner. It's kinda like a large pizza pocket that you slice. I have salami, sauce, mozzarella and I just need to make some pizza dough. I am making my own recipe by using the ingredients I have and referring to this Emeril Lagasse recipe for the times and tempuratures.

For the dough I am using my mom's pizza dough recipe. She makes some of the best pizza and her dough is the key. When I was younger, we used my to live near an Amish community and we would make pizza and sell it to all the Amish bachelors! They loved it!

The recipe is rather cryptic but here it is:

Flour-few cups
1 T yeast
1 1/2 c. hot water
Add flour
knead till it's not sticky, not stiff

I let it rise for an hour, punched it down and after filling it, let it rise another 10 min. I layered mozzarella cheese, sauce, minced green peppers, olives and hard salami.

After baking it for about 20 minutes at 375, I put some Parmesan cheese on top and let it get nice and melted. Really added another layer of flavor that was really good!

In addition to trying this new recipe, I decided to bake Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, Oatmeal crasin and rice krispie treats!! With the help of my 5 year old of course!

For the chocolate chip cookies, I made the recipe on the back of the Toll House chocolate chip bag and just added about 1/2 cup of organic creamy peanut butter to the mixture before I added flour. I also cut down the the sugar and you can't tell the difference! I take them out of the oven when they are still gooey cause I like them soft and chewy.

 For the oatmeal Crasin cookies I used a recipe from a vintage Better Homes and Garden Jr. cookbook. I love the old cookbook because it's so simple for kids to follow and almost never uses a mix so most everything is made from scratch. Since my son was helping me, it was the perfect choice and a great recipe. I cut down on the sugar and added some ground flax seed to make them a little healthier.



I didn't think it was possible to mess up rice krispies but for some reason they turned out a little hard. Still good but just not as soft as I would like them. I think I melted the marshmallows too much first!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Book club

I'm so excited about our upcoming book club meeting on Jane Austen's Emma!! We are meeting on the 21st and we are going to have a themed dinner with tea, china and fancy sandwiches. We may even dress up if we can find the appropriate attire. I hope you are enjoying it as well and are ready with your comments and discussion!!

I thought I'd mention this new Emma movie that came out by BBC Masterpiece Theatre. It is full length and very accurate to the story unlike the Gweneth Paltrow version which cuts out alot of details. A must see for any Austen fan. As someone who has read all the Austen books and watched almost every version of the movies, this was one of my favorites. Of course the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice is the all time best!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Back on Track...and the story of the Thai food.

So between the holidays and several bad bouts of the flu, I wasn't really feeling up to trying any new recipes!!
However, this week I decided to get back on track and actually try my Pad Thai recipe! I was extremely frustrated because I could not find all the ingredients I needed. One of the downsides to living in remote Montana...they just don't have certain ethnic items!! I found some substitutions online and started making the sauce.
I substituted the white vinegar for  tamarind juice and brown sugar with a little corn syrup for the palm sugar. Mixed with the fish sauce, I started it simmering. The smell that began to permeate the house was something akin to old fish and acid that burned your all the way up your nose. I kept thinking it would get better as it cooked but when my husband and son were walking around with noses pinched I decided if we couldn't smell it, we probably couldn't eat it!! I finally gave up and we ended up ordering Chinese food!! Thai food has gone on the back burner to try another day!

One of my early Christmas presents was a chest freezer and it has revolutionized my shopping and cooking. I actually have room to buy in bulk when it's on sale and get larger items like roasts etc. I now have a beautiful ham roast and three whole chickens waiting for something special.

For this weeks recipe I decided to try this delicious looking chicken tortilla soup from the Recipe Shoebox Blog. It looks pretty simple but full of the yummy spicy flavors I've been craving. Let me know what you think!!

Tortilla Chicken Soup

1 onion, chopped
2 Tbs. oil
4 cups water

4 bouillon cubes (I use 2 chicken, 2 beef)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. cumin

1 Tbs. chili powder
1 bay leaf

1 can black beans
2 chicken breasts, cubed (I either use a Costco can of shredded chicken or leftover chicken chunks from another meal)
4 corn tortillas, torn in pieces
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies (or regular diced tomatoes if you prefer)
Desired garnishments: sour cream, shredded cheese, crushed tortilla chips.

Saute chopped onion in hot oil. Cook until soft. [I usually skip the onion part and add some dried onions in with the rest of the ingredients] Add water, bouillon, beans, spices, tortillas, chicken, and tomatoes. Heat until boiling. If you are using pre-cooked chicken then it's ready to serve immediately, otherwise simmer until chicken is cooked through. Serve hot with sour cream, grated cheese, and corn tortilla chips. Serves 4.