Mug o’ Tea Treats Christmas Gift

Christmas is coming!

And I don’t know about you all, but I’m trying to finish my shopping as early as I can. And I thought I would share this fun little gift with you all. Every year my coworkers and I exchange Christmas gifts and every year I try to do something different. I’ve made cookies, ornaments, did chocolate chip cookie mix in a mason jar, sugar cookie mix in a mason jar paired with cookie cutters, etc. Last year I did the sugar cookie mix in a jar when on pinterest an image popped up this idea for “Mason Jar Tea Time”  from Thirsty for Tea. I really liked the concept of having the teabags, honey, scones, jam, etc. all in a jar with a cute ribbon, and I pinned it to my pinterest board for next year.

“Next year” rolled around and I still liked the idea, but with COVID-19, the homemade scones had to go.

I also found these mugs at the 99¢ store and thought they were so cute, I purchased all they had and decided to use them instead of the mason jars.

That’s Yuletide in the background.

I put in each mug:

  • Honey sticks (16¢ each)
  • 3 Teabags (I purchased Bigelow Assorted Herbal/Tisane Teas for $3 [about 17¢ each] along with some Stash teas at 21¢ each)
  • Lorna Doones (I bought these to replace the homemade scones and they were 50¢ each)

So the total for these little gifts ranged from $2.16-$2.28. You of course can do exactly what I did or add more tea, honey, tea treats, or even an infuser if you want. It’s a very easy and cute gift to give and as everything is individually wrapped or can be washed, it is perfectly safe for COVID-19.

For more tea posts, go to Countdown to Christmas: Tea Advent Calendar Swap 2019

For more Christmas posts, go to Holiday Mix Tape

Creepy Demon Mask & Haunted Hampstead Heath House of Horrors!

So this year’s theme is “mysteries” in honor of Agatha Christie’s novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles turning 100 years old. To really have this theme be present I decided to review a mystery every month…somehow and ideally connecting it to Jane Austen.

Mystery, you say?

In January, I wasn’t sure what to do when I received a goblin in my mailbox.

It turned out to be a a mysterious package from The Mysterious Package Company

Ah, mysterious

So the first package seemed to be saying that there is something wrong with 27 East Heath Road. The architect, Henry Griggs, had been going crazy trying to finish building the house, after his wife died-using all his money. He even felt as if something was there making him continue, something altering his plans, something controlling him. The house was almost complete, but Griggs has descended into some kind of madness. He ends up putting his daughter in an orphanage and Griggs disappears, presumed dead.

Then in the second package, the house is sold to Dr. Elliot, a physician who likes to experiment on himself with his tinctures.

He has a strange patient, Beth Siggers (could it be ElizaBeth Griggs?) who acts off in his home. He also starts seeing something in his mirror. He died from overdose…or murder?

Hmm…

Then the house was bought by magician’s assistant, Héléne Ashworth and her magician husband The Great Goodyear, Claude Goodyear. They found out about it from her friend, Lilibeth. Helene loves the house, espechially the conservatory as she can grow all her plants. But then strange things happen-other plants are being planted, she starts having trouble remembering, she feels a presence in the house, and she thinks she sees something. She starts searching and dies of fright…or was she murdered?

Hmm…

So now for the third package.

This didn’t come with too many things:

  • A wooden box that says Elise Face Cosmetiques (the company Héléne Ashworth ordered her stage makeup from)
  • A demon mask
  • An article “Haunted Hampstead Heath House of Horror!” from Grime News
  • A letter from Elizabeth Griggs
  • A “bloody” hatpin
  • Three photographs
  • The blueprints to Griggs’ Estate

So when I got this package the first thing I had to look at was what was in the box-the big thing under the letter and photographs. It was this big, creepy, demon mask thing.

Since then I have put it back in its box as I have no clue what to do with it. It is teriffying.

SUPER creeped

Like 1/4 of me wanted to put it on, but the other 3/4 was terrified that if I did my face would change like in that one Twilight Zone episode, “The Masks”.

So creepy. Put it back in the box!

The letter is from Elizabeth Griggs written to her dead father July 29, 1897

Elizabeth Griggs has finally come into her inheritance and has purchased the one thing she has always wanted, the Griggs Estate. It turns out my suspicions were right! She admits that she created these other personas-Beth Spriggs, Lilibet, the “psychic” Mrs. Alizbeta Divak to protect herself. Now Elizabeth is finally herself and has her home.

Elizabeth shares that she was the one who saw the goblin first and received a letter from it, but her father figured out the clues to decoding it. (So the thing must have already been there-the thing that possessed her father.)

Elizabeth loves being in the house although there were a ton of changes made to it after she was sent to the orphanage and she enjoys every minute of rediscovering “her old friend”.

Haunted house!

The newspaper is an article about another murder in the Griggs estate. It was published September 13, 1987.

Last month London was scandalized by two mysterious and bloody deaths, Miss Elizabeth Griggs (24) was putting on her evening dress when a hideous man in a devilish mask and tattered nightshirt came crashing through the mirror.

Elizabeth had been in the middle of setting her hat and instinctively took the hatpin (that’s where the hatpin comes from!!!) and stabbed him in the throat, but even though she attacked him his body falling forward caused her to crash into the fireplace mantle and she died.

As Henry Griggs lay dying he croaked out “Lizzy! It is you!” (So I Was right, he was hiding in the house all along.)

But even though the two are dead and gone there are still some strange noises, banging, ghastly cries, etc. (It lives!)

Ghosts? Demons?

The blueprints are fascinating as the estate is huge with all kinds of secret hatches and passageways, and the secret language I need to decode.

Wow!

The first photograph is of a man in the mask I now own-Henry Griggs. With more secret writing on the back.

Hmm…what does it say?

The second is of a man dead in a car-the doctor, Dr Elliot! On the back it says:

“His last dose

Friday, February, 12 1892”

The third photograph is of a woman on the bed and a figure in the mirror. But if Griggs is taking the photograph-who’s in the mirror?

On the back it says:
She’ll snoop no more

Monday, January 18, 1897″

It’s Héléne, oh poor Héléne.

Okay, so at this point it is time to decode these messages. I must know the truth!

Mystery, you say?

I just spent three hours decoding this when I realize I did’t read all of Elizabeth’s letter. She has the decoder on the back! Ugh.

AAAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGHHH!!!!!!

I feel so dumb-no I feel like Julie when she didn’t read all the instructions in Jumanji. 

Well at least I feel like an awesome decoder person.

DECODING

So I put the quote of what came before the secret message, and then under in bold the decoded message.

PACKAGE ONE

Forfeiture Notice

“This property was transferred to City Bank, Threadneedle Street, Corner of Finch Lane to be liquidated forthwith.”

YOU CANNOT TAKE ONE AND NOT THE OTHER

Orphanage Records

NO. 324   Surname: Griggs   Christian Name: Elizabeth  Age: 7

School Attendance: Yes

Pecuniary Circumstances: Inheritance  £250 donated as Fees

Date of Admittance: May 1881 Remarks: Trunk, Impertinent

SHE IS SAFE NOW IT CANNOT GET HER

Photograph of Elizabeth and her Father

“Last Day Together”

LAST DAY FOR THIS FACE (That must be referring to Mr. Griggs as he must have started wearing the mask after this.)

PACKAGE TWO

Deed of Land

“Received in full satisfaction by John W. Peterborough, City Bank Partner from Dr. W. Elliot Fifth day of November in the year of our Lord 1888 does give, grant, bargain, sell, and confirm the property of house, gardens, and environs of the entity of Lot 27 East Heath Road, Hampstead Heath, London, United Kingdom—unto the said Dr. Elliot.”

MY HOUSE, NONE OTHER WILL KEEP IT LONG (Uh, oh-that is not good.)

Baldwin’s Physician’s Guide

Extreme Desespoir Eufferfte Verzweifftung

HAVE I SEEN THIS FACE IN THE MIRROR?

The Chimes by Charles Dickens

“Monsters uncouth and wild, arise in premature, imperfect resurrection; the several parts and shapes of different things are joined and mixed by chance..”

“Haunt and hunt him…”

“Bleak his slumbers…”

“he saw this WITH Goblin sight…”

“…saw these creatures, not only among sleeping men but waking also…”

I SEE MYSELF EVERYWHERE

Dr. Elliot’s Tincture

You’ve got the right bottle, Doctor.

SWITCHED THEM (Oh, no! That’s how the doctor died!)

Arsenic Poison

Are You Sure?

DONE

Elise Cosmetiques Label

You think to hide yourself from me?

THEIR LAST PERFORMANCE WILL BE MY GREATEST WORK (He must be talking about when he storms in their psychic reading and scares everyone.)

PACKAGE THREE

Griggs’ Estate Blueprints

There are a huge message and then a bunch of little ones. The big message:

THIS HOUSE TOOK MY WIFE, IT TOOK MY DAUGHTER, IT ENTRAPPED MY SOUL. WILL IT EVER LET ME REST?

Now to start with the rooms

Conservatory

PLUCK THEM OUT. POISON 

Kitchen

THEY ENCROACH LIKE WEEDS

Dining

INTERLOPERS

Bed room

I AM WATCHING

Hallway/stairs

MINE MINE MINE MINE MINE MINE MINE MINE MINE 

Secret Room in Library

WHO IS THE ARCHITECT OF THIS MADNESS

Bedroom

NO ROOM

Bedroom

IN THE WALLS, UNDER THE FLOOR, IN THE BETWEEN, BETWEEN THE SOUL AND THE STAIRCASE

Sunroom

THEY MUST NEVER FIND

Another Secret Room

SANCTUARY

Reading Room

DRIVE THEM OUT 

The photograph of Henry Griggs

WHY DO THEY COME

You must act, again

I’VE WATCHED THEM ALL COME AND MADE THEM ALL GO

You have done well.

AM I A GHOST

Only you know what you are

I HAVE MADE MY OWN FACE

You are what you have become

AM I DANGEROUS

Dangerous? Oh Yes

I AM GRIGGS THE GRINNING GOBLIN THE LOATHSOME FIEND THE GRUESOME PHANTOM YOU AND I ARE ONE

Always

THE ONE WHO COMES AND GOES IS IT MY DAUGHTER

She is the last

IF HER FACE LIES SHE WILL DIE LIKE THE REST

One way or the other, I will be free

And it is time to bring out the Demon mask again, *shudders*.

THEY SEE ME THROUGH YOU

If I was a Winchester I know what I would do with all this stuff:

Salt and burn it

But I on the hand will keep everything, because they are cool. Except for the demon mask, I need to find a new home for it.

For more from The Mysterious Package Company, go to An Insane Doctor, A Hysterical Herbalist, and Murder in a Magician’s Mansion + A Possible Persuasion Reference?

For more mysteries, go to Catherine Morland’s Reading List: House of Salt and Sorrows

For more haunted houses, go to They’re Coming for Me Now…And Then They’ll Come for You: House on Haunted Hill (1959)

 

An Insane Doctor, A Hysterical Herbalist, and Murder in a Magician’s Mansion + A Possible Persuasion Reference?

Ready for any case

So this year’s theme is “mysteries” in honor of Agatha Christie’s novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles turning 100 years old. To really have this theme be present I decided to review a mystery every month…somehow and ideally connecting it to Jane Austen.

Mystery, you say?

In January, I wasn’t sure what to do when I received a goblin in my mailbox.

It turned out to be a a mysterious package from The Mysterious Package Company

Ah, mysterious

So the last package seemed to be saying that there is something wrong with 27 East Heath Road

Haunted house!

The architect, Henry Griggs, had been going crazy trying to finish building the house, after his wife died-using all his money. He even felt as if something was there making him continue, something altering his plans, something controlling him.

The house was almost complete, but Griggs has descended into some kind of madness.

“The madness in the walls must not escape…I fear I shall be gone altogether…I fear harm may come to her [Lizzy]  if she is not sent to safety.”

He ends up putting his daughter in an orphanage and Griggs disappears, presumed dead.

Or is it?!

This package contained a lot of items and goes on a bit:

  • 1 Deed
  • 1 Letter from Dr. Jack S. Aigner
  • 4 Small Memorandum/ Doctor’s notes from Dr. William Elliot
  • Arsenic Druggist Note
  • A Page from Baldwin’s Physician’s Guide
  • 1 Large Memorandum/ Doctor’s notes from Dr. William Elliot
  • Dr. Elliott’s Tincture Receipt
  • 1 Poster for The Great Goodyear
  • 1 Great Goodyear flip book that showcases two of his illusions
  • Garden Diary of Héléne Ashworth
  • Elise Face Cosmetiques Label
  • Newspaper Clipping
  • A page from Charles Dickens’ The Chimes

So first of all, I saw Dr. Walter Elliott on the letters:

And as a Jane Austen fan my mind went:

This is 1888, I am going to believe this is Mr. Elliot’s great or great-great grandson, named after Sir Walter. I mean I don’t know if he married Mrs. Clay, but I do know that eventually he would have to secure his family line and inheritance.

So Dr. Walter Elliot, descendent of Mr. Elliot, has purchased 27 East Heath Road and everything inside the building for £420 sterling. I think he will regret this…

So Dr. Elliot has a conservatory and grows herbs but according to his former instructor Dr. Jack S. Aigner, Dr. Elliot is sensitive, insecure of whether or not he is a good doctor, creates different tonics and medicines; AND medicates/tests himself. Uh, oh. Oh no, that does not sound good.

Dr. Aiger mentions the room he is using to treat patients and that it holds a mirror, but it is placed strange on the wrong wall. It should be behind the patient, not in front, but it will be good if he wants to try self-hypnosis. There is a young girl he is trying to help that is an interesting case. Hmm…could it be Elizabeth Griggs?

Then we have Dr. Elliot’s notes on the patient, although not all of them. He mysteriously chose to remove the notes in his patient from September 1889-October 1891, us picking it up in October 1891.

His patient is interesting…she wants to be in the room alone and when he stepped out as she said she heard footfalls in hallway, she moved the flowers in the office, why?

She likes the tincture he gave her, which pleases him as he is really getting the use out of his conservatory.

The next notes are from February 1889, and we are given that the name is on Beth Siggers 15 years old. The DOB is inked out, but we know it is 1874. Could this be Elizabeth Griggs? Just her name changed so the Doctor doesn’t connect it to the architect if the house?

Hmm…

Beth comes to see Dr. Elliot because she is suffering headaches and shortness of breath, but when she came in she would not sit, instead touching and knocking into everything-walls, tables, the mirror, etc. Searching…but for what? He thinks she faked the illness but why? He gives her some tincture and she leaves.

Weird…

March 1889

Beth continues to return to the Doctor’s office, but every time she has a different ailment. Obviously she is suffering from a mental issue rather than a physical ones, but what and why?

She returns another time and says she left her bag behind, but when he finds her he sees she isn’t in the reception area but on the main staircase as she got “turned around”. Strange behavior, the doctor prescribes tonic.

Hmmm…

April 1889

She seems much better, although she is fixated on the mirror. The doctor looked at it and thought he saw a face in it, but that is just nonsense. He gives her 1/2 bottle of tonic.

She returns later complaining the tonic is too strong, and Dr. Elliot watered it down and 1/2 the dose-1/4 tonic. It’s strange, he notices the hallway door is ajar. That keeps happening every time Beth comes to his office.

Spooky…

May 1889

Beth returns, upset and acting strange: pulse elevated and pupils dilated. Dr. Elliot thinks it is just “spring fever” and gives previous mixture and dosage.

Hmm…strange

June 1889

Beth has been by again and Dr. Eliot thinks he saw a figure in the mirror, again. He has always hated the way the mirror was fixed in the wall. He searches, but there is nothing there. Dr. Elliot begins to worry that maybe the tincture he took and tested on himself might be giving him hallucinations.

July 1889

Dr. Elliot has decided to no longer see Beth. He tells her and later that evening he discovers she has hid in the parlour…weird why? She begs him to let her come back and he agrees for one more time.

NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!!! Something is wrong with this girl-you need to get way from her.

January 1892

Dr. Elliot feels watched and puzzles over the patient. Maybe he should stop seeing her, nothing seems to be changing.

YES!!! STOP SEEING HER SOMETHING ISN’T RIGHT!! But of course he won’t listen. He will continue and things are going to go wrong.

February 1892

Things are getting worse. After Beth comes poking on walls, knocking here and there, looking in corners, seeing things that aren’t there, Dr. Elliot too starts to feel as if there are spirits, ghosts, or something in the house. He tries to talk himself out of it but wonders.

He continues his experiments and taking the tincture. Oh no Dr. Elliot, don’t test on yourself!

In another set of letters from February 1892 to Jack, Dr. Elliot mentions a page with ciphers from Baldwin’s Physcian’s Guide. The page is included with these lines underlined:

“…what can be gained from inclusive speculation on the subject?”

“…physiognomy is mere judgement, assumption, and, in some cases, coincidence.”

On the back is an image that looks out of the Grimm texts and has some strange ciphers on it.

In his letter he has figured out what two of the symbols mean, an E & R.

Meanwhile, Griggs’ daughter, Beth, continues to see the doctor and every visit something odd happens. The flowers espechially always seem to be moved.

Beth keeps talking about something she sees under hypnosis so Dr. Elliot decides to test it and takes extra tincture.

Don’t Do it!!! Stop!!!! NOOOOOOOOO!!!!

There is a receipt for his tincture and on the back it says:

“You’ve got the right bottle, doctor.” With a bunch of symbols.

DON’T DO IT!!!!!

Dr. Elliot gets some cramps but about 30 mins in, he sees a figure in the mirror, or looking to come out of the mirror…

He leans toward the mirror and the figure was gone. He searched the house for it and found the dispensary unlocked, even though he always locks it.

He decides to increase the dose and do it again, adding to his letter later-he does and it says:

“I see it! It comes…”

And that is the end of Dr. Elliot. I’m assuming he died. Poor guy, you shouldn’t have tested on yourself-you shouldn’t have delved into the unknown, espechially on your own.

You’re crazy!
Crazy, am I? We’ll see whether I’m crazy or not.

There is no more correspondence, we then switch to the second half of the package.

Time to get on the case!

The next item in the package is the garden diary of Héléne Ashworth.

June 1892

The house has been sold to the Great Goodyear, Claude Goodyear, and his muse, assistant, and wife Héléne Ashworth. The name sounds familiar, but I’m not sure why.

Where have I read or seen that name before?

Their friend, Lilibeth, let them know about 27 East Heath Road becoming available after the doctor died. It seems he accidentally took too much of his medicine, although some whisper it was a suicide.

Claude loves the room with the mirror in it, as it can help him to practice his tricks and Héléne loves having the conservatory as she is a gardener. She has taken inventory about the plants and discovered hemlock. Hemlock? Why would a doctor need that?

Strange…

Claude jokes about ghosts in the walls as the house does make noise, but Héléne is not afraid. She loves her new house.

Ghosts?

July 1893

Héléne’s garden is doing well except for the calla lilies and forget-me-nots she planted. Instead the hyacinth, lavender, and dragonwort are doing extremely well-even though she did not plant them. There is no way Claude did so where did they come from?

At 27 East Heath Road.

Héléne believes in the language of flowers and these ones that mysteriously appeared mean constancy, devotion, and twice twisted. Hmm…maybe it means something twice twisted in the house? Devoted to it?

Hmm…

Let’s see-hemlock was poisonous, are these too? Let me look…yes, hyacinth bulbs are poisonous and touching them causes skin irritation. So lavender is used in food and perfumes so it is okay to take, but it can cause constipation, headache, and skin irritation in some people. Dragonwort is used to stop bleeding. So again, doesn’t seem too bad.

Hmmm…

There are a lot of strange herbs Héléne doesn’t know growing as well. She also discovers two more letters of the cipher-M & Y.

Another entry:

Claude is doing extremely well and even gets to perform at the famous Egyptian Hall. Héléne is so excited to perform, but Claude wants her to quit now that they are married. Hmmm…

Meanwhile, Héléne feels watched in the house. She wants to mention it to her husband, but decides not to worry him before a big show. On a sad note all the Calla lilies died, just like their hopes for a baby.

May 1895

Héléne is no longer allowed to perform, Claude thinking that is what caused them to have a miscarriage. Try as she might the yellow hyacinth (jealousy) keeps growing, and Héléne is convinced there is a curse on this house-a curse keeping a cild from being born, her nice and kind flowers from growing, and the hyacinth strong.

Later entry:

Héléne finds more and more deadly plants-nightshade and monkshood. She also sees the gruesome figure from her nightmares. She tries to tell her husband but he doesn’t listen, saying the illusions have turned her head.

June 1895

Claude has refused two engagements and is very upset. He is convinced spies are coming into the halls and watching/copying his ideas. He continues to practice in the room with the mirror and won’t let anyone into it, not even Héléne.

Héléne is very hurt and upset as she and Claude grow farther and farther apart. Sometimes Héléne pus on the old costumes and performs in front of the plants-wishing she could still be on the stage.

Lilibet has grown worried about Héléne and has taken up spiritualism and becoming a very famous medium. Lilibet and Héléne have known each other since girlhood and Héléne decides to throw a get together and help Lilibet. I’m starting to think Lilibet is Elizabeth “Beth” Griggs. Maybe Héléne was in the orphanage? I’ll check. The records say she is, ah “…the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life” (A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) is Elizabeth Griggs.

And it is “…our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.” (A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Mystery, you say?

September 1895

Liliibet otherwise known as Mrs. Alizbeta Divak has asked Hélene to join in. Helene has created the character Madame Solandra, wears black bombazine, and pale makeup that comes from the Elise makeup company. There is a label from Elise Cosmetiques and it has a message on the back:

“YOU THINK TO HIDE YOURSELF FROM ME?”

Followed by the ciphers.

Claude does not approve of spiritualism, Helene has to hide it from him.

November 1896

They held the seance but things did not go as planned, A real spirit came from the mirror shouting at them “interlopers! Be gone!”

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

When Héléne did the automatic writing it was if someone else was controlling her. Helene faints and when she awakens, it is Lilibet giving her smelling salts.

Oh no, the smelling salts were poisoned with the Doctor’s medicine.

Nooo

Lilibet preetends it didn’t happen, but Héléne knows it was real. She however feels very sick.

December 1896

Helene is still sick and supposed to be in bed, but has found a strange hidden doorway and secret hidden rooms in the house  But is it real? She is fading in and out and unsure.

But no! She found it! She has found a secret door in the conservatory, as soon as she is stronger she will investigate it!

Time to get on the case!

January 1897

Helene’s passage is a strange one. She believes the phantom is walking the house and Claude has all but disappeared. Is there a spirit in her home? A man? Or is her husband gaslighting her?

Gaslight (1944)

And all her flowers were ripped up? Why would the phantom want to do that?Why put dirt on her hands after?

Claude is yelling and locking Helene in her room refusing Lilibet to come in. But she has found a way out. She will follow the wallpaper and escape that way…

That is the last entry in the journal.

This felt a lot like The Yellow Wallpaper, the short story where the lady goes mad and her husband locks her up (or did her husband lock her up and then she went mad?)

Hmmm…is there a phantom or just an evil husband?

Gaslight (1944)

Next we have a newspaper clipping “Murder at the Mad Magician’s Mansion”. 

The wife of The Great Goodyear, Claude Goodyear, has been found dead in her home, found by her husband when he returned from performing.

Héléne’s face was frozen in terror and the inquest found that she had been poisoned-even though she was alone in the house and it was locked up tight. But by who? And how?

Of course authorities looked at the husband first, but it was impossible for him to slip away as he was performing and his every moment had witnesses.

Hmmm…

Her body was strangely found, it looked as if she was trying to crawl out of a small under-stairs cupboard with her face frozen, and hair turned white.

It appears Claude has lost his mind at his wife’s death. He warns people of a gruesome phantom moving in his house, warning people to stay far away.

After two incidents, one of him claiming a police constable to be a monster, he was relocated to the Broadmoor Asylum for the Criminally Insane.

Aw, that’s sad.

And last a page ripped out of Charles Dicken’s The Chimes with the following words underlined:

“Monsters uncouth and wild, arise in premature, imperfect resurrection; the several parts and shapes of different things are joined and mixed by chance..”

“Haunt and hunt him…”

“Bleak his slumbers…”

“he saw this WITH Goblin sight…”

“…saw these creatures, not only among sleeping men but waking also…”

There are more marks of the secret language written in the margin.

Hmmm…

I have been working on decoding it, and I think I’ve figures out a few letters based on what they gave me and just common sense of filling in the blanks, but there are some I am just not sure of.

Hmm…

So I am getting a Phantom of the Opera vibe from this (I love The Phantom of the Opera)

So in the original story of The Phantom of the Opera, one of Erik’s (the phantom’s) many talents was architecture and he builds the opera house-creating his secret home and all the passages, using the mirror as a door to bring Christine to his lair.

I think Henry Griggs is alive! And living in the house he built, probably a secret passage in the mirror. I’m just not sure if he is killing people because he us possessed by something or because he thinks if he does he will have his house back. I’ll have to wait and see.

Hmmm…

A lot of stuff came in this package and I did my best to try and put it all in one picture:

For more from The Mysterious Package Company, go to A Goblin in My Mailbox

For more insane doctors, go to Mr. Hyde Versus the Werewolf: Dr. Jekyll Versus the Werewolf (1972)

For more Persuasion, go to The Jane Austen Book Club (2007)

For more mysteries, go to I Won the Cederberg Tea Giveaway + Book Club Picks: The Insanity of God

For more ghosts, go to North by Northanger (Or, the Shades of Pemberley)

Tossing a Costume Together + Regency Runway

So this is the last of the Modesto Jane Con posts…

I know, I’m sad it is over too. I miss Jane Con.

Life seems grey…

So quick review, (just in case this is your first post). If you have been following me on social media, you know I have been super excited about Modesto Jane Con. The past eight years I have seen pictures from different Jane Cons and festivals and wished I could go-but they were not possible for me to attend as it always came down to a problem of time, money, work, etc. Instead I had to be content with seeing pictures on social media.

But then Modesto Jane Con was created! And with Modesto not being too far and this only costing $30, I was going!

From January 10th-12th there were all kinds of workshops, activities, movies, an opera, and even a fashion show!

Wow!

Your $30 ticket allowed you to attend the workshops (BOTH DAYS) and see one showing of Mansfield Park Opera (your choice of Saturday or Sunday).

So I saw the ad on instagram in July and convinced my book club + my sister to join me. As it was way off in January, I knew I had plenty of time to get a costume together. I was going to have Madsen Creations make one for me, but saw no rush as I had plenty of time.

Well, time went by and in October, I thought maybe should I order my Jane Austen outfit? But Madsen Creations was moving, and I decided to wait. After all I had three months, that was plenty of time.

Yes-October flew by to November, November to December, and next thing I know it was December 30th, Jane Con was next weekend, and due to a unforeseen Cat health emergency-I didn’t have the money. What was I going to do?

I then had the idea, what if we decorated shirts with quotes or fun Jane Austen sayings?

But then time slipped away. And Modesto Jane Con was the next day. I then came up with the idea-what if we did Jane Austen in another time period? Like in The Darcy Monologues? I could be Elizabeth in the Wild West like in “Pemberley By Stage by Natalie Richards!

Or 1960s Elizabeth from “You Don’t Know Me” by Beau North.

How cute is Tippi Hedrun’s outfit in this? I love it.

But was vetoed by my mom and sister, who both said no one would know who I was and thought me walking around with the book and explaining it wasn’t the best idea. I just resolved to wear something nice when my sister said to check out the costume box for my Charles Dicken’s Day dress.

So back in 8th grade my school used to do Dicken’s Day. Everyone had to dress up in historical costume, we had to sign up to bring a historical meal, decorate the Youth Hall across the street in Victorian Christmas Decorations, have a “secret santa” we made a historical gift for, etc. We usually had some kind of performance related to Charles Dickens, whether it was a play, brief performance, songs, etc. I loved it as I love Charles Dickens.

So I needed a dress and my mom was going to make it. We went to Joann‘s, but it turned out they didn’t have the pattern we needed.

(This was back in 2005.) So instead of having a Victorian costume, we had to go with a Colonial pattern that had American Revolution style costumes (late 1700s).

I tried!

I didn’t even think it would fit, but was surprised it did! It wasn’t accurate-neckline wrong, waist, etc. (you can read more on how it should be in Dressing the Regency Lady). We ended up joking that I was a poor relation returned from America, that had to wear out of date clothing since I was out West and we didn’t have enough supplies in the colonies to be on the height of fashion.

I wasn’t sure if we would be spending time outside or not, and decided to wear tights and leggings, as I read online that the best way for Regency women to stay warm in the winter is layers and thicker material of clothing. I wanted to wear my boots, but thought my Vikings-inspired fur boots would be too much. (You ever watch that movie Vikings? It is an interesting story), and went with suede lace up oxford shoes instead. I then decided to top it with my capelet I won from MadsenCreations:

The hair was hard as I got up extra early and tried, but could not get it how I wanted. That’s one thing I wished we still had, maids to do hair for you-as I don’t know about you all, but my hair has a mind of its own.

After failing again and again, I decided to go with Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park (2007) as not only would I be matching the Opera, but I owned a straw hat.

I have to say, I may not have been accurate, but I was very pleased that I was able to throw something together so quickly.

I borrowed a reticule from MadsenCreations, grabbed a few essentials-and we were on our way!

On our way!

So the first workshop of the day was Gowns & GroansAfter that you had your choice of The Definitive Darcy and Lizzie or Start You Own Book Club. The third workshop was your choice of Dressing the Regency Lady or Are You a Long-Lost Austen? Searching Your Family Tree.

After Dressing the Regency Lady, we had about an hour and fifteen mins before the Mansfield Park Opera pre-show talk by Hillari DeSchane. We checked out a few things and had lunch, and then headed to the Opera.

During intermission, they decided to hold a Regency Fashion show and contest. Now I knew I had zero chance of winning. During the first workshop, Gowns and Groans, I noticed two ladies down the row who were in perfect Regency clothes they had made themselves.

I knew they were probably going to win. But I wanted to join in anyway.

I tried!

Right at intermission I got in line and we waited a while for the other ladies. Unfortunately,  a lot of ladies went straight to the restroom and got caught in the long line to use the restroom (there was only two stalls) or get snacks. I enjoyed the wait for the contest (and didn’t mind the bathroom one too much) as I spent that time talking to other Janeites. There are no words to describe being with other fans.

And we spent the time waiting, talking about Jane Con and Jane Austen.

Everyone I spoke to loved Modesto Jane Con. Some had planned to come, some where in the area, and some just spotted it on social media and decided to attend on a whim.

I ended up being the first in line for the fashion show, but I wish I had waited. I had no clue what I was supposed to do-while the other ladies had more time to think and copy the spin I did and show their outfits off more. I didn’t win (one of the ladies I thought would win did), but I had a whole lot of fun. So did all the other ladies who I spoke to. It was nice that we all got acclaim for our efforts, even if we didn’t win first prize.

They also gave a prize to a woman who dressed up as Steampunk Elizabth Bennet. It was very cool.

Like every other part of Jane Austen, I had a ton of fun, enjoyed every minute, and can’t wait until next year!

For more Modesto Jane Con, go to Modesto Jane Con: Opera Modesto Presents Mansfield Park

For more Mary Crawford fashion, go to Modesto Jane Con: Gowns & Groans, A Costumer Looks at Regency Costumes on Film and Stage

For more fashion, go to A Fashion Statement

Praying With Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen

Praying With Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers if Jane Austen by Rachel Dodge

So two years ago in October, my book club and I went to an author Meet & Greet to meet Paula Scott, the author of the California Rising series. There were other authors there, but we spent almost all the time talking to her and picking up the last book of the series, Chasing the Wind, which we were going to read in January 2019.

My friend, and fellow book club member, saw the Praying with Jane booth and pointed it out to me as she knows I love Jane Austen.

I had just seen it on instagram, and put it on my to-read shelf and was very excited about it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t buy it as I had no extra money, besides buying the Chasing the Wind, as I had a lot of things I had to take care of from my ex-husband.

I was bummed, and just stopped by quickly saying hello to Ms. Dodge, and then taking a bookmark to hold on to. I was planning on buying it after my finances cleared. But…it turned out that I didn’t need to. My friend bought me this book and Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe.  

She knows me very well.

I resolved to read it, February 1st-March 3rd 2019. I started off strong, but fell behind in the middle of it.

I tried a few more times and each time failed:

Uh oh

So in October, I resolved to try in November. This time I would just keep going, even if I failed to read one day-I would just keep moving forward.

I started off badly-beginning on November 3rd-and ended on December 23rd. Yes, as you can see it took me longer to read this.

But it was worth it. This book was fantastic! You can read it anytime, but I found it perfect in the holiday season as it allowed me time to pause, focus on God, and prepare my heart.

So some people are not religious and will not be interested in going through the prayers, but no matter your beliefs, all will appreciate the value and research that Dodge went through in writing this book. Not only did she study Jane Austen’s family, life, and background; but she has read and researched the novels of Jane Austen-highlighting moments from her popular books to the ones that aren’t always mentioned or talked about-Mansfield Park, Persuasion, and Northanger Abbey.

So if you go on my instagram, you can see day by day the parts of each passage that I liked, but on here I am going to mention the ones that really touched me.

Or years.

Day 7

“…Jane had much for which to be thankful. Thus, the last few words of this line reveal an important truth: Discontentment and indifference are two prime enemies of thankfulness. Discontentment is wishing things were different. It’s common when we face trials, compare our lives to the lives of others, or start to think what we have isn’t enough. Indifference is the state of being unmoved by blessings that surround us…Discontentment and indifference are both founded in a lack of thankfulness because when we grumble about out ‘lot’, we’re really grumbling against God.”

“Jane’s prayer reminds us to make thanksgiving an integral part of our prayers lives as a powerful antidote against discontentment and indifference. When you fill your mouth with praise, it has less room for grumbling. Thanking God for what He has done and has promised to do shifts your focus from what you don’t have to what you do.”

I love holidays and celebrating, but when the holiday season comes it can also bring some discontent with bills, holiday celebrations, seeing how others seem happy and together-comparing it to yourself. Reading this in November was perfect as this book helped redirect me from any of those pratfalls and help prepare my heart on thankfulness and being grateful for all I had.

Day 9

“Jane’s prayer reminds us that though we cannot comfort every widow, orphan, and prisoner, we can reach out to one lonely man, woman, or child with the love of Christ. And no matter our age, health, or financial circumstances, we can pray for those in need.”

This chapter was perfect with the holiday season as that is the perfect time to think about others-

And I love how Dodge says that we can help others not just financially-but by spending time with them or praying for them.

Day 13

“Jane’s prayer reminds us to ask God if anything is ‘amiss’ in our lives and priorities. Many of us try to fit God into our lives, instead of making God the centerpiece of our lives. Giving our first fruit to God isn’t just about money; it’s also about our time. One beneficial daily habit is to begin each day with prayer and Bible reading…Ask you seek God first, you will experience steady growth in your relationship with him.”

Ouch, I think we all fall victim to this and Dodge is right. The best way to correct and fix our lives is focus on the one who made us.

Day 14

“Guarding our hearts is essential in the face of temptation. Just as Jane prayed for God’s mercy on ‘Creatures so formed’, we can ask for God’s help in our weak spots.”

This always makes me think of the Johnny Cash song, as we need to keep a close eye on our heart and not allow it to lead is down the wrong path. There is nothing wrong with passion, but unbridled can cause one to make not the best choices, i.e.:

I love Wuthering Heights but let’s be honest-there are no good relationships in there. We have passionate people consumed by passion and not caring who is hurt or damaged.

Day 17

“Yet Fanny Price closely embodies the kind of patience under affliction Jane writes about in her prayer. Despite her troubles, Fanny has an inner strength and fortitude that never lags. Though she is mistreated and suffers in mind, body, and soul at times, she finds solace in her little attic room and in quiet reflection. She doesn’t lash out or become bitter. Even in the face of disappointment and anxiety, she quietly waits and hopes.”

“In this broken world we face illness, danger, grief, but in everything, God is with us.”

So first of all I love that Rachel Dodge discusses every heroine of the Jane Austen novels in this book and that Fanny Dashwood has gotten some love as she deserves it. She may not be as witty as Elizabeth, as self-assured as Emma, or as passionate as Marianne-but would we love Jane Austen’s books if every character was exactly the same? Fanny has a lot of great qualities-patience, kindness, perseverance, courage-I mean she is brave enough to stick to her guns. Fanny has qualities that we should all strive for.

I also loved her part about living in a broken world. Unfortunately bad things will always happen, but at least we have someone we can lean on who understands pain and loss.

Chapter 26

“Mrs. Bennet’s problem is two-fold: She’s dissatisfied with her current situation and worried about her future. She’s done nothing to deserve the life she has, and yet she is unhappy. She lives in a comfortable home, has five daughters, plenty of friends, and dines with ‘four and twenty families,’ but it’s not enough. As long as she thinks she might someday have to live on a small income with five daughters, that none of her five girls will ever marry, and that her husband might die before she does, she’s insufferable.”

“In Jane’s prayer, she prays ‘for a continuance of all these Mercies,’ asking for God’s provision and protection; however, her words also express an underlying sense of contentment. As children of God, we’ve already been ‘blessed far beyond any thing we have deserved.’ Our inheritance, our reward, is kept for us in heaven.”

I liked this chapter as often we get caught up in the worries if the day and future. I know I do.

Chapter 28

“You, too, preach a sermon with your life. What you do with your time, talent, and treasure says a lot about you. The things that make you angry and the things you work the hardest to get reveal what you value most. What values are you preaching to your family, friends, children, and colleagues?”

Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I knew what it was like to be in the “fishbowl”-people watching you and what you do. I thought I would eventually leave that behind, but the truth is people are always watching you. Your friends, relatives, coworkers-all see how you act and react, what you strive for and desire, etc-and what you do and the way you act tells a lot about who you are.

I thought this was an amazing book, and just like Jane Austen’s works you can read it over and over again.

It’s great when you have a writer who loves Jane Austen’s work and really tries to capture it.

“However, her [Jane Austen’s] gift could not, would not be hidden. Her writing outlasts her now by over 200 years, and yet it remains as remarkable today as it was when it was first printed.

We too can live extraordinary lives. Though we may not ever be famous, we all leave behind us a legacy. We will be remembered for who we are more than for what we do. Our friends and family will speak of us based on what they saw of our lives, the way we treated people, and the way we loved.”

If you love Jane Austen, you’ll love this book.

If you want to improve your spiritual life or are looking for a new devotional, you’ll love this book.

Please, oh please!

And if you are a fan of both, you need to check it out.

Its not a want, it’s a need!

For more on Jane Austen, go to Jane Austen: Her Heart Did Whisper

For more Jane Austen adaptions, go to Holiday Mix Tape

For more Bible Verses, go to Book Club Picks: Chasing the Wind

YULETIDE: A Jane Austen-inspired Collection of Stories Audiobook

YULETIDE: A Jane Austen-inspired Collection of Stories

So I had planned to review the film version of Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe but after reading the book, I really was in a bah humbug mood, and needed something to lift my spirits.

I had Holiday Mix Tape, which I will be reviewing soon, but I was in the mood for Pride and Prejudice and Holiday Mix Tape is a modern adaption of Persuasion. Too bad no Jane Austen film adaptions don’t show more of Christmas, or I could include them in my watching a Christmas film every day.

Aw, man!

But then, I realized-I had the next best thing! The YULETIDE audiobook narrated by Harry Frost, and edited by Christina Boyd.

Christina Boyd has worked with several writers to create many different Jane Austen anthologies. The first I read was The Darcy Monologues. It contained stories from Susan Adriani, Sara Angelini, Karen M. Cox, J. Marie Croft, Jan Hahn, Jenetta James, Lory Lilian, KaraLynne Mackrory, Beau North, Ruth Phillips Oakland, Natalie Richards, Sophia Rose, Melanie Stanford, Joana Starnes, and Caitlin Williams. These stories were all told from Darcy’s point of view with half the book set in the Regency Era and the other half set in different time periods (from 1880s Western to modern times). I really loved it! Just like the movies, there are many different forms of Darcy, so you have your pick of Darcy-being sure to find one, two, or more to love.

After that project, Christina Boyd teamed up with Karen M. Cox: J. Marie Croft, Amy D’Orazio, Jenetta James, Lona Manning, Christina Morland, Beau North, Katie Oliver, Sophia Ros, Joana Starnes, and Brooke West for a new book. This book is Dangerous to Know Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues, on the rogues and rakes of the Austen books-Mr. Willoughby, Mr. Wickham, Captain Tilney, General Tilney, Mr. Elliot, Mr. Thorpe, and more. This book was a lot of fun as we got a chance to see things from the bad boys point of view.

The next one was Rational Creatures, with stories by Elizabeth Adams, Nicole Clarkston, Karen M. Cox, J. Marie Croft, Amy D’Orazio, Jenetta James, Jessie Lewis, KaraLynne Mackrory, Lona Manning, Christina Morland, Beau North, Sophia Rose, Anngela Schroeder, Joana Starnes, Brooke West, and Caitlin Williams. Each story was on a different woman of Jane Austen novels-our heroines along with supporting characters and a few bad girls.

So the book was published last November, and this year they came out with the Audiobook.

So audiobooks, I like but my problem is that the people read too slow. I get into the story and then I need to find out what happens NOW…so I usually get the book and read it, and stop listening to the audiobook. That did not happen with this one. Harry Frost is amazing! I could listen to him over and over again, and while I am writing this I am on my third go round with this book.

Or in this case Audiobook, and I could never hate it.

Harry Frost is a marvel at doing the different tones of voice and accents of the different characters. This book has Regency and Modern Darcys and even though both are done in a British accent, there is a big difference between the two.

He also does an amazing job at the female voices by giving them a higher tone, but not doing that thing most narrators do when they make the ladies talk really high pitch, you know a voice that sounds so unrealistic and annoying. Instead, he changed his tone so you knew it was a woman speaking and not in an annoying way. And with each character he made subtle changes so not all sounded the same.

I love it!

He also did a great job with the American accents, especially the one when Mr. Collins sounds like a total bonehead (many of you are thinking which one doesn’t he sound like that in everything?), and his voice was spot on what I would have imagined he sounded like.

And listening to him didn’t make me want to leave the audiobook and get the book to read. When Harry Frost narrated he wasn’t just reading it, he really put in emotion and captured the spirit of the characters and the stories that it was all together a fantastic experience. How fantastic my you ask? Well, I’m on my third listen…listen through? I don’t know what the term for it would be but every time I finish the audiobook I just start it back from the beginning.

Audiobook

So Harry Frost is amazing, now that we have talked about him it is time to talk about the stories themselves. I LOVED ALL OF THEM!

Like when I said that Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe made me lose my Christmas spirit and put me in a Scrooge mood-I’m dead serious. It is an awful book, that made me feel awful.

These stories, they were perfect! They fulfilled my need for Jane Austen Christmas!!! They filled me with Christmas joy! They were exactly what I needed to help get me in the Christmas mood after reading Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe. Listening to them brought back my Christmas spirit faster than the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.

They were so enjoyable, they made me think of that song from Jack Frost:

“It’s just what I always wanted, it’s perfectly right! It’s just what I always wanted, a Christmas delight!!”

This book

So usually I save the praise after I’ve gone over each story, but I don’t know I felt like doing it first. I mean I have said I keep listening to it over and over again, so I don’t think anyone was in suspense whether I thought this was good or not. But each writer deserves their due, so we need to go through the individual stories.

The Forfeit by Caitlin Williams

So this is my favorite of all the stories. It made me laugh, it had me in suspense, it made my heart go all fuzzy in feelings.

I love it!

This is a Regency story and takes place in Christmas after Mr. Bingley came and left. Charlotte is engaged to Mr. Collins, and the Bennets are getting ready for the holidays-even though not everyone in the family is happy (Jane brokenhearted, Mrs. Bennet angry at Elizabeth, and Elizabeth upset at Darcy). Elizabeth is walking home after visiting Charlotte and runs into Mr. Darcy!

He came for some business but oh no, his carriage is stuck in the snow, a storm is coming, and he’s stuck at the Bennet’s home for Christmas. Will this be a Christmas to remember? Or the worst Christmas of their lives?

It was great, as I said already it was my favorite. The story was fantastic, the language and the writing amazing, I loved this line “their elbows bumping as frequently as their intellect…” Oh and the story-not only do we have Darcy trapped in the Bennet home, but oh-no then Wickham comes on the scene, and Elizabeth and Darcy make a bet, and they plan a Christmas scavenger hunt, and oh I loved it. I would talk about it more but I’m afraid I’ll give away the ending.

Oops! Wrong book!

For more by Caitlin Williams, go to “In Good Hands” from Rational Creatures: Emma Woodhouse, Miss Bates, & Harriet Smith

And Evermore Be Merry by Joanna Starnes

This is also a Regency story told from the point of view of Georgiana Darcy. It has been a few years since the end of Pride and Prejudice with Georgiana having been married and visiting Pemberley for Christmas.

This is a cute story that starts in the present festivities, Pemberley filled with family again and children laughing, but then takes us back in time as Georgiana remembers the Christmas when Darcy and Elizabeth fought over who she wanted to marry. That moment that did start with fighting, was also a great lesson to Georgiana on love, marriage, forgiveness, and family.

I loved seeing the events from her point of view and it was a cute tale that showed the bonds that formed between this family.

For more by Joana Starnes, go to “Charlotte’s Comfort” from Rational Creatures: Elizabeth Bennet & Charlotte Lucas

The Wishing Ball by Amy D’Orazio

This is a modern Pride and Prejudice tale, set in 2014, with Mr. Darcy in New York with Georgiana. She gave him a christmas gift, a wishing ball ornament that you place a wish in when you hang it on the tree. In a Twilight Zone-esque twist the ornament has his initials on it and a wish inside-even though Georgiana didn’t get it monogrammed and it was sealed.

Spooky…

The strangeness of the evening, doesn’t end there as that night insomniac Darcy goes on facebook to kill time and sees that even though he hasn’t been on facebook since he joined everything is different! He’s married, has children, and when he looks at the most recent date it says 2018!

In a reverse Christmas Eve Darcy sees what his life could be like, but after the night ends will it be enough to change his ways, or will he continue on the path he is on?

I LOVED it, it totally appealed to my love of Twilight Zone-esque plots and kept me on the edge of my seat! What was going to happen next?!

For more by Amy D’Orazio, go to “Happiness in Marriage” from Rational Creatures: Elizabeth Bennet & Charlotte Lucas

By a Lady by Lona Manning

This takes place in the Regency Era, a few years after Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth and Darcy have a little boy and a baby girl, and are headed to spend Christmas with Lady Catherine.

She still doesn’t like Elizabeth, but likes the children so that’s what mended fences between them. This trip Elizabeth is on a mission as she wants to befriend Anne. She takes with her as many books as she can possibly fit in the carriage, hoping they can be a great conversation starter…hopefully?

This was such a cute story as Anne does open up about her secret hobby of writing and Elizabeth tries to help her secretly get published. But will anyone be interested in the story? Will Lady Catherine discover the truth?

So heart melting! We need more Anne stories anyway, I really liked the way many of the authors portrayed her in The Darcy Monologues and she definitely deserves more attention.

For more by Lona Maning, go to “The Art of Pleasing” from Rational Creatures: Anne Elliot, Mrs. Croft, Mrs. Clay, & Louisa Musgrove

Homespun for the Holidays by J. Marie Croft

Mr. Darcy was in America for business and is stopping by a shop called Homespun to get the jumper, sweater, that his sister wants for Christmas. He is in an extremely bad mood, made even blacker when he gets there and discovers that the sweater he asked to be held for him was purchased by someone else.

He throws a bit of a fit, I love all the English slang in this although I wasn’t always 100% sure what he was saying, but after talking to Elizabeth he calms down and apologizes. Unfortunately, to make things even worse-a giant storm stops him from being able to leave, there’s no room for him at the local inn, and he has to stay on a loft in the barn.

Yes, he joins the Bennet family for dinner and her cousins keep thinking he’s Jesus, lol (not in a sacrilegious way, but a way that kid’s make connections). This is the one that has the serious bonehead Mr. Collins, but is a story of bad first impressions and trying to set them right again. A hilarious and fun tale, I particularly love Elizabeth’s retorts, oooh Mr. Darcy…

For more by Lona Maning, go to “The Simple Things” from Rational Creatures: Emma Woodhouse, Miss Bates, & Harriet Smith

The Season for Friendly Meetings by Anngela Schroeder

This story takes place in the Regency era and takes place in the same time as the first story-the Christmas after Mr. Bingley came and left. Mrs. Bennet is unhappy and when an opportunity comes for Jane and Elizabeth to visit York and be in the presence of eligible young men-she sends them off to stay with the Longs, Mrs. Bennet’s sister.

There the girls attend a ball and their cousins hear some not so happy things about Mr. Wickham. She also meets Colonel Fitzwilliam, who talks to her and starts to raise some serious questions about the truth of Wickham.

If that’s not enough Darcy and Bingley are headed to the same party! Whoo, it’s going to be some type of party!

This was another cute story and it brought up a lot of points that Elizabeth and we overlook in Wickham when we first meet him as we are still smarting from Darcy’s remark about being “tolerable”. I loved it! Plus Colonel Fitzwilliam as a matchmaker?

For more by Anngela Schroeder, go to “Knightley Discourses” from Rational Creatures: Emma Woodhouse, Miss Bates, & Harriet Smith

Mistletoe Mismanagement by Elizabeth Adams

Darcy and Elizabeth have only been married a month and are having Christmas with the Fitzwilliam family. Colonel, his older brother, along with his mother and father are all attending.

Along with them we have a Miss Wheeler and two Miss Becheems. Colonel Fitzwilliam is interested in Miss Wheeler, and Elizabeth is trying to help him and her get together.

But that has to take a backseat to some other Christmas shenanigans, as Captain Watson comes interested in Colonel Fitzwilliam’s brother’s wife and they have another guest who the Earl is trying to swing with.

They don’t want that happening in their home, and the evening becomes an unhappy game of musical chairs to outwit these couples.

For more by Elizabeth Adams, go to “An Unnatural Beginning” from Rational Creatures: Anne Elliot, Mrs. Croft, Mrs. Clay, & Louisa Musgrove

I LOVED this and it is going to become a yearly tradition for me. And if that isn’t enough to get you interested, all proceeds from buying the book go to benefit Chawton Great House in Hampshire, former manor house of Jane Austen’s brother Edward Austen Knight and now the Centre for the Study of Early Women’s Writing, 1600-1830.

This has been the best Christmas gift so far!

At first I was sad that I didn’t get this review out when I wanted to, but then I realized that not posting on Friday lead the next post to be on December 16th, which is none other than Jane Austen’s birthday!

Happy 244th Birthday!

For more on Pride and Prejudice, go to Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe

For more by Christina Boyd, go to Rational Creatures: Catherine Morland, Eleanor Tilney, & Lady Susan

For more Christmas posts, go to I Don’t Want a Lot for Christmas, There is Just One Thing I Need

Literary Tea Parties

So I few years ago I did a post on a tea party that we had at my church. Of course, you know how I love books…I just had to tie them in together!

To read the whole post, click here. So every year at my church we do a Christmas Tea Party, and the past three years my friend and I had a table that I’ve been in charge of decorating. And if you think I just had to feature a book each year, than you are right! I love books!

In 2016, the theme was “Our Journey”, and shoes were the center as it was about “the paths we take”. Of course shoes made me think of one thing:

As Dorothy and all her friends go on a journey, along with having a magical pair of shoes,  it was PERFECT! We did a:

  • Yellow Brick Road Runner: Canvas that we painted with three different shades of yellow
  • Poppy Magnets as our favors: I used this one from Hometalk and did button centers and glued magnets on the back.
  • Mason jar water glasses with gingham ribbons and red mugs for coffee or tea.
  • Wicked Witch of the East candy straws: I got the straws from Wal-Mart and made the shoes from Swedish Fish.
  • We painted our own Emerald City on glasses.
  • And I sewed a sock monkey king of the flying monkeys, out of black and white socks (just like the ones the Wicked Witch of the East wears). Yes, I sewed it-help from Madsen Creations and my mom.
  • We made our own Dorothy’s magic red shoes, but they weren’t ready when I took the picture, so I put my own red shoes in there.
  • And of course, a copy of the book.

The next year the theme was “Friendship”

So my friend and I choose to do:

Last Christmas the theme was Holy Ghost…hmmm ghosts. Which book? 🙂

  • We used a holly and cranberry patterned runner on the table.
  • Sheets of music as place mats, with red chargers over them.
  • The centerpiece was a Christmas Tree, as those became popular in the Victorian era with Prince Albert, that I strung with popcorn.
  • I also placed a basket with the Christmas gifts/favors as that was how Victorian tables were set up. Each package was a different copy of A Christmas Carol. I got them all by swapping on PaperBackSwap.com I wrapped them up in brown paper and red yarn.
  • We had chestnuts on the table and each place setting got on orange, as they were very popular gifts, but I didn’t put cloves in it as you can’t eat them when you do that.
  • We had Earl Grey Tea, Hot Chocolate, and candy canes.
  • Each person received a homemade Christmas Card (made by me), and each had a little token in it, my version of the Christmas pudding.

This year the theme is gifts and I have to admit, I’m a bit at a loss. Any ideas of a book that gifts plays a role?

Please help me!

For more on The Wizard of Oz, go to Bookish Thank You

For more on A Christmas Carol, go to Book Club Picks: A Christmas Carol

For more tea posts, go to I Ran Out of Milk So I Put Buttermilk in My Tea

For more book-filled posts, go to Stranded at the Bookstore

Book Club Picks: The Illustrated Man

Thirteen weeks after a Friday the 13th, we have another

Don’t worry I got you covered with my new post.

So as you all know I started a book club last year. I have fallen behind with my posts, but I am now right on track!

Every month we read a book and I do a little post on the book we read and discussed. What can I say, I just love books.

There is no theme, other than with each month, a different member gets to pick a book, whichever one they want.

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

I don’t remember when I first read this book, but I know it was after Fahrenheit 451Out of all his short story collections; this is my ultimate favorite. The stories range from funny, thoughtful, and downright creepy. It is an incredible collection and once you start, you just can’t stop. I’ve talked about this book before, but here we go again:

Or 10th, 50th, 100th….

Since I have posted on this before, I am only going to discuss the stories we went over in our book club.

The Illustrated Man starts with an average joe taking a walking tour in the summer of Wisconsin. As he stops for the night he is come upon by an illustrated man.

This man used to work for the circus, but back in 1900 he broke his leg. Looking for a way to make money while he rested, he went to a tattoo artist who covered him from neck to belt. What he didn’t know was that this tattoo artist was a witch.

Yes, she infused his illustrations with magic making them be alive and always moving telling their story.

However, there is one blank spot on his back. If you are a woman, you see your whole life from birth to old age. If you are a man, you see how you die.

The illustrated man warns his companion not to look, but he doesn’t listen and has to see them…

Illustration I: The Veldt

The Lion King

This is what the DCOM Smart House is loosely based on.

The live in the future in a smart house that does everything for them. They even can change the pictures on the walls to be anything they want them to be. The children constantly want it to be a veldt with lions.

The parents try to discipline their children and get them to do more but all they want to do is sit around and have the machines do everything for them. The parents determine it is time to turn off the house and go back to how things are supposed to be. Will the parents be able to change their kids? Or will the kids make sure their parents can never boss them around again?

“The lions look real, don’t they?…I don’t suppose there’s any way—–‘

‘What?’

‘—that they could become real?”

No one else really enjoyed this story as they felt it was too sad. I like it as it is a great blend of creepy and thrilling. It shows you why you should not spoil your children-and a big wake up to having your kid just sit in front of a tablet, phone, or TV. I love it, and think you should check it out.

Illustration III: The Other Foot

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Mars has been colonized only by African Americans. Now they hear that European Americans are traveling to Mars and decide to institute a Jim Crow law for them. Will they decide to make them pay for past wrongs, or will they all be able to start a new life in equality?

“This is the other shoe, Mayor, the other foot…”

We all loved this story. It has such a great message and a fantastic ending!

Illustration V: The Man

Bethphage-Jesus-enter-Jerusalem

A crew arrive on a planet ready to have glory and fame, but find the people uninterested as the person who came before them brought extreme happiness and bliss. One crewman believes him to be Jesus and wants to learn from the people. The Captain, however, is set on getting his glory and will stop this man any way he can.

“Leave these people alone. They’ve got something good and decent, and you come and foul up the nest and sneer at it. Well, I’ve talked to them too. I’ve gone through the city and seen their faces, and they’ve got something you’ll never have–a little simple faith, and they’ll move mountains with it. You, you’re boiled because someone stole your act, got here ahead and made you unimportant.”

The member who chose the book, this is her favorite story. She loves how it plays out and how the character’s testimony was so strong it helped the one man believe and have faith. She compared it to Christianity and Jesus. We all enjoyed this story as well. 

Illustration VI: The Long Rain

rainbreakfastattiffaneyscat

We have colonized Venus, but it is a horrible place of endless rain. Sun domes were built to help us stay sane and in health, and this story follows a group of astronauts as they hope to make it to the dome, but will they?

“Drops fell and touched other drops and they became streams that trickled over his body, and while these moved down his flesh, the small growths of the forest took root in his clothing.”

We all enjoyed this story as well. One member posed a very interesting question: Does the sundome exist or is it just a mirage?

Illustration VII: The Fire Balloons

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A group of priests go to Mars to start a church and help bring peace and morals to a crazed group of colonists. One priest makes it his mission to try and bring Christ to the Martians.

“We feel absurd here—even I; for it is something new, this business of converting the creatures of another world.”

One member just loved this story. He felt that it was a perfect illustration for missionary work and just loved how the one priest had such a fire and desire to be there for the fire balloons and try and show them God’s love.

Illustration IX: The Last Night of the World

TheEnd_Title_2

A married couple realize that today is the last day on Earth. How would you spend your time if you had such an inclination?

“What would you do if you knew this was the last night in the world?”

One member just loved this story. She felt that if it was her last night on Earth she would spend it the exact same way.

Illustration X: The Exiles

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On Earth, countless literature from Edgar Allen Poe to William Shakespeare to Charles Dickens have been banned on Earth. They remain alive on Mars as their last books are still undamaged there. But when humans decide to completely destroy every page, these characters and their creators decide to wage a war on them. Will they win?

“His last book gone. Someone on Earth just now burned it.’

‘God rest him. Nothing of him left now. For what are we but books, and when those are gone, nothing’s to be seen.”

I love this one. Books fighting back, trying to survive in a world that feels they aren’t needed, a great story.

Illustration XVII: Zero Hour

Miscommunication is always funny as a kid. Not so much later on in life.

Kids are playing that aliens are coming, an invasion in which they will rule and the grow ups will be gone. But what if it isn’t a game?

“Mom, I’ll be sure you won’t be hurt much, really!”

All agreed super creepy, but a very good read.

Illustration XVIII: The Rocket

From the film Stargate.

From the film Stargate.

Fiorello Bodoni has saved $3000 to send a family member into space, but only one can go. Which one?

“We will remember it for always, Papa. We will never forget.”

We all loved this story. Just the love this family has and how much they care about each other. A fantastic read!

For more book club picks, go to Book Club Picks: The Masterpiece

For more books by Ray Bradbury, go to It Was a Pleasure to Burn: Fahrenheit 451

For more on The Illustrated Man, go toEach Illustration is a Little Story. If You Watch Them, In a Few Minutes They Tell You a Tale: The Illustrated Man

Book Club Picks: A Christmas Carol

I’ve heard of Christmas in July, but Christmas in April?

What?

Oh well!

So I have fallen behind with my posts, but as you know I started a book club last year:

Every month we read a book and I do a little post on the book we read and discussed. What can I say, I just love books.

There is no theme, other than with each month, a different member gets to pick a book, whichever one they want. So at the time it was my turn it was Christmas.

And you know how much I love Christmas

So what better book to read then, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens? My favorite book to read at Christmastime!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

This won’t be a long post as I talked about it two years ago during my 30-day book challenge (which I never finished. Oops!)

I love this book so much. I’m not sure what else I could add. I love the history of it and how it changed the world by opening peoples’ hearts and creating reforms to help the poor; along with the Bank Holiday act in 1871, making Christmas an official day of rest. 19 years later, every state in America had adopted the same practice.

“I have endeavoured[sic], in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour[sic] with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.”
Their faithful friend and Servant,
CD. [Charles Dickens]

I love how Dicken’s describes the sins of greed, pride, and selfishness:

“I wear the chain I forged in Life,’ replied the Ghost [Marley]. ‘I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on, of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it…’Or would you know,’ pursued the Ghost, ‘the weight and length of the strong coil you wear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured[sic] on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!”

A good warning to a of us.

And how they describe Scrooge’s old boss Fezziwig. Unlike Scrooge, Fezziwig always liked to treat his clerks right; he may have only gave a little, but he understood the true meaning of Christmas. To give.

“He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome: a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ’em up-what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great, as if it cost a fortune.”

And of course Christmas present:

How he spreads cheer everywhere.

And of course, Christmas-Yet-to-Come:

The redemption of Scrooge and the all-around happiness of the book. Just a fantastic and inspiring story:

“And as Tiny Tim observed,

God Bless Us Every One!”

For more book club picks, go to Book Club Picks: A Common Life, The Wedding Story

For more on A Christmas Carol, go to You Will Be Haunted By Three Spirits: A Christmas Carol

For more Charles Dickens, go to You Know Me So Well

For more Jane Austen Quotes, go to Jane Austen’s Guide to Dating