Happy Friday! And, for those of us with children, Welcome to Winter Break ;-). Here in Chicagoland, it's snowing. Again. However, the holiday season is upon us and, in an attempt to be annoyingly merry, I will not rant about my hatred of shoveling. (Right now.) I will, instead, recount the wonderful time I had with the lovely ladies of the JASNA-Wisconsin chapter last weekend in Menomonee Falls. Several dressed up in beautiful Regency costumes for the occasion--the celebration of Jane Austen's 234th birthday--and they've tempted me to find myself a pretty dress from the era for the next party! We'll see...
One of the big highlights of the event was getting to hear "The Bingley Sisters" (aka, Molly Philosophos and Liz Philosophos Cooper, pictured right) advise their brother Charles (that would be the famed, Mr. Bingley of Pride & Prejudice) on Regency Life. This was an encore presentation of their beloved AGM breakout session from the national JASNA conference in Philadelphia this past October, and how fun to watch them in action! They showed us slides, spoke with the perfect hauteur on a range of subjects (such as those scandalous Bennets) and stylishly entertained their audience. One of my favorite tidbits of information came in the form of a handout where Caroline Bingley and Louisa Bingley Hurst "kindly" reorganized the focus of P&P so they were the two central characters in the story--as opposed to that "Elizabeth" person and Mr. Darcy, who we all know should have been Caroline's beau...LOL!
We also had a lovely meal--there were champagne toasts, a really tasty salad, a choice of beef Wellington, crab-stuffed chicken breast or vegetarian quiche and English trifle for dessert. Yum! At my table, I had a chance to talk and enjoy the presentation with Carolyn, Veronica, Judy (in costume!) and Sue (all pictured left), and I got to chat with Judy's daughter Sarah (pictured with me right) as well. It was a wonderful way to spend a cold December day, and I felt really lucky to have had such delightful companions for the celebration.
At the very end, I had a chance to catch up with a few chapter friends again that I've enjoyed getting to know at prior JASNA events. It's always so lovely to see Yodi and her daughter Susan (pictured with me on the left). They're so upbeat and sweet, I could sit around and chat with them on any subject for hours--especially books and bookstores! And it was a pleasure to get to talk to Vicki and Kathy again, even briefly (pictured on the right). What great costumes!! I'm hoping to have a chance to see all of these ladies again in the spring and, fingers crossed, also a few others that weren't there this time. (Abigail R.? Kim W.? Judy K.? Yeah, I'm talking to you. :)
Finally, for those who have never tasted it, English trifle is a dessert I adore, traditionally made in layers with sponge cake, custard, fruit and whipped cream. I like to make it with just a teensy bit of sherry, too. Since it's been been well established that I'm not exactly Super Chef, I have an incredibly easy version of this dessert that I make (see below). However, if you'd like to try something fancier by a more skilled baker, check out this trifle recipe, too!
Marilyn's Easy English Trifle:
1 angel food cake, divided into halves
1 large package fresh strawberries, washed and sliced
1 container Cool Whip, refrigerated (not frozen)
8 individual vanilla pudding cups
Sherry to taste
Layer 1/3 of the strawberries on the bottom of a large, clear serving bowl, put half of the angel food cake on top of that (pull it into chunks so the strawberries are covered with cake), douse it with a little sherry. Then spread 4 of the puddings onto the cake layer and put half of the Cool Whip on top of that. Repeat with the next 1/3 of strawberries, the second half of the angel food cake, more sherry (!!), the last 4 puddings and the remainder of the Cool Whip. Use the final 1/3 of the strawberries to decorate the top. ENJOY!