Friday, December 18, 2009

JASNA-WI's Celebration & Tasty Trifle

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!


Edie Ramer said...

Marilyn, you were about 10-15 minutes from my house! I'm a Jane Austen fan, but not a Jane-ite. Though I did consider getting myself a Jane Austen action figure. lol

I'm glad you enjoyed it. It's not snowing by us today, so we expect some yesterday. I think of shoveling as exercise, and that makes me feel a bit better about it.

Marilyn Brant said...

Oh, wow, Edie! I knew you were in WI, but I didn't realize we lived that close to one another ;). It took me about 1hr.20min. to get up there, but I'm used to driving an hour further to reach my parents. Watch out, though. We Janeites can be fanatical--LOL. I might just swing by your house next year and make you join us :-).

Re: the snow--I had to go out and do some Christmas shopping in the middle of the day when the flakes were really coming down, but I'm happy to say it didn't really stick. Falling snow IS pretty. I just don't want it trapping me in the house any more than necessary!

To anyone reading this--hope you have a great weekend!!

Laura Hartness said...

Thanks for telling us about your trip! The ladies in costume were something else. I'm like you, I'm not sure if I'm ready to take that step at a Jane-themed meeting yet.

English Trifle recipe-- looks easy AND yummy!

A question about Edie's comment--- I always assumed Janeites and Jane Austen fans were one in the same. Is a Janeite a more serious fan, then?

Laura Hartness
The Calico Critic

Amethyst Willow said...

Wow. It looks like you had a fab time. I look forward to next year and your Jane costume!

We have snow around the UK disrupting trains and roads and the Eurostar!! I'm supposed to be going home and meeting my Belgian friend off the train today :/ Wish us luck.

As to English Trifle, that recipe looks simply scrummy. I thought I'd tell you it is perfectly legitimate to breed traditional trifle with all sorts of other things, including brownies instead of angel cake, soak them in a little orange juice and some flavoured rum - aMAZing! Especially leftover double chocolate brownies hehehe.


Rick said...

My gosh you pack a lot into a blog posting, Marilyn. And the recipe sounds so good that I'm actually going to try it myself!

Marilyn Brant said...

Laura~I'm not positive if Edie meant it this way (maybe she can clarify, if I'm wrong!), but I think she was referring to "Jane Austen fans" as readers in general who enjoy Austen's writing vs. "Janeites" as the members of the official organization JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America). The luncheon I went to was for the JASNA members who live in or near Wisconsin. But, FWIW, I'm also part of an online Yahoo loop called the Janeites--and anyone interested can join that, whether they're a part of JASNA or not. There are nearly 1,000 members now. (Here's the link if you're curious: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Janeites/)

Amethyst~Fingers crossed for luck! Also, you have totally made my day with the mere mention of double chocolate brownies!!! With orange juice and rum--omg ;-). You may turn me into a baker after all... Thanks so much for the awesome idea.

Rick~LOL! Yeah, I have a tendency to overwrite :). Glad you liked the recipe--let me know how it turns out if you try it! BTW, I've been really enjoying your blog. Thanks for tackling a subject like writers and depression this week. Your post and the many comments it generated have been fascinating.
(For anyone who hasn't read it, Rick's blog is here: http://thewriterandthewhitecat.blogspot.com/)

Robin said...

Boy, am I hungry now. :)

What a great time! Great pictures too! Thanks for bringing us with you on all these fun occasions.

Seriously, don't you need to venture to the west coast for some Jane event? Come on...the weather is lovely!

lainey bancroft said...

You always go the coolest places!

I can totally see yo dressed in character. Adorable.

New Years day family tradition is steak and kidney pie and trifle made with real custard (which I think requires a dozen or so eggs, not sure, my auntie Marg makes it) and real whipped cream. Not hard to tell where my ancestors hail from...or how I 'earned' the extra pounds. lol

Nancy J. Parra said...


thanks for sharing you adventures and the great pics. Love the trifle recipe. Hope you have a very warm and happy holiday!! Hugs-N

Pamela Cayne said...

Wow, that sounds like such a fabulous time! You are so lucky to have such a group of friends who are so in sync with your love of Jane!

Marilyn Brant said...

Robin~You don't know how you tempt me, my dear ;-). Jane + Robin + Great Weather = A Guaranteed Wonderful Time!!

Lainey~I love your traditional New Year's meal! And I don't have even a drop of English blood, but I'm a huge fan of those meals. I gain weight just by reading about them ;).

Nancy~Glad you liked it! Wishing you a wonderful holiday, too!!

Pamela~Yeah, JASNA's a very nice group... I was thrilled when I discovered that they existed. And when you and I go to our Bon Jovi Fan Club meetings, I'll tell you even more about it--LOL! xo

erika said...

Marilyn -

It looks and sounds like you had a wonderful time. The costume are stunning. I definetly think that you need to get one! Have a great Christmas.

Marilyn Brant said...

Thanks, Erika!! I loved looking at the costumes, but I'm not sure how I'd actually look in one myself--LOL. Someday, I'll have to try, though... Hope you have a wonderful Christmas, too! :)

Jean at The Delightful Repast said...

So far I'm just a Jane Austen fan, but looking at a few Janeite sites today, well, it sure looks like fun.

Trifle is pretty flexible. I always make individual trifles and just posted about it, with links from Jane Austen's World.