Monday, January 28, 2013

200 Years of Pride and Prejudice

Today marks the 200th publication anniversary of  my favorite author, Jane Austen, publishing my favorite novel: Pride and Prejudice. In those 200 years, this wonderful story has only grown more popular. It is now considered a piece of classic literature, well-known throughout the English-speaking world, and loved by all - except, of course, those intolerably stupid persons who have no pleasure in a good novel.

I have read Pride and Prejudice countless times, but every time I catch yet another nuance, see another detail that I missed the previous times. The characters have such depth, there's always something more to be learned about them, and each time I read the book I get to know them all a little better. Through those realistic glimpses into each character's motivations and thoughts, I come to understand the real people that I encounter every day from a new perspective.
"'There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome.'" - Mr. Darcy

I've written some about my opinions on Jane Austen's work before. The plot of Pride and Prejudice is so romantic that many romantic comedies have tried to do their own spin on it... you know, hate each other at first, then one party falls in love, gets hurt because the object of their affection doesn't return their regard, and then the rejecting one realizes that they actually do love the other, right around the time that the situation seems hopeless. 

"She was convinced that she could have been happy with him; when it was no longer likely they should meet." - Pride and Prejudice, as Lizzy has just learned to esteem Mr. Darcy, but expects Lydia's wanton behavior to have destroyed her chances for marriage forever.

What the mimicking romantic stories generally fail to replicate is the growth the characters go through as a result of their conflicts. Mr. Darcy takes Elizabeth's criticisms to heart after she rejects him, and Elizabeth accepts Mr. Darcy's defense of his behavior in regard to Wickham, and realizes that she had been foolishly blinded by prejudice. Through the perspective of the other they each come to understand their own need for improvement.

"'I am almost afraid of asking what you thought of me; when we met at Pemberley. You blamed me for coming?'
'No indeed; I felt nothing but surprise.'
'Your surprise could not be greater than mine in being noticed by you. My conscience told me I deserved no extraordinary politeness, and I confess I did not expect to receive more than my due.'
'My object then,' replied Darcy, 'was to shew you, by every civility in my power, that I was not so mean as to resent the past; and I hoped to obtain your forgiveness, to lessen your ill opinion, by letting you see that your reproofs had been attended to. How soon any other wishes introduced themselves I can hardly tell, but I believe in about half an hour after I had seen you.'" - part of the conversation immediately after their engagement.

While the plot of Pride and Prejudice does center on romance, it is not merely a love story; it is a truly witty and insightful story about humans. Fashions, language and the world around us has changed, but people are still human, and no human story would be any good without love.

 “It is only a novel... or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.”- Jane Austen

Friday, January 18, 2013

Best Foot Forward: Day 5

Yep, I know, it's really late. If I hurry, I might get this up before midnight. We got a pathetic bit of snow, but it was enough to make me feel like being lazy. I had no inspiring thoughts for my hair, which wasn't being cooperative anyway, and then I had to run out this morning and pick up the farm drop (which came on time, and wasn't delayed by the "winter" weather in the slightest). Then I had errands to run, and when I finally arrived home, only about an hour until I had to leave again to watch the basketball game for tonight.

I remembered that I needed a picture at the basketball game, and Sarah snapped one of me right then. I pretended to be taking pictures because it was too awkward to actually pose and smile with a huge crowd of basketball fans there.

As I mentioned, hair was uncooperative, so I pulled it back in a half-up with one of my favorite clips. My gray argyle sweater, warm cream scarf, jeans and boots made for a fairly typical outfit, unfortunately. I finished out this challenge with something of a fizzle. I wore gold hoop earrings, and I did try to do nicer than my usual every-day makeup, but my complexion is also not cooperating today (thus even less motivation for more detailed shots).

I will leave off with this quote from my favorite authoress which has been running through my head all day:

"Woman is fine for her own satisfaction alone. No man will admire her the more, no woman will like her the better for it. Neatness and fashion are enough for the former, and a something of shabbiness or impropriety will be most endearing to the latter." -Jane Austen


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Best Foot Forward: Day 4

It's Day 4 of the challenge, and it's been rainy here too. The weather man has tempted us with the possibility of some snow tonight, and I don't know if I'd rather hope for beautiful, fluffy whiteness, or wish for normal weather so that we might get to pick up our farm order tomorrow. We are totally out of milk, and desperate for more!

Due to the consistent dampness outside, I wanted something very warm and cozy today, and also very comfortable. I wore my long, black skirt, which is made of a nice soft jersey material, with a peachy color shirt, and a gray sweater. I thought my vintage key necklace looked nice with that ensemble. Since I didn't have to leave the house today, I wore simple black flats. I would have had drenched and frozen feet if I set foot outdoors, but I stayed snug inside all day with the fireplace going.

 I saved my shower for this morning like I planned, so my slightly damp hair was forced to comply with my scheme for its arrangement. I had a vague idea what I wanted, and a couple of random shots on Pinterest, though still not like what I wanted, gave me enough inspiration that this hairstyle came about. I'm pretty pleased with it. It looks kind of odd in the picture above, and it will need a little tweaking to be a regular style I use, but I think it's got potential.

I parted my hair on the side like I always do, and began a french braid on the side with more hair (because this is all so technical). Once I had picked up the last strand of hair in front of my ear, I finished it out with a simple braid and secured it with a hair tie. Then I twisted the rest of my hair into a simple bun, wrapped the end of the braid around the bottom and secured with pins. It was really easy... once my hair was dampened into submission.

I did use my new eye shadow today, and I'm very pleased with the result. It's impossible to tell anything from this picture, however. I actually wore some dangle earrings (I call them the sunflower-pendant earrings) which I think go with my key pretty well. As I completed my outfit, I felt the sudden irresistible urge to wear my grandmother's diamond ring. My mother gave it to me on my 16th birthday, and I usually wear it only on very special occasions.

I've been feeling a little unwell off and on today. I only had two students, so I've spent the rest of my day being lazy and giving myself permission to relax and read Pride and Prejudice. January 28th this year is the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice's publication, and I'm hoping to finish the book by then. I'm also very slowly sewing a Regency dress which might possibly be completed by the anniversary, too. If I can, I might even squeeze in a viewing of the BBC P&P. And also, there's a special Netherfield Ball recreation (just ignore the picture of Keira Knightley) being aired on BBC in honor of the anniversary! A post with more about this wonderful novel shall hopefully be coming soon!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Best Foot Forward: Day 3

Today seemed even colder and gloomier than yesterday, and since it was sort of raining, I decided to wear jeans, again with boots. I wore a fresh green shirt under my cream cardigan with a braided leather Liz Claiborne belt that I found at Goodwill. I like the belt-over-cardi look that is "in" now. Or is it past being "in" already? I don't really care, I like the style, so I'll wear it anyway. 

I thought my string of pearls would dress it up a little, and I was hoping to try some sort of bun/up-do with my hair, but it refused to cooperate. I have postponed my shower to tomorrow morning so maybe my hair will be more cooperative when it's not thoroughly dried. Make-up was the same again, but I was grocery shopping at Whole Foods today and picked up an eye-shadow quad. It's 4 nice shades in a case with a mirror in the lid, and I think it might be just what I need! I can't wait to try it out tomorrow.

I feel I must confess that I did NOT wear my creamy sweater while I fixed supper today. It's new, and light colored clothing seems to have an extraordinary attraction for staining substances, so I was not brave enough to tempt my luck. Maybe if I had, I wouldn't have forgotten the dried parsley that was supposed to go in the Curry Chicken Pot Pie... oh well, it still tasted pretty good without.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Best Foot Forward: Day 2

This is day 2 of Rachel's Best Foot Forward Challenge!  

Today is my busiest piano teaching day of the week, and besides the students I usually teach on Tuesdays I also had 3 new students scheduled for their first lessons, so I wanted to look professional, but also be comfortable. Since it was much cooler today than yesterday, I went for a long-sleeve sweater and a nice warm skirt. I needed something to brighten the gray day, and help me feel sunny and cheerful even though it was gloomy outside, so I chose a bright gold sweater and one of the scarves I received for Christmas, a vibrant burnt orange with a white, leafy design. 

Excuse the smeary mirror and horrible lighting. My sister took pictures of me this morning with her beast of a camera, and then forgot to upload them. She went off to class, and I don't know if I'll get them tonight, but hopefully I'll add them later.

As seen yesterday, my winter footwear is usually boots, and when worn with skirts, tights. These are actually leggings, though, and I wore my thick wool socks to keep my feet warm and cozy. This is what I saw whenever I glanced down at my lap today while teaching. I like this skirt because it looks like a vintage material to me.

I did get to my make-up, which I did exactly the same way as yesterday. I'm very uncreative when it comes to make-up, and I only have one palette (3 shades) of eye-shadow that I like to use for daytime wear, so that certainly doesn't inspire creativity. I ran out of time to do what I was hoping to try with my hair this morning (maybe I'll do it tomorrow) so I ended up putting it in a french braid, which is at least different than my usual last-minute hair-do.

I know you can't really tell exactly what I did with my hair from this picture, but considering how my selfies usually turn out, I'm kind of pleased with this one anyway. My necklace is one of my favorite pieces, a pottery pendant from Seagrove, NC. It has a pretty, vintage design stamped on it. I also wore my watch and two fall-colored bracelets.

I'm really enjoying this challenge and it's not too late to join in if you want! If you do, I'd love it if you'd comment with your link on my blog as well as Rachel's!

Now I'm going to go relax and read Pride and Prejudice for a little while before I fix supper...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Best Foot Forward: Day 1

I usually try to dress pretty nicely and present an attractive appearance, but I'd let myself slack during the holidays, and I often don't try to look nice when I'm hanging around at home, so I decided to take on this challenge, hosted by Rachel.

 Last night, I spontaneously determined that the "something different" I would try with my hair would be curls. I used to have curls when I was a little tot, but ever since age 7 or so, my hair has been stick straight, and resisted all attempts at curling. I'm a shower-at-night kind of girl in the winter (I hate getting up and taking a shower in the cold, dark mornings) and when I went to bed, my hair was in a just barely not wet stage. I rolled it half-way up in 8 sections, and went to bed. 

Success! My hair stayed curly all day, with no hairspray. It looked a little funky around my face, so I pulled it back into two small clips. I usually wear some eye shadow and mascara, but I recently purchased a new eyeliner, and I also put on a little blush today.

My outfit may look a little fancy, but it's not more than what I tend to wear on Mondays anyway. In the morning, I study with my piano teacher, and she always looks so nice that I'm inspired to mimic her style of dressing. It was strangely warm for January today, so I wore a half-sleeve sweater with one of my favorite flowery skirts, tights and my new boots.

After my piano lesson, I did a little shopping at Goodwill (I'm in need of yet another bookcase!) on my way home. Once I got home, I put on an apron and baked a cheesecake and made pasta for the pesto chicken alfredo Mom was making for supper. I felt like a lady from the 50's, working in the kitchen in nice clothes! I usually worry that even if I wear an apron I'll mess up my clothes, but the most dangerous part was washing up the dishes after I finished... I splashed a little water on my boots. And they are fine.

Then Sarah and I ran out a did some more shopping, groceries and gas for my car. It was a long, busy day, and I am exhausted. The curls are showered out now, and I'm lounging around in my sweatpants and t-shirt, with my wet hair in a messy bun, but I really enjoyed feeling nicely put together all day today. I've written before about wearing skirts, and I like that feeling feminine helps me to display a more gentle and quiet spirit. Looking forward to tomorrow!

"but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious."
-1 Peter 3:4

Saturday, January 5, 2013

2012: What I Learned About Fitness

 The holidays are over and the excessive amounts of sweets and treats, combined with the relaxing laziness of holidays have done their work. Now that the fun is over, everyone realizes they've gained a couple pounds... or 5, or 10. Stores greet shoppers with their best offerings for fitness: weights, yoga mats and work-out clothes. Gyms are packed with people eager to get their "new you" on for the new year. Weight-loss resolutions abound, but many will eventually give up, unsuccessful in their goals, by January 31.  

As I mentioned in my previous post, I read a lot of Dr. Mercola's articles and learned a lot about health in the past year, and kept off the pesky extra pounds I lost when I was sick. I have struggled with a few extra pounds for as long as I can remember, and I had begun to think that I would never lose them. I made two significant changes to my diet, and how I ate, and they worked for me. These tips will help you lose FAT, slimming your waistline, but not losing muscle mass.

First, in addition to my usual healthy diet, I severely restricted fructose and grains, even healthy sugars like raw honey and organic maple syrup and healthy grains, like whole sprouted wheat. That's not to say I cut them out entirely, but I tried to be conscious of how much I was eating, and consider both as a more of a treat than something I could eat whenever I wanted. Occasionally, I would go on vacation from my diet for a week or so, and gain a few pounds, then I would go back to grain and fructose avoidance more strictly until my weight dropped and stabilized.

The second change relates not to WHAT I ate, but WHEN I ate. We've all heard the saying, "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!" It's true, the meal when you "break" your "fast" is the most important meal of the day. But who says it should be in the morning? Your body takes 8 hours to burn up all your glycogen stores, and only after those 8 hours does it switch to burning fat. If I finish eating at 9pm, my body starts burning fat at 5 am. I usually wait until noon or later to eat, giving me at least 7 hours of fat burning before I "breakfast." This also makes sure that I am a fat-burning "beast," and not a sugar-burner.

My favorite new exercise regime is Peak 8 fitness. It only takes 20 minutes, you can do it almost any way you'd like, and it's so effective and strenuous that it should not be done more than 2 or 3 times per week, but you're only working hard for 4 minutes of the workout. Sound too good to be true? Here's how it works:
Warm-up: 3 minutes
1. Sprint all out, until you're gasping for breath: 30 seconds
2. Recover at and easy pace, 90 seconds
Repeat steps one and two for a total of 8 sprints. Try to get your heart rate to your max (220 minus your age).
Cool down: 2 minutes
This can be done on an elliptical, bike, running anywhere, and I've even done it swimming (not very exactly seconds-wise, though.) It's amazing how great I feel afterwards. Sometimes I've been too out of shape to handle all 8 repetitions (like getting back after vacation) so I would only do 4 or 5, still a great workout. Starting out, you may only do 2 or 3 repetitions.
The sprinting engages your super-fast muscle fibers, which promotes human growth hormone (HGH) production and fat burning.

I will be employing all of these techniques in the next few weeks to help me lose the bit of fat I've gained with holiday indulgences. I do use scales and keep track of my weight, but more importantly, I use a fat caliper to measure my body fat percentage, and pay attention to my waist circumference. If you lose fat, and gain muscle, the scales will show you've gained weight, so it's more important to know how much body fat you have, and waist size is also a good indicator.

 (Images from Mercola)

I think the hardest part of staying slim for me was realizing that I can't make changes, lose weight, and then go back to the way I'd used to eat. To keep the weight off, you have to find the right lifestyle changes and make them a permanent part of your life. Staying healthy requires some long-term sacrifices, but the good news is that the benefits are actually lasting! You can lose that extra fat, and KEEP it off, if you're willing to commit and do what you must. Being fit is worth it!