Friday, May 14, 2010

The Quilt Files, Episode 20

Technically, this project shouldn't really fall under "quilting," because no actual quilting took place ... but it was pieced together, and I think patchwork falls under the general heading of quilting-type crafts.

Anyway, there was a wedding in the family this month; and I know, usually I make quilts for family weddings. But this wedding was for a cousin on my mom's side of the family, and my maternal grandmother had already made a quilt for my Cuz. (And actually, she finished it ten years before the wedding, he just chose not to receive it until he got married.) And when my Grandma has made a quilt, I really can't compete:

Isn't that gorgeous? Not just the applique, which is wonderful (and looks like it's that really hard, fold-under-the-edges type), but all the quilting, which is a feature in itself on these quilts with the light-colored tops. So there wasn't any point in going whole-hog on the quilting front. I didn't have a ton of time, anyway.

Instead, I went for the accessories. I checked out their wedding registry and saw they had chosen two colors for their bedroom: sage and a kind of dutch blue. I bought the sage sheets and took them to the fabric store, where I found a really nice paisley I thought would suit both those colors. Then I found a few more coordinating fabrics, which was harder than you might think; while there were many fabrics using sage with shades of teal (it's a nicer combo than it sounds), there weren't many that worked with sage and blue. But I found a few of near-solids and a pattern that kept to the color scheme, and a little bit of piecing combined with some pillow forms resulted in this:

You can never have enough pillows on your bed, right? I was rather pleased with these, because I made a nice pattern out of a limited number of fabrics, and the neck bolster I made without a pattern. I just measured the size and managed to cut out the right size of circles to get the perfect fit. Now maybe I should make some of those bolsters for my own use....

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Janespotting: Mrs. Rushworth by Victor Gordon

I nosed around for information about the author of this week's featured Austen continuation, Victor Gordon, but I couldn't find much at all. He was published in Britain and had a few books on food published. (I wouldn't advise googling his 1989 title, Prawnography, looking for more information.) In 1989 he also published the novel Mrs. Rushworth, a continuation of Mansfield Park. From the title, it's obvious he's exploring the story of Fanny's cousin Maria, who notoriously married for money and then ran away with Henry Crawford, who deserted her.

The novel opens almost immediately after the end of MP, with Maria and her devoted Aunt Norris reading the announcement of Fanny and Edmund's marriage. The two have been traveling nonstop, trying to avoid Maria's notoriety, and finally decide to settle in Leamington Spa for a while. They seem to find their niche, until they discover the existence of a novel called Mansfield Park at their local library. Mrs. Norris tries to buy all the copies, but some get out, and when a local baron's son tries to take advantage of Maria, she decides that the only way to escape her reputation is to travel to America. She heads to Liverpool to book passage, and along the way aids a woman of shadowy background give birth. The experience moves her strangely, and gives her the courage to stand up to Mrs. Norris when she tries to derail the American trip, and then Maria's budding romance with Charles Cheviot, a gentleman of hidden musical and theatrical talents. When Mrs. Norris tries to prevent them traveling on the same ship to America, Maria gives her the slip and she and Charles end up getting married.

After a happy and successful seven years in America, during which Maria bears two children, the family returns to England, settling in Liverpool, where Charles has a nominal job that allows him to spent time writing music. Maria encourages him in his efforts to write an opera, and they become respectable members of the city establishment, even after Maria's father dies and the annual support he had provided her is withdrawn. (This is shown in a very clever scene that echoes the beginning of Sense and Sensibility.) They befriend Maria's cousin (and Fanny's brother) William Price; they forgive him for being the venue through which Jane Austen learned Maria's story (he mentioned it to Austen's brother, also a naval officer) and host a ball in his honor. They also spend a lot of money mounting a production of Charles's opera, which is marred by public misbehavior but ends with Charles being offered a chance to join an opera company in London as an apprentice. Maria encourages him to take the position, but the pay is too low to support the family. Instead he devotes time to his real job, which has him managing the affairs of a widow who has inherited a mill.

The job takes him away from Maria, who typically lets her imagination run away with her regarding Charles and the widow. When William Price visits after losing an eye fighting for his country, she doesn't prevent a session of "cousinly comfort" bestowing a "hero's reward" in her bed. When this single night ends in a pregnancy, Maria can't prevent Charles from discovering the truth, and although she declares her steadfast love, he finds it hard to forgive her. While there was a possibility for reconciliation, she storms off in a melodramatic huff and becomes an actress. By the time she tries to come back, Charles has already started divorce proceedings, and eventually ends up with the mill widow, who by chance is the young woman whom Maria aided in giving birth all those years ago. Maria's child is adopted by Tom and Susan (Susan Price having married Tom Bertram in this novel as well), and Maria herself returns to America to become an actress.

Maria was one of the more unpleasant characters in Austen's original novel, and here in this novel she is just as flawed. However, we are given more of her interior life and at times she becomes a somewhat sympathetic character. Mrs. Rushworth gives us an almost picaresque journey which is always interesting to read. She comes close to redeeming her flaws, but not quite, and the way the author weaves in Austen and all her novels was very entertaining. So while the book wasn't very Austenish in tone (too much naughtiness going on), it made very good (and fairly consistent) use of her characters and told an entertaining tale. All in all, it was a much better read than I would have expected from someone better known for writing about food.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Photo of the Week--5/10/10

During our Baltic trip in 2001, we had a stop in St. Petersburg, Russia. I looked through all my photos of our visit, and couldn't find a single pigeon. Were they regulated by the Russian government, or were we keeping Boy on a leash and avoiding trouble? Either way, we chased no pigeons. I thought this photo was appropriate, because you can see Boy is either fed up with visiting another stupid castle, or else he is fed up with being in another stupid photo. Never mind that it's the beautiful Catherine Palace!