November 30, 2008

Jane Austen Book Club - Sense and Sensibility

Welcome to the first installment of the Jane Austen book club. The club was started by Amanda, who decided she wanted to read all of Austen's books and invited anyone who wanted to read along to join in.

Jane Austen

This month we're reading Sense and Sensibility. Sense and Sensibility was Jane Austen's first book to be published. It's considered by critics to be one of her simpler narratives and they suggest it is a good place to start for people who are new to her books. So, good choice for first book, Amanda - you're obviously a natural at this book club thing.

I've never been a member of a book club. I also don't really have a lot of practice talking about literature. I'm not sure how to proceed here... What to focus on, what to write about? Um... Going first is hard. But I'll give it my best shot. I guess I'll write a bit about the book and then we can all subscribe to the comments and have a nice discuss about it? Okay? Good... Here I go.

Jane Austen's book offers an amusing window into the lives of English gentry in the early 19th century. She often pokes fun at all aspects of the lives her characters lead, and at the silliness and frivolity of people in general. Her books are witty and amusing and they offer the excitement of eavesdropping on the romantic lives of her young, intelligent and attractive heroines. The women in Austen novels are often able to think for themselves, more than the secondary female characters who surround them. They can hold their own in conversation with anyone, including the men and the aristocracy. However, they're held back by their place in society. As women, to be someone in their society at the time, they must marry and it is always an important imperative to find the right husband.

Sense and Sensibility is about the Dashwood family who must leave their home, after it is inherited by their half brother, to settle in a much smaller cottage in a new part of England. Like most of Austen's books, this book is about young women meeting men and overcoming obstacles to each end up married to their respective "Mr. Right". The two main characters in the book are the eldest sisters of the Dashwood family, Elinor and Marianne. Elinor is the sensible sister. Being the eldest child of a fairly silly mother, she takes responsibility for the family's well being. She takes this role a bit too seriously and, in order to avoid causing additional problems for her loved ones, she hides her real feelings from them. Marianne, on the other hand, is of a very romantic and melodramatic character. She feels things deeply and takes great pleasure in sharing her feelings with those around her, often to the point where she lets them run away with her.

Elinor's love interest is Edward Ferrars. She meets him and spends time with him at the family's estate before they relocate to their new cottage. They become close enough for her family to assume that they will soon become engaged. However, she finds out from his betrothed, Miss Lucy Steele - a women who is staying with the couple Elinor's mother rents their cottage from, that he is engaged. Lucy confides her secret engagement with Edward to Elinor after learning of Elinor's interest in Edward. Elinor must hide her interest in him from Lucy and her disappointment from her family. She suffers this quietly until finally exploding in response to her sister, who accuses her of lacking in feeling. Edward's family disowns him when they learn of his engagement because they believe Lucy to be beneath them socially. Edward refuses to end the engagement, despite his secret preference for Elinor. In the end, though, Lucy and Edward's marriage doesn't go through when Lucy elopes with his brother, who has been given the family's fortune on Edward's being disowned. The drama ends happily when, after Lucy's elopement with his brother, Edward shows up to ask for Elinor's hand in marriage. Ignoring the strictures of the popular dating advice book "The Rules", which admittedly wasn't yet published at the time, Elinor jumps at the chance to be his wife.

Marianne's story is a bit more complicated. Marianne, in a typically romantic fashion, falls for the dashing Mr. Willoughby when he rescues her after she falls down a hill and twists her ankle. Marianne and Willoughby really hit it off and spend hours together talking about everything and anything. Marianne is so taken with Willoughby that she behaves fairly badly - going off on her own with him without a chaperon and visiting his Cousin's estate, which is near her home, with him without the cousin's invitation, or promise of future ownership through marriage to Willoughby (in Austen's time, very shocking behavior, indeed!) - causing her sister to lecture and inciting endless teasing by the other members of her acquaintance. Marianne and her family are surprised and upset when Willoughby leaves suddenly for London with no warning and little explanation. Despite Willoughby's sudden desertion of her, Marianne remains convinced that he'll soon return.

When a family friend, Mrs. Jennings offers to take the sisters to London, Marianne jumps at the chance of being with Willoughby. It is not until she runs into him at a party that she learns the truth that he has become engaged to another woman and that she must accept that Willoughby has truly moved on. She sinks into her heart ache, becoming so overwrought that she looses her appetite and, according to her brother, her beauty. Her upset is alleviated somewhat by Colonel Brandon, a friend of the Middletons's - the family who owns the cottage the Dashwoods rent, (and who has been in love with Marianne since first laying eyes on her, but who she's discounted because of his age (35 OMG!) and also because of his calm nature which is so different from her drama queen ways). Colonel Brandon informs the sisters of Willoughby's true character: It turns out that Willoughby seduced a young girl, who was under Colonel Brandon's care, leaving her pregnant and alone. Marianne, while devastated by this news, is forced to admit that she is better off without him.

Wanting to return home, Elinor and Marianne accept an invitation to visit with Charlotte Palmer - the daughter of Mrs. Jennings, the woman whose house they've been visiting in London - a move which places them within easy reach of home once their visit is complete. Marianne, happy to be away from the city, takes long solitary walks in the grounds and catches a bad cold. The cold, helped along by Marianne's continual wallowing in misery, quickly descends into serious illness, and Marianne almost dies. Marianne calls out for her mother and Elinor, fearing that her sister is not going to recover, decides to send for Mrs. Dashwood. Colonel Brandon, who has been visiting the Palmers as well, acts on his love and concern for Marianne and shows great kindness by offering to go and fetch Mrs. Dashwood. Elinor gratefully accepts his offer.

While colonel Brandon is gone, Marianne's condition improves and it become clear that she's going to get better after all. Eager to tell her mother the good news, Elinor rushes downstairs and is surprised by the arrival of Willoughby, instead of her mother, when she hears a carriage. Willoughby, having heard of Marianne's illness, rushed from London to explain his past behaviour. Willoughby explains to Elinor and we learn that he didn't behave as badly as it appeared. He left Marianne so suddenly after a breach with his cousin (who ownes the large estate near the Dashwoods' cottage which he and Marianne broke all the social rules by visiting during their courtship). The breach happened after Willoughby's cousin became disgusted with his behaviour when she heard about the girl that Willoughby impregnated. And so Willoughby chose money over happiness and became engaged to a girl with a large fortune. When Elinor tells her the truth, Marianne is relieved to learn that Willoughby wasn't faking his feelings for her.

In the end, Marianne sees the error of her overly emotional ways and admits to Elinor that she'd been selfish being all weepy when Elinor was suffering a difficult end of romance as well. The book ends happily with Elinor married to Edward and Marianne married to Colonel Brandon who, over time, she has come to love as much as she ever loved Willoughby.

Austen's wit and social commentary come out most in her secondary characters:

Elinor and Marianne's brother, Mr. Dashwood, and his wife Fanny, early in the book, have a very comic exchange in which Fanny convinces Mr. Dashwood that he doesn't really need to act on his promise to his dying father that he will help his sisters. He starts out determined to give them three thousand pounds (according to the intro in my book - equivalent to 15,000 - 30, 000 today). She talks him down to the point where he decides he'll help them by assisting them to move out and feels generous for doing it. The Dashwoods' behaviour to Elinor and Marianne continues to be selfish, dismissive and rude throughout the book, and they continue to be convinced that they are being most generous and kind to their sisters.

The family who owns the cottage the Dashwood ladies rent, distant cousins of Mrs. Dashwood, Sir John and Lady Middleton are entertaining characters. Sir John is good natured and loves to be surrounded by company, especially young people who he enjoys matching up and teasing about their romances. His wife is a dull woman who is really only interested in her children. Her mother, Mrs. Jennings, soon comes to stay with them and joins enthusiastically with Sir John in teasing the young people. Mrs. Jennings, who invites Elinor and Marianne to visit with her in London, turns out to be so good hearted, sticking by the sisters through Marianne's illness, that she even manages to gain the love of Marianne, who is impatient and stand-offish with almost everyone throughout, by the end of the story.

The Palmers are particularly funny. Charlotte Palmer, Mrs. Jennings other daughter, is a fairly pretty and enormously silly woman. She can't talk of anything without laughing. Because of her beauty she managed to marry a sensible man who soon became tired of her silly side. Mr. Palmer either ignores her, or is rude to her. Far from finding it distressing, she is endlessly amused by it and loves him all the more for his odd behaviour.

The following exchange, which takes place on p. 74 of my 1992 Wordsworth Classic paperback edition, illustrates the humour with which Austen treats her secondary characters:

The scene starts out with Sir Middleton teasing Marianne about Willoughby...
Marianne looked very grave, and said nothing.

"Oh! Don't be so sly before us," said Mrs. Palmer: "for we know all about it, I assure you; and I admire your taste very much, for I think he is extremely handsome. We do not live a great way from him in the country, you know, - not above ten miles, I dare say."

"Much nearer thirty," said her husband.

"Ah! Well! there is not much difference. I never was at his house; but they say it is a sweet, pretty place."

"As vile a spot as I ever saw in my life," said Mr. Palmer.
Marianne remained perfectly silent, though her countenance betrayed her interest in what was said.

"Is it very ugly?" continued Mrs. Palmer - "then it must be some other place that is so pretty, I suppose."

When they were seated in the dining-room, Sir John observed with regret that they were only eight all together.

"My dear," he said to his lady, "it is very provoking that we should be so few. Why did not you ask the Gilberts to come to us today?"

"Did not I tell you, Sir John, when you spoke to me about it before, that it could not be done? They dined with us last."

"You and I, Sir John," said Mrs. Jennings, "should not stand upon such ceremony."

"Then you would be very ill-bred," cried Mr. Palmer.

"My love, you contradict everybody," said his wife, with her usual laugh. "Do you know that you are quite rude?"

"I did not know I contradicted anybody in calling your mother ill-bred."

"Aye, you may abuse me as you please," said the good-natured old lady. "You have taken Charlotte off my hands, and cannot give her back again. So there I have the whip hand of you."

Charlotte laughed heartily to think that her husband could not get rid of her, and exultingly said, she did not care how cross he was to her, as they must live together... The studied indifference, insolence, and discontent of her husband gave her no pain; and when he scolded or abused her she was highly diverted.

"Mr. Palmer is so droll!" said she, in a whisper, to Elinor. "He is always out of humour."

A few questions to discuss:

1. Keeping in mind that 35 was quite a bit older at the time than it is now, do you think that Colonel Brandon is too old for Marianne, who is 17 (19 when they get married)?

2. Who do you think would be the better match for Marianne if Willoughby hadn't turned out to be such a loser - Willoughby or Colonel Brandon?

3. In Jane Austen's time, Edward's spending so much time one-on-one with Elinor at the beginning of the book was enough to cause her family to imagine that they "had an understanding" (AKA that they were engaged). What do you think of Edward spending so much time with Elinor and falling in love with her while he was engaged to another girl? Do you think his not acting on his feeling excuses his behaviour? Do you think his behaviour was as bad as Willoughby's?

4. Why do you think Jane Austen included a 3rd sister in the book? What role did Margaret play in the story?

5. Why do you think Jane Austen called the book Sense and Sensibility?

6. Who was your favourite character and why? What was your favourite scene?

7. What do you think it must have been like to live with so many strict social rules? Do you think it made social interactions easier or more difficult?

8. Whose behaviour did you find more frustrating - Elinor's stoic stiff upper lip and refusal to share her feelings or Marianne self-indulgent weep fest?

9. What do you think Jane Austen was trying to say about the character traits Sense and Sensibility?

10. I say, in my plot summary, that the book ends happily but Stephen Arkin, in the introduction to my edition, claims that there is something inherently disappointing in the conclusion of the novel: "Closing the book a reader who has enjoyed watching its two heroines come safely home might still wish that there was just a bit more sparkle and a bit less duty in the air." What do you think? Were you satisfied with the conclusion of the book?

11. Which Jane Austen Heroine are you?

I am Elizabeth Bennet!

Take the Quiz here!

Hope that was the kind of thing you had in mind, Amanda!

Okay, ladies, let the discussion begin!


Blue Christmas

by Elvis Presley

Poor, poor Elvis. He's blue (ooo ooo ooo) but we're doing alright with our Christmas of white. Send him hugs.


November 29, 2008

The Christmas Song

by Nat King Cole

I had a hard time finding a version of this song I liked. Every one seemed to be too morose. Christmas, to me, should not be morose. I like this one, though, he seems happy and warm and I love his smile.

Hey every mother! Is your child going to try to see if reindeer really know how to fly this Christmas?


November 28, 2008

Angels We Have Heard on High

by the guy who makes instruments out of vegetables, natch, playing the big broccoli ocarina.

This guy is amazing. He's made tons of instruments out of various different vegetables, with varying degrees of success. This one if my favourite, though, it has the clearest sound and I always did like broccoli.


November 27, 2008

5 things meme

I've been tagged by Ami at Writing: My Life. Thanks for the tag, Ami! Ami is doing a series right now, at her blog, in which she answers questions put to her by her blog readers. Click over and check it out - it's a fun read.

Five Things I Was Doing 10 Years Ago:

  1. Painting courses
  2. Photography courses
  3. Drawing courses
  4. Sculpture courses
  5. Art history courses
Five Things On My To Do List:
  1. Buy a birthday present for Buddy's best friend who is having a birthday party this weekend.
  2. Finish embroidering my felted Christmas ornaments
  3. Crochet a stack of hats
  4. Clean the kitchen and bathrooms (ick)
  5. Get over this beastly cold

Five Things I Like To Snack On:

  1. Chocolate
  2. Clemintines
  3. Strawberry yogurt
  4. Chips and salsa
  5. Peanut butter toast
Five Things I Would Do If I Was A Millionaire:
  1. Pay off student loans
  2. Buy a house
  3. Travel
  4. Pay off some other peoples' debts - family & close friends
  5. Save for my kids' future

Five Places I Have Lived:

  1. Hampton
  2. Fredericton
  3. Toronto
  4. Sackville
  5. Here, where I live right now
Five Jobs I Have Had:
  1. Summer children's program coordinator, NB museum
  2. Library summer student
  3. Product coordinator for a tour company
  4. Sales productivity centre representative (call centre job - YUCK)
  5. The person who walks you through fixing your printer when you call Xerox.

Five People I Am Tagging:

  1. Mommatudes
  2. The Happy Mom
  3. Laura at Are We Nearly There Yet, Mummy?
  4. Mommy Brain
  5. Tirzah at Daisy Chains Crochet


White Christmas

by The Drifters

I love this. And can't that white reindeer wail?

Okay, so far I haven't been saying who the songs were by. I'm going to from now on.

So far we've heard O come all ye faithful by Twisted Sister, I hate Christmas by Oscar the Grouch, and Fairytale of New York by The Pogues.


November 26, 2008

Fairytale of New York


I almost forgot today.

Happy Christmas Countdown!


November 25, 2008

I Don't Really Hate Christmas

But this? It's a classic.

Happy Christmas countdown everyone! Whee!


November 24, 2008

Voting is now open!


Remember the Canadian Blog awards?


Voting is now open! So go and vote. Everyone gets one vote per category only... So vote wisely.

I'm nominated in the Family blog category... just in case, you know, anyone was wondering. Thanks to the Nag on the Lake for the nomination. She's nominated in the Culture and Entertainment category. Good luck, Nag!

Good times.



Christmas Countdown, Musically speaking

So I'm officially starting my countdown to Christmas. Fa la la la.

I'm going to share a Christmas song with you every. single. day. from now until the 25th. Probably. Ha! I think I'm afraid of bloggy commitment.

I will try to find interesting and unique or funny and odd Christmas song videos to share with you.

I hope you enjoy.

Here is today's:

Are you looking for a good reason to invite a hair band to your Christmas party? Well, here you go:

You're welcome.

What is your favourite Christmas song?


Oh Dear. Oh Me Oh My!

My laptop has kicked the bucket. I'm coming to you from my old laptop. Which is, you know, FINE n' all. BUT. My newer laptop is ill, possibly fatally.

It's all Norton's fault ... At least I think it is. Norton or Bell.

So we discovered it had a virus and some really annoying adware. So I wondered how that had happened. I thought we had protection. I checked online on my Bell Canada account page and it looked like we did not actually have the virus protection I thought we had. So I bought Norton. Norton cleared the virus off my laptop and then crashed all the other applications. Nothing was working. So I attempted to remove Norton. The remove program thing was only half successful, Norton did not want to be removed. I then discovered that we are indeed paying for virus protection from my internet service provider, Bell, it just wasn't turned on, or something. I tried to return Norton to Future shop but they won't take it back (oh, stupid Future Shop, how I dislike you) - even though it's killing my laptop. Argh. So, anyway. Last night the laptop seemed to be working okay again when suddenly Dun-dun-duuuuuunnn I got the dreaded blue screen. I turned it off and rebooted only to get the blue screen again. I rebooted in safe mode and backed up all my files (Ah! Family pictures, must save the family pictures!!). So I'm all backed up anyway. The stupid thing won't even turn on this morning. The good news is, though, that Hubby thinks it's still under warranty. So that's good... But I'm still out fifty bucks for Norton software that ate my computer. Grrr. Grrr.

Okay badly written rant - DONE. Feelings - VENTED.

Back to our regularly scheduled program.

But. This computer is. so. slow! Whaaaaaaan!

Sorry. I'm done now.


November 21, 2008

A Quintessential Canadian Roadsign

One weekend in September my family and I went on a walk. If you follow this blog, you know that this isn't out of the ordinary for us. On this particular day, we decided to explore a walking trail that is quite close to where we live.

Part of the trail was closed because of construction. They were putting up power lines. The enormous metal pylon kind.

They had this marker on the side of the dirt track to direct the trucks which direction to take to reach the construction site:

Do you see what that is? Here's some close-ups:

Still can't really tell?

It's a Tim Horton cup, duct-taped upside down on a metal post and painted orange.

Do you see it now?

Aside from the hilarity involved in using a coffee cup as a roadside sign, this is particularly funny because a Tim Horton's Coffee is the quintessential Canadian beverage. It is impossible to do any kind of heavy lifting without one. Canadians usually have theirs double double, which means two creams, two sugars; but we (at the Reluctant Housewife household) drink our Timmy's with just milk. I imagine that, since construction involves heavy lifting, a Timmy's cup was what easily came to hand when they needed to put together the roadside sign. A Timmy's cup, a little orange spray paint and voila - the quintessentially Canadian roadsign is born.

For more Photostory Friday go to

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek


November 16, 2008

Alligator King


Seven - The Short Poem Edition

I've been tagged by Suzanne at Always Ours. Thanks for the tag! It's always fun to be tagged by new readers.

Here are the rules:
The rules:
1) Link to the person who tagged you.
2) Post the rules.
3) Share seven random or weird facts about yourself.
4) Tag 7 random people at the end of the post with their links.
5) Let each person know they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

I think I've actually done this one a bunch of times... but I can't for the life of me locate any of those posts... So here goes nothing - Seven random or weird facts about myself, the cop-out short poem edition:

1. Haiku

I like a Haiku.
Short and fun to write. Seven-
teen syllables long.

2. Limerick

There once was a girl from Canada
Who answered a meme. Ta dah, ta dah!
She knew not what to say
So she poetry-ed away
She's a nut that girl from Canada

3. Name

Meetings online, relationships formed lead to
Exchanges of small games, questions and link love
Must be answered quickly, never ignored
Except if you want people to stop tagging you
Social rules can be so hard to follow.

4. Epigram

I've not heard of this type of poem before
It wouldn't surprise me to be shown the door

Because I'm supposed to be talking 'bout myself
But that is a topic that is still on the shelf

Instead I'm focusing on short verse
Which, with as little knowledge as I possess, is really quite perverse.

5. Free verse

I think free verse can really be anything
At all

I know that it really shouldn't rhyme
At all

But I thought that I might throw in a common theme
At all

By constantly repeating the two words "at all"
For all

6. Quatrain

I'm running out of types of poems
I think I'll have to repeat
A type of poem I've already used
To make this meme complete.

7. Another Haiku

Seven random facts.
But they're not so much about
Me after all, hun?


Now, I have to tag seven random people... so um... okay. But, you know what? I think most people have already done this one... So I'm going to keep rule breaking away and not tag anyone. If you enjoyed these little poems, why don't you write seven short poems, too? And don't forget to let me know about it!


November 14, 2008

Sometimes Bunnies Happen to Good People

It's moments like these: You arrive home, pull into your driveway and turn around and see your child, who until this very moment has seemed like such a big independent boy, sound asleep with his face snuggled deep in a stuffed bunny. Your heart melts. And you are reminded of that great Elizabeth Stone quotation about parenting: "Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."

For more Photostory Friday go to

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek


November 13, 2008

Strange and Wonderful Occurences of Retail Exploration

Want to come along with the Reluctant Housewife family on a few shopping trips?

I know you do!

Let's get going... First to Ikea!

Hubby and I decided to make a Christmas shopping trip to Ikea last weekend. The idea was to put the kids in the ball room while we shopped at leisure for a parents-only happy-happy-joy-time hour.

The first thing that struck us, when we walked through the front door, was all the Christmas decorations. The boys were very excited to see the Christmas trees.

Fa la la la la

la la la laaaa

This tree even had presents. "PRESENTS!"

When we went to register at the ball room, there was a 45 minute wait. The boys were determined to have their fun, though, so we signed up and were given a pager to notify us when two spaces had opened up.

We walked around the corner and found one of the living room set-ups, complete with toys and books. So we sat down and made ourselves comfortable to wait out our 45 minutes in peace (much to the amusement of the other shoppers, I'm sure: "What are these people doing?" "They do realized they're not actually at home, don't they?").

Hubby, in true Dad fashion, settled himself in the armchair.
He grabbed The House at Pooh Corner and read aloud to the kids.
Buddy is holding our pager.

The birdie especially enjoyed the story.

I settled myself on the couch.

And the kids played with the toys.

The boys invited some friends to tea.

Buddy set the table.

And Monkey served.

After about 30 minutes, our pager went off. We dropped the boys off at the ball room and enjoyed a kid-free hour of shopping. At the end of the hour, our pager went off again and we collected the kids - who were wiggly and excited and full of fun after their hour in kidworld.

Post ball room re-hydration.
Don't worry, it's water not coffee.


Hubby and I have been wanting to visit a local antique shop. It's a three story building jammed to the gills with unique items, jumbled together in no logical way. Many of the items are breakable, so we didn't feel we could go when the kids were with us. We took the opportunity to pay it a visit on Remembrance Day morning, while the kids were at school. Hubby and I wandered the interior while I covertly snapped some pictures with my cell phone.

What a great place!


Monkey's been asking to go to Cora's for lunch after school for weeks and, since Hubby had the day off for Remembrance Day, it seemed like a perfect opportunity. While we were waiting for our food to be served, Monkey and I amused ourselves by taking pictures.

"Take a picture of my boot, Mommy!"

Does this picture remind you of anything?

Thanks for tagging along! It's been fun.


November 12, 2008

WW A Weekend Walk in the Park

It was a beautiful day.

For more Wordless Wednesday, check out 5 Minutes for Mom.

Love to read about Craft Projects Gone Wrong? Check out my Wordful Wednesday post Lulu's Hook.