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Posts Tagged ‘finding beauty in the everyday’

Romantic as they seem to us modern folk, stage coaches and sailing ships and horses weren’t the fastest or easiest way to travel the world–nor were they something that everyone in Jane Austen’s England could afford. Unless you were a sailor, a soldier, or a diplomat, you likely spent most of your life in The British Isles. Many never left the county or shire where they were born, and spent their lives with the people in their village. That’s why so much hubbub and excitement ensued when a new teacher, or minister, or peddler arrived in town–or when the gentlefolk from London came to stay at their country estates (we readers and watchers of period dramas could give you plenty of examples here!). Even if you were among the very privileged English youth who took the Grand Tour of Europe, you weren’t as likely to come into contact with non-Europeans. Many parts of the world were yet undiscovered by the West, or were shut away from outsiders, and so it wasn’t often that people saw–much less interacted with–people who looked different from themselves. It’s not like today, where most of us can freely explore almost every corner of our beautiful earth, and where we come in contact with people of different ethnicities and cultures almost every day–if not in real life, than on the Internet or TV.

The Cast of Sanditon

Sadly, the African slave trade was still in existence during Austen’s time, and it was this evil practice that brought many from the African continent into contact with Europeans. Much of this contact was in the Caribbean, where some British had plantations. In my post Jane Austen and Slavery I explored the abolitionists that Austen knew or admired, and the way she raised awareness of slavery in her book Mansfield Park (did you know there are three film adaptations?!). From Austen’s prayers, we can assume she held to the Christian faith–or at least held to the Christian belief that we are ALL descended from Adam and Eve, and therefore all created in the image of God. Not only did she point out the evils of slavery in Mansfield Park, in her unfinished book Sanditon, she went a step further by including a black character, Georgiana Lambe. Georgiana’s father was a plantation owner, and her mother was originally a slave. But now the young heiress has been taken from sunny Antigua and placed in England, in the care of Sidney Parker (heroine Charlotte Heywood’s love interest). In the mini series adaptation of Sanditon, Georgiana (Crystal Clarke) isn’t happy with her situation. But some good things do come from her stay in England–the friendship that forms between Georgiana and Charlotte (Rose Williams) . . . and a little romance, which Charlotte helps Georgiana keep secret from Sidney (Theo James).

Heiress Georgiana Lambe & Charlotte Heywood
Georgiana & sweetheart, Otis

Jane Austen sadly passed away before completing Sanditon, so we don’t know how the book would have been received at the time. But I couldn’t help but recognize the similarities between the fictional Georgiana and the real life woman, Dido Elizabeth Belle, whose story is told in the 2013 movie, Belle. I love searching for connections between fiction and real life! Could Austen have heard of–or even known someone who met–the real Dido Belle? Dido was the illegitimate daughter of a Royal Naval officer, John Lindsay, and a young black woman named Maria Bell, who was a slave on a Spanish ship that was captured by Lindsay. Their daughter, Dido, was eventually taken to England and put in the care of her great-uncle, William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, to be raised on his estate in north London. It’s been speculated that Jane Austen intentionally chose Mansfield as the name of the estate and title of her book, Mansfield Park, in which she addresses slavery. Perhaps with the way her character Georgiana’s life resembles Dido’s, Austen also intended to make connections between the two women.

Dido & Elizabeth, Belle (2013)

As a woman of mixed ethnicity, Dido (Belle), like the fictional Georgiana, faced challenges in English society. The film explores some of the coldness and even open hostility that Dido likely had to endure, even as the niece of a powerful and wealthy man. But she was raised with a cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray, and the two seem to have been best friends. One of the wonderful things left from this relationship is the painting we have of the two young women. Today, the painting hangs at Scone Palace in Scotland, which I visited many times when I lived there. If only I’d paid more attention!

Portrait of Dido & Elizabeth
Portrait of Dido & Elizabeth as portrayed in the movie

As Austen only wrote about 20,000 words of Sanditon, we don’t know exactly what she had planned for the life of Georgiana Lambe. Many have continued the work as they thought it should go, beginning with Jane’s niece, Anna LeFroy, who claimed to have discussed the novel with Austen (though Anna wrote quite a lot, she sadly didn’t finish the story). And of course producer Andrew Davies (Screenwriter for Pride & Prejudice, 1995) continued the story as he thought it should go in the 2019 miniseries, Sanditon. There, Sidney, who believes Otis is a no-good fortune hunter, seems to succeed in separating him from Georgiana. In the film, Belle, we also see Dido being pursued by fortune hunters.

Dido and suitor Oliver Ashford (James Norton)
Dido & John Davinier

While we don’t know Davies’ future plans for Sanditon Season 2, and the rest of Miss Lambe’s story, we do know that Dido fell in love and married a Mr. John Davinier, who–from what we can gather–truly cared for her. While the film portrays him as a minister and abolitionist, he was in fact a Steward for a wealthy employer. Dido was left with a modest inheritance from her father and uncle, and the two must have lived in relative comfort. They had 3 sons. Much like Jane Austen, Dido passed away in her early 40s. But for those years she had with her husband and children, I hope she was happy. I hope Andrew Davies will give Georgiana a happy ending, too. Jane Austen insisted that all her heroines have a happy ending, and so I really feel he must!

Have you seen the miniseries Sanditon or the film Belle? Did you notice any similarities between them? How do you think the story will end for Miss Lambe? Belle is the final film in my Countdown to Spring Weekend Movie Pick ūüĆ∑ – Find Happy Little Sigh on Facebook, Instagram, or MeWe for the complete list of 26 favorite period drama films!!!

Avonlea x

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Finding beauty in the everyday ‚̧

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We sat across from each other at the table for two. Busy Friday night hum. Instruments and speakers toted past as a band set up for a live show. Between us, two gluten-free Greek pizzas, lavender drinks, and so much to say.

We met on Valentine’s Day, age eight. Instant friendship. From then on, we were sisters–she, and I, and her twin sister, and her cousin. Four kindred spirits. Through the rest of childhood and the teenage years, we shared it all. Our secrets. Our dreams for the future. Our clothes. We blushed over boys. Cried hard tears on each other’s shoulders over heart-breaks and family drama. Made plans for many more adventures together.

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Then early adulthood, and choices were made. And we went our separate ways. I moved to Scotland. With an ocean between us for years, it wasn’t hard to grow apart. That, and we each had our demons to fight. But then I returned, back to the USA. We saw each other once, twice, then several times. And with each meeting came more trusting, more sharing of the parts of our stories we’d missed.

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And as we sat in that noisy restaurant last Friday night, we spoke again of the particulars of our lives. Of our mistakes, our regrets, and how we’d grown. She said something nice about my house. I smiled dreamily as she spoke of her daughter–something I’ve never had. And it occurred to us both–occurred to us that we can never see our own life as it looks from the outside. Did you hear that? Other people¬†will naturally and unknowingly take what they see on social media, what they know of your possessions and your family, and the personality you portray in public, and for better or worse,¬†will construct a movie-trailer-like idea of your life. And this, they will think, it what¬†it must be like to be you. And we, in turn, do the same for them.

We look at other women, and so¬†often we see only what she has that I don’t.¬†That child. That house. That career. That husband. That body. That confidence. And we think because she has some of those things that we don’t, she must be happy. She must feel complete.¬†It’s easy to miss the in-between bits. The hurts and the struggles. The tedious times. The longings each of us have.¬†The depth of each human soul.

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It’s easy to forget all that. Easy to forget that others are praying for what we already have. That we, ourselves, once prayed for the many blessings we now enjoy. So today, instead of comparing your life to the false picture you’ve concocted of someone else’s life, let your mind dwell on the many blessings in your own life. For comparison is nothing but a thief of joy.

Avonlea xo

For more inspiration, bookishness, and mad stories of life homeschooling 4 wee men,

Find me on Instagram @happylittlesigh or Facebook @happylittlesigh

MONTHLY Newsletter, Morning Cuppa Tea at happylittlesigh@gmail.com

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Finding beauty in the everyday ♥

 

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A new royal baby, and isn‚Äôt it wonderful? And aren‚Äôt we happy for Prince William and Kate? But wouldn‚Äôt we all like a closer look than what the web or magazines let us see? A closer look at life behind those royal stone walls? And wouldn’t it be fun to imagine being invited to one of the royal homes–say Buckingham Palace?¬† What would one would wear? What would one do? And most importantly, what would Her Majesty be serving for lunch? Well, read on to find out.¬†

¬†I can‚Äôt claim to have extra info on the royal baby or what the new prince will be called (though I’m rooting for Arthur). But during the years spent living in the United Kingdom, I met more than one person who ran into a member of the royal family, or even got to meet them face to face. So for the rather charming little tale of my husband meeting the Queen, plus stories of run-ins with Prince Charles, Prince William and Kate, check out Meeting the Royals – Part 1. And for today, I‚Äôve reserved some rather exclusive pics from two other royal events‚ÄĒthe Queen‚Äôs Diamond Jubilee and her Annual Garden Party. So join me for a peek inside the walls of Buckingham Palace for tea with the Queen.¬†

Buckingham Palace

First off, we need an invitation, or we’ll not be let through the gates.

Certificate of Completion

Now what to wear? The Garden Party requires more stately dress–for ladies, a pretty spring frock and hat or fascinator (pictured above) would be appropriate. For men, a suit and tie or dress uniform is a must. The picnic lunch in honor of the Jubilee, however, allowed for more casual summer attire.¬†

And what shall we do while we are there? Clearly the Queen doesn’t wish her guests to be confused, and so provides a handy timetable for the afternoon of the Garden Party.

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And for her Diamond Jubilee? First, the all import picnic on the lawns of Buckingham Palace. On the menu? Chilled British Country Garden Soup. Diamond Jubilee Chicken &¬† Tea-Smoked Scottish Salmon (toppings for the Fresh Bread Rolls). Oaten Biscuits with Harvest Chutney and a selection of Cheeses. Crunchy Seasonal Crudit√©s (that’s veggie sticks to the rest of us). We mustn’t forget the Bubbly and Tea. And for afters, Lemon & Caraway Madeira cake, Chocolate Indulgence cake, and Sandringham Strawberry Crumble Crunch. A lunch not to be sniffed at.¬†

Afterwards, entertainment by a variety of performers, including Sir Elton John, followed by an impressive fireworks display over the palace.

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And isn’t it all lovely, and doesn’t it just make you sigh a happy little sigh?

Avonlea xo

For more royal fun, bookishness, and mad stories of life homeschooling 4 wee men, 

Find me on Instagram @happylittlesigh or Facebook @happylittlesigh

MONTHLY Newsletter, Morning Cuppa Tea at happylittlesigh@gmail.com

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Finding beauty in the everyday ♥

 

 

 

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He met the Queen, my husband, John, did. As in Her Majesty, The¬†Queen. Elizabeth II. Mother of Prince Charles. Grandmother to Princes William and Harry. Great-grandmother to the little royals. John grew up in a small fishing community in the Northeast of Scotland, far from the gilded elegance of London. But it’s one of those things, I suppose, that the longer one lives in the United Kingdom, the more likely one is to meet, bump into, or at least see one of them–a member of the royal family.

It’s like being an American in L.A. Sooner or later you’ll recognize someone from the Silver Screen. Two of my siblings lived there, and seemed to post weekly pics of famous people they’d helped in their retail jobs. Jackie Chan, Helena Bonham Carter, and the list goes on. My brother ended up with a part in a YouTube video with Richard Simmons (which thankfully didn’t involve exercise). My sister made a friend who lives in the same gated community as Reese Witherspoon. He let my sister use his house for her birthday party one year (which I got to attend!). We all chuckled at the story of Reese coming to his house trick-or-treating with her kids. He handed out Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and in her sweet Southern voice, she replied, “Very funny.” I can just hear it.

There’s something just a bit different, though–a little more magical and surreal–about meeting The Queen¬†and all her family. And stories, both magical and surreal, are what I mean to tell.

Wouldn’t we all have loved to be a university student at St Andrews, where Prince William and Catherine met and fell in love? The daughter of a minister at a church we attended was a student there, and one day got a lovely surprise when Prince William himself opened a door for her. Always the gentleman. Sigh.

And wouldn’t the scenery in the hills of the Scottish highlands have seemed all the more green and glorious had a group of poshly dressed people come along the trail–and one of the them was Prince Charles, who bid you good day? That’s exactly what happened to a woman from our church.

But not all of my stories are of chance encounters.

John met the Queen at 14. He was active in the Boys’ Brigade, a sort of Boy Scouts with Christian roots, and one summer his troop was on parade at Windsor Castle. As the Queen inspected the ranks, she stopped every so often to speak with one of the boys. I like to think it was my husband’s bright crop of ginger hair that caught the Queen’s attention.

“And where have you traveled from?” she asked him, in the way only the Queen could.

He answered, all earnestness and Scottish brogue.

“My,” she smiled, “you have come a long way.”

It wasn’t the lengthiest of interactions, but quite special none-the-less, and a story I surmise we’ll pass down to our grandchildren.

My sister got to see the Queen and Prince Charles. John’s great aunt had secured tickets for the Royal Highland Games (think bagpipes, and kilted men tossing large logs called cabers). The games were held at Balmoral Castle, the Queen’s highland residence, which first belonged to Queen Victoria. John and I had only been married a year, and as he had the day off, I decided to forego Balmoral and stay home with him. Ah, young love. And so I missed my chance to see the Queen, although my sister showed me her photos!

And what of the younger royals?¬†University friends of ours attended a charity event and got near enough to Prince William and Catherine Middleton to snap some close-ups (which they kindly shared with me–hope you like them!).

But my stories don’t end here. Next time–your personal invite inside the gates of Buckingham Palace¬†for The Queen’s Garden Party, and even more up-close and personal stories of the Royal Family.

And if you didn’t catch the story of the weekend I spent in England with some almost royals and totally embarrassed myself, you can find that here.

Avonlea xo

For more breathtaking pics of Great Britain, inspiring quotes from our favourite authors, & peeks into the daily life of a boymum looking for beauty in the everyday things in life, find Avonlea on

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Finding beauty in the everyday ♥

 

 

 

 

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The darkest day.

I always remember.

The least sunshine. The least light.

Winter solstice.

December 21st.

And after this, I’m counting minutes–approximately two each day–until the hours stretch to bring the golden light of the summer sun. But for now, when¬†I feel more than a little sorry for those Narnians and their ever winter never Christmas. When even the icicles hanging outside the kitchen window, and the layer of ice coating everything else, when even they can’t shine, my brain can feel as cloudy as this murky winter light.

Still, sometimes I see it–the beauty of eternity that begins today. These little souls, my little men, and the treasure that they are.

Other days I hit the floor running,

some crazy dance from room to room,

glancing occasionally at the clock,

and imaging the utter shock

my friends would feel if they ever stopped

and saw the state of this house.

On those days I find myself, at least once,

pausing–the whirlwind of Cheerios and Lego and foam swords¬† and four little men swirling all around me, a¬†now cold cup of tea in my hand–wondering,

what, oh, what, is going on?

There must be something, something I’m missing,

or it wouldn’t be

like this.

But what?

A little sleep, to be sure.

An intentional effort to count blessings

and sing praise

and speak truth.

Yes.

All that.

All that, and just a little more time

with Jesus.

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Because though I have 2 million distractions, though the crumbs, and the laundry, and the children cry out to my clouded, foggy, weary brain, though the weather is bleak, and though I carry sorrows and disappointments in the deepest chambers of my heart,

none of it

none of it

should be an excuse.

An excuse to raise my voice or declare my dissatisfaction or remain in a dark, murky mood.

Because eternity begins today.

Our eternity began the day we were born.

And for those of us who love Jesus

that means counting those blessings,

speaking those truths,

and no matter how we’re feeling,

choosing to live like Christ.

ha

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The new year is coming.

Isn’t that a shock?

And what sort of year, I wonder, is it going to be?

I have my hopes and have my dreams,

but I realize that what I need

more than anything

is to spend more time with The Word.

With Jesus.

Pouring over His commands,

reading and re-reading his life

until His words and His ways and His will,

which are all Him,

become more of who I am, too.

For there is no better way to know what we’re missing.

There is no better way to bring into the darkness of our lives and minds

His perfect light

than to know Jesus.

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Let’s remember not just the manger but the cross. The purpose of Christ’s arrival on our planet. The depth of His LOVE.

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For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.   ~ John3:16

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Love came down at Christmas
Love all lovely, love divine
Love was born at Christmas
Star and angels gave the sign.

Avonlea xo

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Finding beauty in the everyday ‚̧

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