The Georgian Chocolate Party

Some months ago a few friends discussed how nice it would be to assemble one afternoon to visit over cups of drinking chocolate and a few sweets.  However, when you have three ladies who love to sew, cook and dance, nothing remains simple for long. Before you know it, our little Georgian chocolate party turned into a formal costumed dinner party with dancing.

One of our number happens to have decorated her home in the Georgian style which provided the perfect backdrop for the evening. Before dinner we assembled in the parlour. We admired each other’s gowns, and made note of how dapper all of the gentlemen looked, and engaged in otherwise pleasant conversation over glasses of spiced Negus and cider.

Given that many of the guests are extremely talented seamstresses, the clothing was a feast for the eyes, and that combined with the beautiful period appropriate setting, you could almost imagine that we had actually travelled back in time as we raised our glasses and toasted the King before being called in for dinner.

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The parlour

The dining room was as beautiful as the parlour, and very much reminded me of a picture of the dining hall located in Castle Howard in Yorkshire.

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Dining Room

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Castle Howard, Yorkshire

There were two servants on hand to ensure that all ran smoothly, and due to space constraints and to ensure that everything could be served at an optimum temperature, it was decided that we would pop slightly into the 19th century to dine service à la russe.  Some weeks before the dinner, I researched period recipes to consider serving at the dinner. The recipes were split up between those of us who love to cook, and when we arrived at the party our prepared dishes were immediately taken into the kitchen for the servants to manage.  Once we were all seated the wine was poured and spectacular dinner commenced.

 

We started with a course of roasted cheese, beets, and olives. Roasted cheese was one of Jane Austen’s favorite dishes, and this Good Time Regency Girl could have eaten this one dish and have been content. That is until the other dishes started arriving.

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Roasted Cheese

The main meal consisted of roasted chicken, ham, roots a’la crème, green beans ragooed with potatoes, and an almond and rose water flummery.

Following the main course, the dessert course was laid out and consisted of syllabubs, mince tarts, blown almonds, shortbread, and a Georgian chocolate tart.

After dessert, the ladies lingered in the dining room while the gentlemen headed back into the parlour to rearrange the furniture to make room for us to dance. I brought along a laptop loaded with English country dance music, and called a variety of dances that worked well in a confined space. We have already discussed how lovely it would be to bring in a musician the next time we host one of these dinner parties, but the recorded music did suit our purpose for the evening. During a break in the dancing the men happened across a selection of reproduction swords and some silliness broke out shortly after.

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swordplay

 

The evening concluded with us all sitting in the parlour, agreeing that while this was the first such party it will most certainly not be the last.

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The Ladies

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The TIFF Assembly

This year Toronto TIFF films in the park ended their 2015 season with a free screening of Pride and Prejudice in David Pecaut Square. A few years ago a few of us dressed up and attended a screening of Sense and Sensibility and had a great time, so I thought why not do it again, arrive a little early, and do some dancing. I spread the word to my dance friends and we ended up a party of nine, two of us being Good Time Regency girls.

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We found a quiet corner of the park to dance in. After we started, a TIFF organizer approached us to see if we would be interested in dancing in front of the crowd that was assembling for the film.

Dancing in our quiet corner of the park

Dancing in our quiet corner of the park

Dancing in our corner of the park

Dancing in our corner of the park with Roy Thomson Hall in the background.

We decided “Why Not?” TIFF played our music through their very loud sound system, and we danced for about 30 minutes leading up to the screening of the film. At the end, we got a huge applause from a crowd of approximately 200 people.

Dancing in front of the crowd.

Dancing in front of the crowd.

Afterwards we were approached by several people who were interested in learning more about English Country Dancing, and eventually got settled into our chairs for the film. The evening was certainly not what we had expected, but it was such great fun. Three cheers for The TIFF Assembly!

Enjoying the film.

Enjoying the film.

Dancing Through The Ages

The first weekend of July swung into action with two back-to-back days of costumed dancing. On Saturday I time traveled back to the mid -19th century at Pickering Museum Village to dance Schottische’s, Quadrille’s, and of course A Grand March. Not my usual English Country Dance fare, but an interesting change with an outstanding caller, David Smuckler,  and delightful musicians. I enjoyed viewing the wide variety of costumes worn by attendees, with fashions ranging from the early to mid-19th century.

Ladies in hoops.

Ladies in hoops.

My favorite outfit of the day.

My favorite outfit of the day.

Here is a image of me participating in one of the dances. Of course I am the lady in the Regency Gown.

Here is a image of me participating in one of the dances. Of course I am the lady in the Regency Gown.

The dancing continued on Sunday, travelling even further back in time to my beloved Regency period. The Jane Austen Dancers hosted a public demonstration at The Toronto Harborfront Centre. The day included some demonstration dances plus the opportunity for spectators to step up and learn a few simple dances. Lemonade was served, free hand fans were handed out, and the public seemed to have a great time learning a little about the type of dance that Jane Austen would have participated in.  Best thing overheard was a teenage girl walking past me holding hands with her boyfriend saying “How can you not be into this Jane Austen stuff?”  I wholeheartedly agree.

Regency dancing at Harbor Front Centre.

Regency dancing at Harbor Front Centre.

Jane Austen Dance

Jane Austen Dance

Elizabeth – Darcy – A review

So on Sunday afternoon myself and Lady Jen made our way to Muddy York (down town Toronto) to take in the show Elizabeth-Darcy. This production is fast becoming the must see show of the Toronto Fringe Festival. Staged in historic Campbell House Museum, the audience moved from room to room with the action. Hallie Burt and Kate Werneburg not only co-adapted Pride and Prejudice, but play all the parts. That’s right this was a two woman show.

To start I don’t think a better location could have been selected. From the moment we got in line I was all set to go back in time. Nothing like a 1822 home to get you in the mood. Once inside it was very clear this was going to be a very different theater experience. I’ve been in this home many times and was thrilled to step in and find it lit only by candles, blacked out windows as to blocking the busy modern street and a costumed stage manager (Steven Vargo) ready to greet us.

It is now that I want to talk to the wonderful work of Ms. Burt and Ms.Werneburg. As I said before they played all the parts, though when I think back to the show it really did feel like this production was done with a full cast. With such skill and confidence they flipped from one character to another and brought to life some wonderful outlandish people, while making them feel real. It must be noted that the jump from Elizabeth Bennet to Lydia Bennet by Ms Burt, and Ms. Wernburg’s shifting from Mr. Collins to Mrs. Bennet stick out. Both these moments must be seen to be believed. Fine acting though out the whole show.

Now I am told that this adaption is very close to the book and I will have to take Lady Jen’s word on that. You see I have never read P and P, and have tried many times but just could not make it past more then the first chapter. To add to this I have never been able to sit though a film adaption. So for me this was a very new story. I found myself in this wonderful setting with these wonderful actress and wishing we could see more of what the other characters were up to.

I know that it is Liz’s and Darcy’s great romance but with such a talented pair bringing all these people to life, I just wanted more! How did the romance of Jane and Charles go? How did someone like Mr. Bennet wind up with Mrs.Bennet? Oh and above all else what went down with Wickham? I would have been happy to see a full show about him and Lydia. Maybe that’s a good thing and a testament to how good the show really was. It captivated me and I walked away having seen a story I never seen before. So I can honestly recommend this production for those who have never read/don’t like the book.

All in all it wouldn’t be a big surprise if this production wins something at the end of it’s run. If you can only see one show this year at the Toronto Fringe make it Elizabeth-Darcy.