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The Twinkler Twins and Erica – The trouble with not belonging…

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Tea: PG Tips with Milk

Music:  Handel’s Water Music

I was recently asked to write a guest blog on http://www.manana-mama.com, regarding my confusing status as a Eurifornian, or Calibritish.  Am I Californian?  British?  Both?  Or neither?  With a little help from the Twinkler sisters and Elizabeth von Arnim, here is what I decided…

As both Californian and British, never fully comfortable calling myself one or the other, I have always related to the tale of Christopher and Columbus by Elizabeth von Arnim.  Nicknaming themselves Christopher and Columbus, the Twinkler twins, orphans of an English mother and a German father, find themselves shipped off to America during World War One.  They were “refugees, castaways, derelicts, two wretched little Germans who were neither really Germans nor really English because they so unfortunately, so complicatedly were both.”  Despite von Arnim’s customary wit and charm, there is also a forlorn sadness to the twins inability to belong.  It is perhaps not surprising that Von Arnim, herself, was a refugee of sorts.  Born in Australia to British parents,…

June 27, 2012   1 Comment

Dust & Gossip: What would Elizabeth Von Arnim tell a moralizing busybody?

Tea: Peppermint Tea with Honey
Music: Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2

Dear Erica,

My husband’s widowed aunt is staying with us for the next two weeks, and she is driving me mad. Although she never had children of her own, she’s constantly commenting on my children’s terrible manners. And although she doesn’t cook, she can’t help but criticize my slightly browned (or burnt as she calls them) yorkshire puddings at the dinner table.  As you can tell, there is very little I do right in this woman’s eyes. I know I’m not perfect, but God help me, how am I going to bear her for the next fourteen days???


Exasperated in Essex

Dear Exasperated in Essex,

Your aunt reminds me of the meddlesome Mrs. Morrison in Elizabeth von Arnim’s Princess Priscilla’s Fortnight. She needs to learn how to mind her own business. Or as Elizabeth Von Arnim so eloquently puts it,

“There is a great virtue in sweeping out one’s own house and trimming its lamps before starting on the house and lamps of a neighbour; and…

May 18, 2012   No Comments

Wedding Blues: What would Jane Austen say about the common cupcake?

Vintage 40's Vogue Wedding Pattern

Tea:  Earl Grey with Milk

Music:  Antonin Dvorak: Russalka: Song to the Moon

Dear Erica,

I am planning my wedding for June, and I’m starting to feel overwhelmed.  We are paying for it ourselves, and cutting corners on the flowers, and the food, and any number of details.  I want the day to be memorable and special, but I fear that people are going to think it’s cheap(my mother-in-law has certainly implied as much).  Cupcakes just don’t cut it in her book.  Not that she’s helping out in any way of course. Any words of advice?

Engaged in England

Dear Engaged in England,

Has your mother-in-law ever tried a cupcake???  She sounds like she’s a miserable old boot, so I’d ignore anything she has to say and remind you what Jane Austen says about Emma’s wedding to Mr. Knightley.

“The wedding was very much like other weddings, where the parties have no taste for finery or parade; and Mrs. Elton, from the particulars detailed by her husband, thought it all extremely shabby, and…

April 27, 2012   1 Comment

Motherhood and Middlemarch: Why can’t my sister understand the Joys of Baby Bathtime

Madame Monet and Child


Tea:  Peach Tea

Music: Go to Sleep Little Baby by Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch and Alison Krauss


Dear Erica,

I just had a baby, and he is the most beautiful, adorable baby boy in the whole world(not biased at all of course!)  My sister is now visiting and meeting him for the first time.  Although I was excited for her visit, I am now feeling really resentful towards her.  She barely gives my son a glance, and unlike my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and best friend, she never offers to help with bathtime or dirty diapers, or anything useful or helpful.  And she is constantly asking me about my old job and our old friends.  Doesn’t she realize that all I care about right now is my beautiful boy?  What do I do?

Bothered in Baltimore


Dear Bothered in Baltimore,

Let’s be frank.  No one enjoys changing diapers, as I’m sure, even you, a devoted mother, will agree!  But you are probably right that your sister doesn’t understand how important your baby boy is to…

March 26, 2012   1 Comment

Bridesmaid Squabbles in New Orleans: Lessons from Enchanted April

Painting by Hon Lady Mallet

Tea:  Earl Grey

Music:  Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper


Dear Erica,

I am planning my best-friends Bachlorette party, and I’m getting more and more annoyed with one of the other bridesmaids.  I’m the Maid of Honor, and I was the one who came up with the idea of doing the Bachlorette party in New Orleans, but now she has gotten involved, and is taking over everything.  She has organized the restaurant for our big night out, decided what clubs we MUST go to, booked the hotel, without even asking for any advice from me(the bride’s best friend!).  Now, honestly, she has made good choices, but I hate that she has taken it out of my hands.  Am I being petty?  How do I handle it?

Bridesmaid in Boston

Dear Bridesmaid in Boston,

It is totally natural that this other girl’s behavior would annoy you, but the only advice I can give you would be to repeat Lotty Wilkins’ words to Rose Arbuthnot in Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim.  When…

March 9, 2012   No Comments