Pandemic Coloring

To ease some stress during the pandemic, I took to coloring in adult coloring books! I asked my husband for coloring pencils and coloring books as Christmas gifts and he delivered!

I’ve been obsessed with all things Victorian so my husband gave me two Victorian homes coloring books. What I love about them is that they aren’t just for coloring; there are sections explaining the history of the Victorian house and the functions of each room.

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Victorian Houses by A.G. Smith is a great one to pick up if you want to color (or draw) real Victorian houses. Each historic Victorian house illustration comes with an explanation of where it is located and what color scheme it currently is.

The Victorian House Coloring Book by Daniel Lewis (illustrated) and Kristin Helberg (written and researched) is a short history of Victorian homes. If you want to learn about the function of each room while coloring, then this is the book to pick up.

I’ve owned Secret Paris by Zoe De Las Cases since before the pandemic and am I ever so grateful for that. It’s a fun, whimsical book with illustrations of Paris life such as the picturesque streets, bistros and boutiques. It’s very cute.

What have you been doing to destress?

xoxo, Jane

Hello

I haven’t been reading or writing much, which is why it’s been quiet on here. I’ve been taking long walks, cooking, watching a lot of tv and reflecting on life.

But this morning, I started reading a new Harlequin Historical so I think I’m back on track.

After the rain.

I don’t have any pictures of books to share, but I do have some spring flowers for you.

I took a walk after a rain shower and the reminder of spring and rebirth all around helped lift my spirits.

I can’t resist a blossom, that’s for sure. I read somewhere that it helps to find something to be grateful for every day. Well, today I’m grateful for the flowers all around us.

I hope wherever you are and whatever you are up to that you are safe and happy.

xoxo, Jane

Paintings of Women Writing

A Lady Writing a Letter by Johannes Vermeer.

A year into the pandemic and we still can’t visit museums or other venues. At least we can enjoy art online. A number of my favorite museums are hosting virtual lectures and tours. You can even take 360° tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And the National Museum of Women in the Arts has an online exhibition you might like, The Book as Art: Books in Disguise.

Last week we looked at paintings of women reading. Today, let’s take a look at women writing.

I don’t know how I feel about this painting by Vermeer. The subject in the painting must be upper class because her coat is lined with ermine. Also, is she wearing large pearl earrings? She must be very rich indeed. How do you feel about this painting?

Young Woman Writing by Giovanni Boldini

The first thing that popped into my mind about this painting is that the subject doesn’t look very comfortable. But maybe that doesn’t matter since she seems focused on the letter she’s writing. Maybe she’s writing a love letter to a suitor…

Phillis Wheatley writing.

This is an etching of Phillis Wheatley. She was an enslaved woman who secured her own freedom. Phillis became a literary prodigy and visited London in 1773 to promote her poetry. I hope you want to learn more about Phillis. If you do, you can learn more about her on this podcast by The History Chicks.

Woman Writing a Letter, with her Maid by Johannes Vermeer 

I don’t know Vermeer well, but I am catching on that he enjoyed painting vivid scenes of women while they were writing. The detail in this painting is incredible. Did you notice the sealing wax on the floor? There is even a painting in the painting!

What’s your favorite painting of women?

xoxo, Jane

Paintings of Women Reading

The Reader by Renoir

Do you like looking at paintings? I’m not an expert and I’m sure when I view a painting at a museum I’m probably not seeing what the artist meant for me to notice. But I do know what I like, whether I can explain it or not. This painting by Renoir is so interesting to me. It appears that the woman is wearing make-up and some type of overcoat. Maybe she’s at work but taking a brief moment to read her book? She seems lost in her novel and that’s nice to see.

Young Girl Reading by Fragonard

I’ve always loved this painting by Fragonard. I use it in my reading wrap-up posts. And a framed copy hangs on the wall above my reading chair. The young lady looks very comfortable in her chair and leaning against that puffy pillow. She seems lost in the story she’s reading.

Girls at the Piano by Renoir

This is also a Renoir, but not of women reading. I included it because the two sisters are reading; they’re reading music sheets. I’ve always loved this painting because of the comradeship between the sisters and the elegant but cozy room they’re spending time in.

Woman Reading by a Window by Gari Melchers

I saved the best for last. The woman in this painting looks so peaceful. I love the vibrant red hue peeking in from the garden. Also, from what little I can see of her house and garden, it appears to be a dreamy space.

Do you have favorite paintings of women reading?

xoxo, Jane

Podcasts for Royal History Lovers

Via Wikimedia Commons. Empress Joséphine in her coronation regalia painted by François Gérard, 1807-1808.

If you like reading about royal history, then you may enjoy listening to podcasts about royals. There are a number of excellent podcasts I subscribe to that I think you might find of interest.

The Exploress Podcast is incredibly well-researched and a fun way to learn about ancient historical women. The recreations of historical dialogue are entertaining and a must-listen. Though there are many episodes on historic noble women, some of the women featured are commoners. It’s still an entertaining resource and I highly recommend the outstanding four-part series on Cleopatra. Plus, the website has a page devoted to book recommendations. Enjoy!

Noble Blood is a podcast about the footnotes of royal men and women; the stories we don’t learn in school. It’s well-researched and told in a narrative style, as if a good friend is sitting near you and whispering a gossipy tale. The episodes are about tyrannical royals, murdered royals and tragic princesses. Very entertaining. I can’t recommend it enough.

The History Chicks is run by two very good friends who enjoy talking about historical women. They began the podcast ten years ago because they couldn’t find any podcasts devoted entirely to women. Though a good number of royals are featured, they are not the main focus of this podcast. However, it’s worth perusing their catalog since it features many episodes of interest to royal history fans. I recommend their episodes on Gilded Age HeiressesCatherine the Great and Empress Sisi of Austria

The Art of Monarchy is no longer updated, but the past episodes about decorative arts of The Royal Collection are a must-listen for royal history lovers.

Last but not least, if you enjoy royal fashion, then you may enjoy listening to Dressed. The two hosts are experts in fashion and textiles and are a joy to listen to. Their well-researched episodes feature everything from the history of haute couture to Oscars fashion and feature a good amount of interviews with experts.

xoxo, Jane

(This article is also posted at my other blog, The Royal Archivist.)

Happy New Year 2021

Hello, friends!

Thank you so much for stopping by and reading my bookish posts. As someone who is a bibliophile, it really means a lot to me. Especially this year when I felt out of sorts and worried about so many things. It’s truly nice to be in touch with others who appreciate books just as much as I do and I hope you stick around as we turn the clock to 2021.

Speaking of 2021, may the new year treat all of us in a more gentle manner. Wishing you good health and lots of happiness.

Happy New Year!

xoxo, Jane

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Father Christmas via Historic UK.

This year was not the year we imagined or hoped for. But I hope that this holiday season brings you joy and that you see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Wishing you a happy holiday season and a very merry Christmas.

xoxo, Jane

I’m ready for 2021 (and my new planners)

Well, I don’t know about you but I sure am ready to say farewell to 2020 in the hope that 2021 will treat us more gently.

My two new planners should see me through the new year. For 2021, I have a desk planner, plus a smaller one for my handbag and future travel (you know, for the days when we are allowed to go places again). In the past, I’ve lugged my big planner around with me on airplanes which is cumbersome. The smaller planner will be much better, plus it can hold my passport and credit cards.

I’ve always been a big lover of paper planners. Planners help me stay organized and efficient. Plus, if I write down my to-do list it helps me sleep better. Another weird thing about me, if I write something down (even if it’s having lunch with so and so), I don’t cancel the plans no matter what. It’s not in me to not go through with something once it’s written on paper. However, I must admit, lately I’ve been easing up on my massive to-do list and allowing myself to transfer tasks to the next day. (#2020!)

The Bibliophile Planner is a weekly calendar with a two-page horizontal spread per week and includes a notes section. The monthly section has a place for writing down the books you’ve read and the books you want to read. There is also the usual month-at-a-glance, which I will use for blog post titles and blog ideas. So there you have it, a pretty decent planner to help me stay focused and on task for the coming year.

My favorite part about it? The author birthdays, full-color graphics of books and literary milestones throughout the planner.

Do you use paper planners?

xoxo, Jane

Small Moments of Happiness: August 2020

The staircase at Hillwood Mansion and Museum. The late owner, Mrs. Post, bought many Russian art pieces from her time as the ambassador’s wife to the USSR.

I’m glad August is almost behind us. While I try to find something good in the everyday, it’s really hard to sit back and relax when the world around me is on fire. There was yet another shooting of an unarmed Black man by police. He is alive but paralyzed from the waist down. I can’t in all good conscience sit here and count my blessings when so many families are suffering from so much tragedy. That said, I did find the Democratic National Convention hopeful. It gave me hope for what is to come this November. My favorite part about the DNC was the roll call. If you want to virtually travel across the US and territories, then please watch this amazing roll call.

I also visited two museums in August, the National Gallery of Art (see a short tour here) and Hillwood Mansion and Museum. It was wonderful to meander through near-empty rooms admiring art. I won’t do it again anytime soon, but these two excursions should tide me over until there is a vaccine.

How are you? Are you slowly venturing outside again?

xoxo, Jane

Small Moments of Happiness: July 2020

Welcome to August!

What made me happy in July? Well, I really love working from home so that was a big moment of happiness for me. I’m down to a routine and I can’t imagine ever working in an office again. I’m sure that day will come sooner than I’d like, but for now I’m savoring the productivity and peacefulness of working from home.

I also received my copy of Sanditon. You can see it above, it’s the third book from the left. My Jane Austen Penguin Clothbound Classics series is now complete.

In July, I worked on my various writing projects, read a few interesting books, listened to my favorite podcasts and took lots of nature walks (in the humidity, but you can’t win them all). I also completed another The Great Courses. It was about Prince Albert. Very interesting to learn more about him.

July was a very productive month, but I’m glad it’s August because I want to inch closer to the end of this year and the end of this presidency.

How was your July?

xoxo, Jane

Small Moments of Happiness: June 2020

Looking down Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, D.C.

It is difficult to sit down and write about what made me happy in June. It’s selfish and out of touch because June was an awful month for most of us. We are grappling with a deadly pandemic and systematic racism. Among a thousand other problems. And I won’t lie, I’m feeling a touch of depression because I feel helpless. Nothing seems to ever change…but I’ll try to remain hopeful. Don’t worry, I’ll do more than keep hope alive. I’ll vote. And I’ll continue to be vocal. And I’ll continue to donate to the causes that fight injustice.

I do feel it’s healthy to try to focus on a few good things, but out of respect for what our country is going through, I won’t wax poetic about it. I’ll be brief. Here we go: in June, I bought new books, went on several garden walks, listened to The Great Courses (highly recommend) via Audible and my library app, picked up library books and of course enjoyed every cup of steaming morning tea. So I think the moral here is that it’s the little things in life, the small moments of happiness.

I very much hope you had a few small moments of happiness too and I’d love to read them, if you’d like to share in the comments. I hope you have a great Friday and a wonderful new month.

xoxo, Jane

Small Moments of Happiness: May 2020

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With a pandemic firmly settled in our lives and not seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, I tried to make the most of May, one of my favorite months of the year. However, I must admit that I feel silly writing about happiness when the world is on fire so I’ll keep it short and sweet.

May was about fresh air and springtime walks, enjoying flowers at home and spying them in gardens on my walks. I even bought my first bouquet of peonies to bring home and they’ve bloomed beautifully. I enjoyed the quieter pace of life while working from home. I hope it’s been a peaceful, healthy month for you too.

xoxo, Jane