celebrating colin firth’s birthday with goodnight mr darcy, a recipe and a special giveaway!

Dear Mr. Firth,

You must allow us to tell you how ardently we admire and love you.

To celebrate your 54th birthday, we’re serving up a 3-course repast here at Alphabet Soup: a brand new picture book, a spot of tea, and you.

Whether as Fitzwilliam Darcy or Mark Darcy, you truly take the cake. May we be so bold as to say you are stunning wet, dry, and everything in-between?

And boy, can you rock a cravat and waistcoat.

We remain your loyal fans, wishing you the best birthday ever.

With deep affection and hearts a-flutter,

Every female in the world with a pulse

*   *   *

Goodnight Mr Darcy by Kate Coombs and Alli Arnold

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an earnest writer and a department store sniffing artist in possession of talent and wit must be in want of a good parody.

For award winning author Kate Coombs and award-winning illustrator Alli Arnold, a send-up of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice à la beloved children’s classic Goodnight Moon was just the thing to set their bonnets a-twirl.

In the great ballroom
There was a country dance
And a well-played tune
And Elizabeth Bennet —

So begins this tidy tale of moonlight and romance, as all are gathered at the Netherfield Ball — Lydia and Kitty looking pretty, Mr Darcy surprised by a pair of fine eyes, Jane with a blush and Mr Bingley turned to mush, and let’s not forget a certain gossiping mother and a father saying ‘hush’.

Those familiar with Pride and Prejudice know that the Ball is a crucial scene — where Darcy has singled out Elizabeth, and caught off-guard, she agrees to dance with him. They are allowed to engage in unchaperoned conversation (gasp!), their unguarded repartee ever-so-temptingly weakening their resolve.

In Goodnight Mr Darcy (Gibbs Smith, 2014), Kate has retained the simple rhyming structure and lulling cadence of Brown’s Goodnight Moon, but with a brilliant tongue-against-blushing cheek makeover that outlines all the delectable aspects of the prim and proper Darcy/Lizzy conscious coupling from ‘cute meet’ at the dance to mutual mooning over each other at home to happily ever after. The Mr Bingley and Jane pairing adds a bit of ‘mushy’ humor boys will appreciate, while the whole concept of a fancy dress ball with tipping of top hats, flitting of fans and oh-so-civilized how-de-do’s will have special appeal to girls.

I love how Alli has dialed back the clock with fetching character costumes and decorative details that echo Brown’s book. Though most of the Goodnight Mr Darcy scenes take place at the ball or just outside the mansion, there is a wonderful double page spread showing the gossiping mother tucking the hush-uttering father into bed. Yes, there’s a yellow rocking chair with knitting needles and yarn, two cats playing on an area rug, the familiar fireplace and log carrier, and green and yellow striped curtains. But the yellow lamp is now a candelabra, the mantle clock is more ornate, the bedside bureau has clawed feet.

Remember the pair of slippers in the great green room? They’re now bunny slippers — a fitting homage to the Goodnight Moon bunny, who might otherwise have felt a little slighted since the cats and mice made the cut. I admit to missing that little bowl of mush, but love how Kate and Alli have transformed hot cereal into a hot babe.

Clever and charming in every way, this double parody is a fun intro to classic lit for munchkins and a hoot extraordinaire for grown-up Austen fans. After all, it is a truth universally acknowledged that an astute reader in possession of a child’s heart and an appetite for comic irony must be in want of Goodnight Mr Darcy. 🙂


*   *   *

Tea and Ratafia Cakes

No doubt all that flirting and twirling around the ballroom has left you famished. At private Regency balls like the one at Netherfield, tea was likely served during a dancing intermission or after a midnight supper with dessert.

If Lydia hadn’t eloped with Wickham and Mr Darcy had been able to host Elizabeth and her aunt and uncle for dinner at Pemberley as planned, they would have enjoyed a lavish 2-course meal (a total of about 18 dishes including such delicacies as white soup, chickens with tongues, cold gammon, pheasant, lamb, apple pie, and ice cream).

Tea would be served an hour or two after dinner (“afternoon tea” was not de rigueur until Victorian times), and I like to imagine Mr Darcy’s teaboard, where I could help myself not only to coffee or tea, but raspberry cordial and negus (mulled wine), little iced cakes, naples biskets, apple puffs, and ratafia cakes.

Ah, ratafia cakes! Let’s have some!

These light macaroon-like biscuits complemented other dessert or tea sweets nicely. Made with ground almonds and whipped egg whites as the only leavening, they were named after their flavorings (“ratafia” was a type of cordial or liqueur). The recipe in Dinner with Mr Darcy calls for almond extract or Amaretto as a flavoring, while the ratafias in The Jane Austen Cookbook call for orange flower water. I imagine both are equally yummy (who could resist their nutty chewiness?), but I must admit I have a thing for almond extract. Just opening that little bottle and getting a whiff of that heavenly scent makes me happy :).

With our ratafia cakes, let’s enjoy a bracing cup of Mr Darcy’s Finest Earl Grey by Steep Show Teas, compliments of poet and SST owner Diane DeCillis, whose wonderful poem I shared last week. While sipping and nibbling, we can imagine ourselves at the Ball, hoping Mr Darcy will invite us to dance right before supper, since afterwards he would be the one to escort us into the dining room and sit beside us. Of course having a long and lavish dinner at his place with tea afterwards would tickle our corsets too. Let’s raise our cups.

Here’s to Mr Darcy!


(makes 25-30 small cookies)

  • 2-1/4 cups ground almonds
  • 1-2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 egg whites
  • 2-3 drops natural almond extract or 1 tablespoon Amaretto plus 1 extra tablespoon ground almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Put the ground almonds in a bowl, sift in the confectioners’ sugar and mix well.

3. Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks, beating in the almond extract or Amaretto at the end. Fold the egg whites into the almond mixture until you have a smooth paste. If you’ve used Amaretto, you may need to add a few more almonds to get the texture right.

4. Put heaping teaspoonfuls onto parchment lined baking sheets, and bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

~ Adapted from Dinner with Mr Darcy: Recipes Inspired by the Novels and Letters of Jane Austen by Pen Vogler (Cico Books, 2013).

Martha Lloyd’s Austen family recipe called for ground apricot kernels or bitter almonds, both of which contain small amounts of cyanide (yikes!). Let’s stick to sweet almonds, shall we?

*   *   *

The Man Himself

After all this Mr Darcy talk, it’s time we watch him dance with Elizabeth at the Netherfield Ball. You probably know Colin Firth had a real-life romance with co-star Jennifer Ehle, and that he at first refused the role because he didn’t think he was right for the part. Funny how those things work out — his famous lake scene propelled him to instant stardom, securing his status as a dashing heartthrob around the world.

Almost 20 years later, the ever modest Mr Firth (who was just named GQ’s Leading Man of the Year), still doesn’t get what all the fuss was about. He’s never thought of himself as particularly handsome or sexy, which is precisely what makes him even more attractive to his fans. 🙂

What’s interesting about this particular country dance (“Mr Beveridge’s Maggot”) is that though it might “seem” appropriate, in reality the young people in Austen’s novel would have found it terribly old fashioned. According to Vic Sanborn at Jane Austen’s World,

Regency dances were extremely lively. The dancers were young, generally from 18-30 years of age, and they did NOT slide or glide sedately, as some recent film adaptations seem to suggest. They performed agile dance steps and exerted themselves in vigorous movements which included hopping, jumping, skipping, and clapping hands.

Wouldn’t it have been fun to see Mr Darcy and Elizabeth kicking up their heels on the dance floor? 😀 For now, though, sedate sliding and gliding will have to do, and I will refrain from swooning, sighing, or mooning over Colin Firth (who for me, is the only Mr Darcy). I remain, as always, the very picture of restraint (cough).

*   *   *


written by Kate Coombs
illustrated by Alli Arnold
published by Gibbs Smith, September 2014
Picture Book for ages 4+, 32 pp.
*A BabyLit Parody

The publisher has generously offered a brand new copy of Goodnight Mr Darcy for one lucky Alphabet Soup reader. And just because today is Colin Firth’s birthday, I’m throwing in a Pride and Prejudice Keepsake Edition DVD (1995 BBC series, 2-disc set, January 2014 release), which includes an hour of bonus footage.

For a chance to win both the book and DVD set, please leave a comment at this post telling us what you would say to Colin Firth if you had the chance to meet him in person — no later than midnight (EDT) Wednesday, September 17, 2014. Extra entries for blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, etc. (please mention in your comment).

You may also enter by sending an email with COLIN in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Good Luck!

*   *   *

Thank you, Kate and Alli, for creating your own bit of magic in the moonlight with this splendid book!

Goodnight stars
Goodnight air
Goodnight Colin lovers everywhere.

*   *   *


This is being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your bonnets and bibs and join the fun!


*Spreads from Goodnight Mr Darcy posted by permission of the publisher. Text copyright © 2014 Kate Coombs, illustrations © 2014 Alli Arnold, published by Gibbs Smith. All rights reserved.

**Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.


67 thoughts on “celebrating colin firth’s birthday with goodnight mr darcy, a recipe and a special giveaway!

  1. Seriously, Jama? Do you think if I had a chance meeting with Mr. Firth I’d be able to open my mouth and get anything out, nevermind an intelligent question?

    Ratafia cakes look like my kind of cookie!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Colin Firth,

    Happy birthday! I think you are an amazing actor and I truly admire you! But, I think, I most loved an interview of you where you praised your wife – it was so touching and wonderful. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Debbi,

      I’ve almost finished reading Mr. Firth’s biography, and the fact that he is so fiercely devoted to his family makes me admire him even more. He and Livia are a beautiful couple — I like that she wasn’t in the least impressed with his drenching in the famous lake scene. 🙂

      the picture of restraint

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Your Mr. Darcy tea really topped off this post — it was perfect and I was so glad to have it on hand. Thank you again for sending it!


  3. I’m glad you told us what ratafia is, Jama. As for talking with Colin Firth, I think I would be speechless, almost, but then again I would tell him I can’t wait for whatever’s next! Thanks for every bit of this. Kate Coombs’ book looks delightful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure he’d like to hear that — he’d really rather not revisit the whole Mr. Darcy thing if at all possible. 🙂

      Kate’s book is fabulously fun. Love Alli’s illustrations too.


  4. I would tell him how much I have enjoyed his work, particularly in “The King’s Speech” (as a former speech pathologist, I have to say he did a fantastic job as a stutterer) and “Shakespeare in Love” (is it fun playing the less likeable character, for once?) I would shamefacedly admit that I have not seen his famous turn as Darcy in the “Pride and Prejudice” TV miniseries, although I did see him as Darcy in the first Bridget Jones movie. Hardly counts, though! And, of course, I would wish him a very happy birthday!

    The book looks adorable – I may have to get that for a P&P-loving friend. “Goodnight mush,” indeed. 😀

    (Btw, speaking of amusing Goodnight Moon parodies, I found this at the bookstore the other day. A version for the modern age, and pretty darn funny, I thought.


    1. Thanks for the link! Goodnight iPad looks hysterical — must look for it. Colin’s portrayal of Mark Darcy in the Bridget Jones movies is among my top 3 faves of his work.


  5. Jama, if I were fortunate enough to meet Mr. Firth, I would want to know who he likes to read and about his favorite books. I would hope I wouldn’t swoon terribly.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Love the idea of taking child lit and applying it to fit someone as wonderful as Colin Firth and the romantics of a time gone by. When watching the dance, My hands ended up under my chin on the computer desk, relishing the moments of dance and conversation–mesmerizing. Thank you for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for the party invite! Every course of this soiree is a pure delight, but by far the third course steals my heart. If I ever met the lovely Colin, I’d probably only be able to utter, “Would you like a cup of tea?” right before I spill it!
    I especially love how you signed your open letter, Jama:
    “With deep affection and hearts a-flutter,
    Every female in the world with a pulse” Too funny!
    Happy birthday to Colin! = )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, at least you’d have the presence of mind to ask if he’d like a cup of tea :).

      I’m assuming that your heart is all a-flutter today, Bridget. Goodnight, Ms. Mush!


  8. “Goodnight Mr. Darcy” is so clever!! Love it. My baby turned 13 recently and had a Pride and Prejudice-themed birthday (she is a Mr. Darcy fan!).
    I met Patrick Swayze many years ago and made him laugh, but have no idea what I said. If I met Colin Firth, I would probably say something that I couldn’t remember later.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really like Patrick Swayze too — lucky you meeting him in person!

      Love hearing that your daughter is a Mr. Darcy fan — what a cool theme for a birthday :).


  9. What a fabulously fitting tribute to the ultimate Darcy (as I said in my Facebook repost)! Thank you for this beautiful treat to accompany my morning cup of tea. If I were to meet Colin (it feels funny to call him that and not “Darcy”), I’d probably do a lot of blushing and stammering and choke out something ridiculous like, “You’re really great.” (My friend Debbi, who has mentioned you to me many times before, was much more calm in her post above. lol)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lynn,

      I’ve heard a lot about you from Debbi via her FB page :). You were her partner in crime when she was still living in CA. Sounds like you had many good adventures together.

      I suppose most of us would blush and stammer in that situation — but maybe Debbi would keep her cool — nerves of steel?


  10. Thanks for all those photos!!! I love what I’ve seen of Goodnight, Mr. Darcy. Fabulous! What I would like to say to Colin Firth? Probably something like, “I am a great admirer of your work.” What I would probably actually say, “Ummm. Oh, my God! Ummm. Urp. Gack!” All the while, blushing mightily. Thanks for such a fun post and terrific contest.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Good Night MR. DARCY!? *dies of cuteness*
    I LOVE the homage – love, love, love. How ADORABLE. The mush is — THE BEST. An excellent gift from someone who both understands and loves Moon and man. Thanks for the heads-up.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. This is wonderful; a fitting tribute to ‘our’ Mr. Darcy and such a sweet book.
    I’m quite sure I wouldn’t be able to say anything coherent if I was ever faced with the man himself but I know my face would hurt from the grinning!


  13. I almost didn’t get past the first photo!! Then almost forgot to comment because of the last photo. Sigh. What would I say? After some stuttering . . . Hello!


  14. BRILLIANT! Loved it all. Laughed reading the parody and did not know Firth and Ehle had a true romance behind the scenes! I own several versions including the BBC with Firth/Ehle (6 hours?) and LOVE it. Thank you. I think I need to watch again as soon as a rainy weekend presents itself.


    1. Yes, Firth was an “older man” in his thirties, and Ehle was in her twenties. I think I read somewhere that she was actually blonde — hard to imagine since I’m used to her dark wig.


  15. Another great post, Jama. And I have no clue what I would say to Colin. Whatever it was, I would think of something much better the next day.


  16. I think after getting over my initial reticence, I would say, hello, I’m a big fan…but then I’d say have you ever heard of a blog? No? We’ll I guess that term doesn’t come up often in your world but, Mr. Darcy, you should check out the awesome Jama Kim Rattigan blog, she wishes you a happy birthday! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Hmmmm…. I don’t know what I’d say. I’d probably want to treat him like a normal person and not go all fangirl on him, you know? Because I imagine that gets pretty old.
    Thanks for a wonderful giveaway!


  18. Oh, Jama, though we haven’t met, I feel like we are Partners in Crime when it comes to stealth-fangirl obsession with Firth’s Darcy. I watch the 6-hour series every six months or so – it’s like a visit to a very good bakery where they know what butter is all about. Totally delicious.
    If I met Colin Firth, I’m not sure what I’d say – I’m with all the others who believe they would be struck dumb. But I hope I’d have the sense to tell him how much I loved his work in “A Single Man,” a heartbreaking film in which Firth is brilliant.
    Good lord, that first photo of him. *sigh*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So nice to know you’re a kindred spirit when it comes to Firth’s Mr. Darcy! Saw a survey yesterday asking readers who their favorite Darcy is. My reaction: Is that even a question?

      Love your comparison of the series to a good bakery — re-watching it is indeed sweet indulgence!

      I haven’t seen “A Single Man”! Reading his biography recently, I learned there are quite a few of his films I haven’t seen. Where was I? I don’t think some were released in the U.S.


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