Friday, September 7, 2012

Betty in the Wild - Ellicott City

We need a few items to refurbish the living room, so a few weekends ago I headed off to Ellicott City, Maryland, about an hour up the highway from DC and renowned for its quaintness and antique shops.  Sadly, I got there at about 4pm on a Saturday, and it turns out the town more or less closes at 5pm.  Humph.  Tea on the Tiber, the Victorian tearoom next the Tiber River (more like a creek at this point) turned me away, as they serve their teas at noon and 3pm only, and had no more scones.  Harumph!  Who has tea before 4:00pm?
Their loss, as I found a wide variety of teas, a delicious egg salad sandwich and a beautiful though gelatinous (viz, not tasty) chocolate cake practically next door, at the Bean Hollow coffee shop.  So neener.
I brought A Winter Love Story and The Vicar’s Daughter along for inspiration, as they both include our heroine getting to furnish a charming abode with the help of a healthy checkbook (i.e., his).  Given the health of my checkbook, I probably should have made it Dearest Love or No Need to Say Goodbye.
I did get to browse around one antique shop and a good thrift store (difference between ‘antique’ and ‘used’ furniture, anyone?), and determined to return.

Ellicott City is actually a lot more beautiful than quaint:  19th-century buildings, mostly brick and stone, hugging a narrow, winding and steep Main Street with hills or maybe small mountains drawing one’s gaze to the horizon.

Wonder of wonders, over Labor Day weekend the Jonkheer took it into his head to focus on the furniture project – and he is a man of impressive focus.  We went to four mainstream furniture stores on Saturday, to get some ideas on styles we could both bear, and prices neither of us could.  On Monday, we visited a couple of modern-furniture stores (the Jonkheer as appalled as TGB would be), a couple of cheap-stuff places, and two thrift shops.  In between, on Sunday, we hit every shop in Ellicott City.  We began by fortifying ourselves with tea.  That’s right; having learned my lesson, I made a point of showing up early at Tea on the Tiber and demanding scones.  And though those scones were lemon-coconut (coconut!  bleah!), they were delicious, as were the tomato sandwiches, the date-and-cream-cheese sandwiches, and the truly fantastic cucumber-and-melon salad in a little metal cup.
In keeping with my plan to read the finalists over the weekend, I brought along the Top Two – didn’t get much reading done, though...

TotT advertises itself as ‘Victorian,’ and the rooms are impressively stuffed with knick-knackery.  The hostesses wear fascinators (those mini-hats that are mostly fluffy bits of tulle), and the poor waitresses wear black dresses just below the knee with full, white, ruffled aprons.  There may have been mob caps.  Tip extra.

And now, off to the shops!  One of my favorite finds was this 1950s/60s sewing machine in a shade of lime green not done justice in the photo (sorry).  I was thinking of Betty Keira’s tale of becoming a pleat-sewing runway star through the $5 machine she picked up at Goodwill – but that’s not what the shop had in mind for this beauty, as the label makes clear.

Fortunately, there was another option...
Four bucks for this one...
Two very Betty moments presented themselves – one in the form of a pleated dress (not a nightgown; that’s a dress) that made me think of Betty’s favorite, Gina Fratini.

This dress (not nightgown) is actually by the firm Gunne Sax.  Anybody?  Anybody?  By furrowing my brow and pressing hard on my temples, I can remember Gunne Sax, by Jessica McClintock.  Many, many 1970s US high-school girls wanted to wear one of these to the prom.

Even better was this lovely scene.  The lampshade, white on the outside, is lined with pink!!  I should have bought it, shouldn’t I?  I didn’t even think to check the price.  O, woe.

Finally, and with really no reference to Betty that I can think of, I just had to snap a shot of this:

That’s right, a 17-year old six-pack of Coca-Cola, celebrating baseball’s Cal Ripken.  He played for the Baltimore Orioles, so maybe someone in Maryland would actually want this?
Bettys Magdalen, JoDee, Army and Barbara and whoever else is in the neighborhood – Bettysday in Ellicott City?
Incidentally, we didn't actually purchase any furniture.


  1. Betty Barbara here--
    Betty van den Betsy-Welcome to my neck of the woods! Isn't Ellicott City fun? especially if you can walk easily (as parking is a bear).
    Bettys Barbara and Margaret have had several pleasant outings at Tea on the Tiber, most recently last Bettysday.
    As I have mentioned earlier, I am out of the loop for this Bettysday. Sniff! Maybe next year.

  2. Tell me where & when and I'll be there.

  3. Oh my gosh, Gunne Sax! While I will admit I borrowed my mother's dresses (and she did wear them to proms in the 70s!), I wore her dresses for Christmas and Easter for many years. I even wore a Gunny Sax for my Confirmation in 2001!! (Only 30ish years out of date; I feel a bit like a Neels heroine now. I shall pretend it was classically cut and sturdy and didn't truly show it's age... but it's hard to find a dress when you're sixteen that's appropriate for church, so it was my best option and I loved it!)

    Thanks for sharing all the pictures, Betty van den Betsy! I hope you and the Jonkheer found some success in the grand furniture project... Enjoy your weekend!

  4. Tea on the Tiber for Bettysday? Count me in!

    I was broken hearted at my inability to wear a Gunne Sax for my dismal prom experience (strike one: my sister got me a date, strike two: his name was Wendell , strike three: after my retired Marine dad using his best extremely dry Newhart humor told both our prom dates in perfectly pleasant deadpan voice "touch one of my daughters and I'll break both your arms and your legs", Wendell refused to so much as shake my hand. Which in retrospect may not have been such a bad thing...)

    I digress. Could not wear Gunne Sax because I am broad shouldered and "well endowed" (or is the proper term "built with ample curves"?) -- not sufficiently willowy for anything that company ever made. But a cool Gunne Sax dress would have been wasted on Woeful Wendell anyway.

    1. This is why I love Marines, and Bob Newhart too!

      B von S

  5. I wore a cream Gunne Sax dress for my high school graduation...back in the 70's. Somewhere I might have a picture - unfortunately all of my graduation pictures were taken with a Polaroid camera and are now pretty dark.

  6. Betty Barbara here--
    With very fond memories of her Gunne Sax blouse. It was cream in color, had leg-o-mutton sleeves and a very high choker collar. I loved it to pieces. Alas, I managed to spill tomato sauce on it and no remedy known to man(or woman!) could totally remove the stain. And, although the stain was small enough to be hidden by a piece of jewelry (a tasteful brooch, perhaps), its location made jewelry impossible. Rats!
    This is a fair idea of its charm.

    1. Oh my! If it was anything like the blouse in the link - gorgeous! And what a shame that the stain would remain.

  7. Ellicott City is my neck of the woods. Is Bettysday September 15? If so, I'm out of town, but perhaps we could celebrate sometime there.

    1. Betty Barbara here--
      You are right, Bettysday is Sept 15.
      I'm another one who can't make it on Bettysday, which is very frustrating as I live about 10 minutes away from downtown Ellicott City!
      So I am all in favor of doing this more than once.

    2. Bettysday is indeed September 15.
      a486f2dc-70da-11e0-84b7-000f20980440 translates to what name? Betty Baltimore?

    3. Rats! That is the one day I couldn't make it.

      Can one celebrate Bettysday a week later?

    4. How do mid-Atlantic Bettys look for a belated-Bettysday celebration on Saturday 22 September? If that date doesn't work for you, list three alternatives and we'll see what we can do. And if Ellicott City, MD, doesn't work for you, suggest alternatives.

    5. How about something closer to me! I could get to Toledo OHIO in an hour. Chicago in four. LOL

      Any Bettys near the Great Lakes?

    6. I'd have to fly to the Great Lakes (well, not the eastern-most bits of Ontario, but even they're not "close") but most of the Mid-Atlantic region is do-able.

    7. Just checked with Professor van der Hertenzoon--I'm in for Ellicott City on the 22nd.

    8. I've checked with Betty Ross and he's happy to let me go on my own to meet up with the Bettys for Bettysday. Shall we have the Founding Bettys write up a little blurb for BettysDay in Ellicott City on 9/22? That way it will show up more easily on the blog (maybe some lurking Bettys will see it) and we can organize in that comment thread.

  8. Rats. I just wiped out my comment. When I started writing it, shortly after 8 p.m. CEST, I could see Amsterdam on the globe. Meanwhile, I got sidetracked. Which is also the reason I wiped out my comment. Slipped up on the touch pad again.
    Lovely pictures, Betty van den Betsy. I like that rock right next to the building! You picked great-looking books for your Betty in the Wild shots and you placed them well. I am glad you enjoyed your weekend. And the tea. Furniture hunting can be fun. Are those swans on the white pink-lined lamp?
    One would assume (one being ungrammatically me) that a used-furniture store sells used furniture which can be contemporary or from an earlier period, while an antique furniture store sells (real) antique furniture. One would assume... But the store owner may have a different opinion.
    I found two definitions you may find helpful.

  9. Oh my, that's my mint green Singer sewing machine! My cabinet also looks almost just like that one. Who knew it was worth so much? Makes lovely buttonholes (with attachment, of course). And, yes, I have been known to fashion a bit of clothing from old curtains....

  10. Thank you so much for the wonderful picture tour!

    I sewed THREE, count the THREE Gunne Sax dresses, one for me, one for my sister and one for my mom. I have my mom's now, of course I could no more wear it then fly to the moon. I also bought one about 25 years ago, my daughter fell in love with it and wore it to her high school senior prom. It was a huge hit next to all the bare nothings that were being worn. People even wrote in her yearbook about it. Loved those days.

    Betty Laurel