Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I'm a little embarrassed to post about food today. I spent some time last week reading a wonderful blog about a woman's journey to cook through a gourmet cookbook. I'm not going to tell you which one. Nope. She describes the process for each dish - many of which she spent DAYS preparing. Her ingredients were always the best she could find - and if she couldn't find them locally, she would have them shipped to her. Now that's dedication. That's also not the way I roll. I personally like to be able to find stuff easily and locally. Oh, and I don't like to spend a ton of money and/or time making stuff my family won't touch with a ten-foot pole. That's right, if they're not going to touch it, I much prefer that I didn't break the budget making it. Enough about me.

In many Neels books you'll find the Dr. van der Hunkydutch and the plucky heroine at a party or a dance wherein they are served vol-au-vents. I looked up the definition on several different sites and found the descriptions to be pretty similar:

A light pastry shell filled with, well, pretty much anything. Most mentioned a savoury meat filling - some going so far as to say "a ragout of meat or fish". What's ragout? Simple answer: A thick meat stew. Okay, that's pretty non-specific - which means I can put anything I want in it, right? I chose to put a chicken pot pie filling in mine. (Rebekah, The Zombie Bride, had made a variation on my chicken pot pie earlier in the week so that was fresh on my mind).

Filling (this makes way more than you'll probably need for vol-au-vents):
8 oz. bag frozen mixed vegetables (mine had carrots, corn, peas and green beans, I think - you could just use peas and carrots)
2 potatoes, peeled, chopped into small cubes then boiled until just barely cooked(about 10 minutes)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cooked chicken

Mix together in a pot on the stove and heat until warm. You could add some sour cream to this and some fresh herbs to tart it up some.

Puff Pastry
I used Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry sheets. There's two sheets in the box, each folded in thirds. I didn't unfold or roll them out because I wanted them tallish. I cut them into circles using about a two-inch cylinder I found in my measuring cup drawer. I then used a sharp knife to cut a smaller circle in the middle of the two-inch one - being careful not to cut clear through the bottom. I baked them for around 15 minutes at 400' and then took the center circles out and put them back in the oven for about 10 minutes. Fill and serve.

Verdict: I would like to have a go at making my own puff pastry next time. I am not fond of frozen pastry in general (such as frozen pie crusts...they have a slightly funky taste to me). My filling worked fine - but I here's where you can let your imagination run wild. You can put whatever you want in them - just make sure that your filling is not too chunky to go in the small openings.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Part I

One of the nice things about living north of Seattle is that when I want to take the train down to Portland, the good seats aren't already taken. The train station in Everett is only 15 or so minutes from my house - and it's never crowded. The next stop is 40 minutes south - in Seattle - that's where the majority of people get on. If I want to watch the scenery, I make sure I'm sitting on the right side (facing the engine). For much of the first half of the trip the train follows the shoreline of the Puget Sound. Just like in the picture. After that there's not much to see - trees, farms, small's a good time to catch up on reading. My youngest son has taken the train with me and has been trying to wheedle his way onto this trip. If I was staying in Portland the whole time I'd bring him - he loves exploring the train - buying highly overpriced snacks in the dining car, reading in the lounge...hmm, maybe I'll have to plan another trip with him.

Question of the Week

In Tulips For Augusta our heroine has some long nights at her great-aunt's bedside when the old lady suffers a spot of angina. Luckily, Tante Marijna has a night table stocked with books. And they are The Bible (the only time The Great Neels mentions such?) and the works of Jacob Cats, Pieter de Vries and Joost van den Vondel. I know, I know, you're rushing off to order them on Amazon too.

It's a lot of 17th Century Dutch poetry and Augusta deserves a medal for staying awake through the night with just those companions (which I am willing to admit might be delightful in your native tongue and during the daytime).

My question is: What's on your nightstand?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

British Word of the Day

  1. To shrink from in fright or dread.
  2. To be afraid of.
To shrink in fright.

Betty Debbie and I found another publishing discrepancy in our versions of Tulips For Augusta. When Augusta makes it to the top of the quarry mine (a later Omnibus copy) reads:
...she turned a white face to his and said with hurried and wholly unnecessary politeness, "Excuse me..." and fled, only to find him beside her when it was over, wiping her face very efficiently with a large white handkerchief..."Thank you...I'm sorry I flubbed." "Nonsense. If you had flubbed it, you wouldn't have gone down in the first place."

Love that wholly unnecessary politeness. Having suffered the inconvenient pangs of morning sickness in front of strangers, I sympathize. Anyway, in Betty Debbie's copy every time the word 'flubbed' appears it is replaced with 'funked'.

Which makes me think that publishers whitewashed Betty's prose (they whitewashed her!) because funked sounded too much like...........well, to quote Ralphie in A Christmas Story:
Oh Fuuuuuuuudddddggggggeeeee. Only I didn't say fudge. I said The Word. The Big One. The Queen Mother of Dirty Words. The F-Dash-Dash-Dash Word.

In which case it would be appropriate to be funked at the prospect of facing your mother and her bar of soap...

Rosemary, That's For Remembrance

In Tulips For Augusta, Constantijn is forever sending Miss Augusta Brown flowers. But what does it all mean? Heaven bless those obsessive Victorians, they figured it all out for me. They took the term "Say it with flowers' into the realm of high art.

Floriography, communication via the coded messages of flower meanings, is going to clear up Augusta's little tangle:
  • He gives her tulips at first--and I think, since he makes a reference to sunbeams, they must have been yellow. Plug that into our handy dandy Google-inter-tube-nets (clickety-beep): The meaning of tulips is generally perfect love. The meaning of yellow tulips has evolved somewhat, from once representing hopeless love to now being a common expression for cheerful thoughts and sunshine. Where's the fainting couch when you need one?!
  • The second time he sends her tulips they are called 'Bronze Queen'. No particular floriography is attached to this but we can safely assume that Constantin is apologizing handsomely for ever calling her carroty.
  • The third set of flowers is a nicely arranged bunch of sweet peas. Meaning? Delicate or blissful pleasure. Also departure. (Well, he had been gone for a few days...)
  • The last flowers to come are roses along with a note, "written in a laconic style that held no trace of a love letter...and was signed 'Yours, C.'...Even if he was her C., he didn't sound wildly enthusiastic about it." She'd just been proposed to without him telling her that he loved her but had she been a corseted mid-Victorian lass with sausage curls and a well-modulated passion she would have known straight away that roses (we don't know the color) mean 'Love'. Get the smelling salts!
Take that, Cold Sore Susan. If Constantijn had really been ambivalent about becoming engaged to Augusta he would have sent an aspen tree (Lamentation--and admittedly hard to keep in a nurse's home), or Bilberry (Treachery), or dragon plant (Snare), or meadow saffron (My happiest days are past)...

Upcoming Reviews

Monday, April 5th - Fate is Remarkable. By Guest Reviewer Betty Magdalen!! And yes, fate IS remarkable. I'm not going to give anything away here (except that her review rocks. hard.). I do manage to reference both LOTR and HP in the illustrations. Because I'm a total nerd.

Thursday, April 8th - Last April Fair. Neglected poor little rich girl DIES(*gasp*), stranded in Madeira, heroine has a fringe (so do I!), Keukenhof accompanied by a discussion of spring bulbs.

And now, the only song I know about how cool bangs are(yes, I would have linked to youtube if I could have found TMBG's singing it - you'll just have to listen to it on itunes or something):

Above your eyes your hair hangs
Blow my mind your royal flyness I dig your bangs
To drape across your forehead
To swing concordant angles as you incline your head
Once with a girl I fell in love sometime ago now she had...
Are that on which the world hangs
I'm only holding your hand so I can look at your bangs
Are like a pocket T-shirt
As casual as that while fully intentional
And in case you think I'm here cause I like making chit chat
Just remember what I said the money's under your hat
Are that on which the world hangs
I'm only holding your hand so I can look at your bangs
Above your eyes your hair hangs
Blow my mind your royal flyness I dig your bangs
To drape across your forehead
To swing concordant angles as you incline your head
And although I like you anyway, check out your haircut
A proscenium to stage a face that needs no makeup
Are that on which the world hangs
I'm only holding your hand so I can look at your bangs
I'm only holding your hand so I can look at your bangs

Monday, March 29, 2010

Therapy Might Fix That

In Tulips for Augusta, we are treated to a rare glimpse of childhood hazing. Augusta's nickname when she was little was....Roly - because she was chubby. Her whole family still call her that. Her nursing friends don't - they call her "Gussie" - which might possibly be worse. The only Gussie I can think of in literature (pretty sure Caesar's friends didn't call hime that) is Gussie Fink-Nottle, a noted newt-fancier and friend of Bertie Wooster. But I digress. Back to Roly. I can imagine her thoughts: "Thank you family for a painful reminder that I was a chubby kid. Never mind that the chubbiness magically disappeared as I matured. I am still sensitive about my unfashionable plumpness." The worst thing is that Constantijn calls her Roly too. I can see that lasting right up until she's about 8 months pregnant with twins and he says it just one too many times.
I personally really feel for Augusta (see, I do! I'm not going to call her Roly). I too had an unfortunate childhood nickname. You have to admit that I was pretty darn cute (see picture)- in a Campbell's Kid sort of way. I had the chubby cheeks and the chubby tummy. Some misbegotten son-of-a-whatsis gave me a wonderful nickname when I was around four (that sounds a little harsher than I mean it - especially since it was probably a close family member). Chubby Checker. Thanks. To be fair, I thought it was hilarious for a year or two (four and five year olds are silly that way). Thankfully my family stopped calling me that - I could (and possibly did) thrash Betty Marcy if she had dared to use it after I was around seven or eight. I'm sure I still could if push came to shove.
I guess my point is that I have always been sensitive about my weight - and I can trace that sensitivity right back to that childhood nickname.

Enough already about my childhood trauma...Let's take another look at the adorable picture of me. Did you notice the tulips? I know you can't tell from the picture, Betty Marcy and I are holding Easter eggs. Yes, I managed to pull out a very timely picture. Tulips, for Tulips for Augusta, and Easter eggs...because this Sunday is Easter.

Tulips for Augusta - Discussion Thread

Betty Keira challenged me to talk about the subject of letting 6 children roam the countryside at will. Yes, I have six kids, but in this day and age you just can't do that (darn it). When Dr. van der Stevejinck was going to school my oldest two did have the roam of the neighborhood - and they were roughly quarry boy's age. There were about half a dozen boys that were around the same age as my oldest, and they ran around in a pack...basically they migrated from one boy's house to another - as soon as the mother of the house couldn't take the noise anymore she'd send them to the next house on the block. It was awesome...sort of like an informal all day play date. We moms did have some general rules about how far away they were allowed to go - that kept them within about a two block area. Lucky for me there weren't any quarries there. My son did go further afield one day - and it resulted in the cops being called. I know you're shocked. I didn't find out until a day or two later when the incident was in the local paper. I wish I still had the clipping because it was awesome. Here's the gist:
David (eldest son, age 6ish) went to the park with his 5 year old friend. As they were playing, my son (being a little know-it-all) told the younger kid all about the gun they were playing with. (A GUN!!! Betty Debbie, your son was playing with a GUN!?!). Nameless friend runs over to the pay phone that was right by the play equipment, dials 911 and tells the dispatcher that his friend is playing with a gun. Police come right over, assess the situation and send the boys home. Turns out my son was playing with a "gun" - but that was because the park was "Battery Park" and the "gun" was one of those large decommissioned WWII guns that someone looked at and said, "Children through the ages must be allowed to play on that!" [Betty Keira] Fabulous story. I let my own 9-year-old roam the neighborhood greenspace at will. There are no abandoned quarries but plenty of frogs and snakes to catch (ew). It is the heritage of every child to have as much of a Huck Finn childhood as is safe-ish-ly possible, I say. [Betty Debbie] I agree with you. It's a shame that today's parents have such conflicting advice given to them: "Children need to be outside playing - it's healthy" but then: "Stranger/Danger", "Safety First"...What it seems to boil down to is that we end up with way too many helicopter parents - hovering (or hoovering, heh heh) over their children and not allowing them any freedom to be Huck Finn-ish.

MYTHBUSTERS! Augusta slides down into the quarry to rescue a little boy and a dog...notices the broken clavicle, takes her shirt off and rips a strip off the bottom to make a splint or a sling. It's not that I doubt it (too much), but it would be fairly difficult to get a long enough strip of cloth to be of much use. I put some thought into this! Augusta could use one of those sharp flints (the ones that ripped up the seat of her pants) to saw into the edge, then she could tear - but I'm thinking it would be difficult to get past the side seams. Have you ever tried to rip a strip off the bottom of a shirt? On a side note, I love that Augusta wishes that she had a long petticoat like on T.V. Westerns.

At one point in Tulips for Augusta Augusta goes swimming in the Serpentine. I have walked along there, and let me tell you - wouldn't happen. Ew. Yes, it's lovely and all that, but there are an awful lot of waterfowl paddling about...which is a problem with some of the urban lakes around here (near Seattle). Sure you can swim in it - but then you're likely as not to have a bad case of swimmer's itch. Just sayin'... I've known children to swim in water that bracken but she's a public health worker and ought to know better--And now I'm thinking of Avian Flu...

"Constantijn was making himself agreeable to the warden, an elderly Teutonic lady with a Wagnerian manner and a heart of gold concealed beneath a massive bosom. She looked up as Augusta crossed the hall and said in an English she had never quite mastered, 'She is here-you will now go away and be content." Augusta is embarrassed and says, "Oh, Valky!" Constantijn asks, "Why walky?" Was this just in my edition or is there a difference in pronunciation? My omnibus version has "Why Valky?"

Augusta has a nursing stint on the P.P. ward - when talking to Lady Belway - as a change of subject she says, "And now, how about an egg-nog with a hint of brandy, since you didn't enjoy your supper." Egg-nog with brandy? Granted, this book was published in 1971 - but still, brandy? Brandy offered by the nurse, not snuck in under Susan's midi. Weird. Especially weird when you consider that one of the private patients is an alcoholic.

Bottle Stalls. Not the first or last time that we'll run across jumbles sales that have a "bottle stall". Is it sort of a lottery thing? You buy tickets for a set price and for 20P you might score a bottle of scotch or a bottle of sauce (I'm imagining something like ketchup or catsup)? Help me out here. What is the fatal fascination with bottle stalls?

I'm deliberately not bringing up Augusta's nicknames. I thought they deserve a post all their own. Stay tuned. This afternoon. I promise. Can't wait!

Tulips For Augusta--1971

Tulips For Augusta. Boy did I love this one. Sometimes when you hit the used book store and pick up three or four Neels that you've never read before (as used to happen to me *tears*), you have a tendency to whip through them pretty quickly, lost in a Betty fog. Both Betty Debbie and I are finding that even with taking copious notes and a going at a plodding pace, these Neels books are holding their own and some of them (Tulips For Augusta, Grasp a Nettle, I'm looking at you...) are better (way better) then remembered.

Augusta Brown, 23, Staff Nurse at St. Jude's is in a bit of a snit. She's been summarily ordered to tend the patients of the private wing. Her steady date, Archie Dukes, won't get to see her as often (which is for the best as those with names like 'Archie Dukes' are, like Communism and Fascism, doomed to litter the ash heaps of history). And she'll have to consort with Private Patients--those who The Venerable Betty must have had only the scantiest affection for. These include, like the cast of a mystery who-done-it:
  • Spoiled child and ineffectual mother. "Stop crying Marlene."
  • An old man with a young wife--too young, sister observed darkly
  • A film starlet Dawn Dewey (or is she Miss Scarlet?)--discontented and a little vapid
  • a chronic alcoholic with a pretty, weak face and a gushing manner--we'll call her Mrs. Peacock
  • The Brigadier (Colonel Mustard)--he and his leg will part ways in the morning. This reminds me of Benedict Arnold. In serving in the American Revolution, Arnold injures his leg but goes on to fight for 'the dastardly Tories'. Arnold's question, "What will the Americans do with me if they catch me?" A plucky officer replied, "They will cut off the leg which was wounded when you were fighting so gloriously for the cause of liberty, and bury it with the honors of war, and hang the rest of your body on a gibbet. Which story I find ghoulishly delightful.
  • Lady Belway--fractured femur, lace nightcap and a marabou (!) cape
Mr. Boddy has been found whacked over the head with a wrench in the sluice room and fingers are pointing everywhere.
No, of course, I jest. La Neels only kills off inoffensive parents in order to cast our heroines adrift.

Lady Belway has the most interesting visitors. A tall man (a giant really) with straw hair and Miss Susan Belsize (a character like a cold sore--disfiguring but ultimately treatable. Also, she spends a lot of time in Paris--that's how you know she's rotten) who dazzles the work-a-day nurses with her up-to-the-minute fashion. Augusta just wants to pop in and grab the chart when the blonde giant's eye is caught by her carroty hair. Yes, he calls it carroty but you forgive him because it's as plain as the tip-tilted nose on your face that he's just lost his heart to a certain Staff Nurse.
Is he chatting her up is he merely curious? Augusta is puzzled and annoyed but not so off her head that she isn't glad to be wearing her new elegant slingbacks as she passes him in the forecourt. This somehow compensated for the fact that he drove a Rolls-Royce.
On a particularly hairy day she receives tulips from The Man. He catches her on the stair and says, "You make me feel so welcome. There's an old song; something about a lady sweet and...kind." The Venerable Betty expects us to be geniuses, I expect, and know to what he was referring. I offer the rest of the song which is from Thomas Ford's Music of Sundry Kinds:

There is a lady sweet and kind,
Was never a face so pleased my mind;
I did but see her passing by,
And yet, I'll love her till I die.

Her gesture, motion, and her smiles,
Her wit, her voice my heart beguiles,
Beguiles my heart, I know not why,
And yet, I'll love her till I die.

Cupid is winged and he doth range,
Her country, so, my love doth change;
But change she earth, or change she sky,
Yet, I will love her till I die.

Well that just about sums up The Man's feelings about his dear Miss Brown. You love him too, right?

Before you can say boo to a goose, Augusta is off to Holland for her holiday with two great-aunts. She's a quarter Dutch and speaks a fluent if verb-mangled tongue. While there she meets your standard-issue Dutch fink/fashion photographer Piet who tells her that she's too short for a midi-length dress. Okay, that's it, buster. Gloves are off. The Union Jack didn't come to fly over half the known world by taking petty jabs from fishy Dutchmen lying down.
"How dare you tell me what to wear and--and criticize my legs? Keep your shallow-brained remarks for the bird-witted creatures you purport to photograph."
you don't know that I have a very good knowledge of English?" he queried stiffly.
"Why I counted on that."

I fully expected Dutch fink to show up later for retribution. Neels baddies have such a way of repeating on one. But evidently Augusta planted him a facer that kept him belly down on the canvas--consorting with snakes and other low-bellied vermin in his natural milieu. Hm. I pity the fool.
One of the aunts has an angina attack in the middle of the night and Augusta rushes to call the doctor. Hey, but what about The Man? If a doctor shows up he'll be bound to steal Augusta's heart and upset the balance of the Force! The Karmic wheel solves that knotty problem by making The Doctor and The Man one and the same (Remarkable Fate!). Showing no surprise that it is Augusta who answers the door, Doctor Constantijn van Lindemann (33 and with a brother named Huib--please get me a Dutch pronunciation guide for this name! I'm reading it 'Heeb'.) calmly tells her that he recognized her the moment he heard her. I should know your voice anywhere... Hot Dutch Doctor to Fuddled Brit Girl translation:
Darling, the solicitors have been notified and will be bringing the marriage settlement papers over in the morning.
The rest of Holland is just awesome--chock-a-block with his endearments to her. (And one of the best kisses ever.) But she is still wary of him. See, her brother and family still call her Roly (Brit for 'tubby') and then there's the Chanel No5 malodorousness of Susan Belsize. What does she mean to him? Why won't he discuss it? Has he got a homeless graveyard in the backyard?
So she hangs onto a shred of her dignity and doesn't tell him where she lives. Well, she does say something like, "In the shadow of the everlasting hills, by the banks of a mighty river..."
Back in England she goes back to work but manages to get a weekend off. Remember, her last vacation was a barrel of laughs--what with the angina and the sleeplessness and the Dutch fink. This one's got a quarry accident! Little Timmy, whose mother lets her six children (I expect a comment Betty Debbie) roam the countryside at will, has fallen into the abandoned quarry and Augusta slides down the shingles to the rescue, rips her petticoats (so much more romantic than cotton slacks and top) and shouts for rescue.
What to her wondering eyes does appear...? Constantijn! How did he come to be there?
"I wrote asking [the doctor] if he knew of a vet by the name of Brown who lived on the Somerset-Dorset border and owned a donkey named Bottom."
And if you're not in love with him yet you're past praying for. But then it gets even better than that! He follows her the next day to a jumble sale. Again, too many wonderful details to pick just one. But if I had to narrow it down (skipping, most regretfully, the spot of snogging in the vicarage kitchen) I'll mention the truly hideous-sounding fairings that he must have tracked down and bought (from the cold, dead hands of just the kind of parsimonious elderlies to frequent jumbles and buy ugly fairings) just because she'd off-handedly said she wanted them.
So we've got the second proof in as many days that he's paying scrupulous attention to everything she says (first the description of her home and then the knick-knacks). And now, the minor irritation of Susan Belsize erupts like a cold sore on a wedding day. Augusta is in love with Constantijn and someone--anyone--needs to explain the bubble-head taking up all the air in his life. But no one does.
Actually, that's not quite true. In a fit of misguided candor, Constantijn admits that she is his ward and that he had thought of marrying Susan about a year ago but it came to nothing...
Editorial Note: Girlfriend is pretty firm about needing to know about Cold Sore Susan but keeps getting headed off or, worse, snubbed. Of all the things to let fall about the highly decorative darling while you're wooing a once tubby sensible type this is not it.
But he not-quite saves things by calling her Roly and carroty and saying, "You know that I've fallen more than a little in love with you."--which phrase, no matter how nice, reminds me of Rocky Balboa proposing to Adrian (I was wondering if you wouldn't mind marryin' me.)
A hospital emergency disrupts her off-duty and when Constantijn collects her for tea the warden says, "He's yer young man, cos he said so." Now that's more like it.
She asks him again more particularly about Susan (which should clue him in to Susan's importance in Augusta's mind) and is told that he doesn't want to talk about it. (Well, make time, Buddy.) She tells him that she loves him (on a hammock--so put that cozy picture in your delighted brain) and is invited to Cold Sore Susan's 21st birthday party.
On the way back to London from a weekend at home, Constantijn proposes but she's trying desperately not to be disappointed at it's anti-climactic air. He did it in a half-filled restaurant! He didn't say he loved her! What does it all mean?
The pieces seem to fall into place with a sick little thud as she overhears an hysterical Susan tell Constantijn that she's in love too and hears Constantijn reply that he won't see 'this other girl' get hurt in any way.
That's the answer. It makes perfect sense. Roly (she has to think of herself as an unattractive alternative to Susan now) was just a diversion and Constantijn will feel duty-bound to marry her if she doesn't break it off. In a rage, Augusta fibs (poorly) about off-duty and free weekends. She must have time to think.
Constantijn is finally confronted with Augusta. Tears, heartache, recrimination! But he hardly says a word--just lets her get back into the car and drive off. It is up to Lady Belway and Mrs. Brown to sort out Augusta:
Cold Sore Susan was really Homewrecker Susan who wanted to steal Constantijn's best friend away from his sweet wife. Constantijn prevented it--but if a man can be captivated by a girl who might regularly don a white midi with a tapestry belt and T-strap lizard shoes (and handbag) then I give the marriage five years...tops.
Back Augusta goes to apologize and be kissed. A marriage is in the offing.

Rating: So totally a lashings of whipped cream that I don't know where to start. With the heroes' unabashed pursuit of his Darling Miss Brown? With The Venerable Neels particularly descriptive and delightful prose? With the quarry, torn clothing episode? With the nickname Roly?! I couldn't put a fifth of all the wonderfulness herein contained. Constantijn, unlike your more run-of-the-mill Neels hero, has zero problem letting everyone know that Miss Brown is the gal for him. The only part I don't care for is the very very end--I thought Augusta was justified in being in a rage and Constantijn has to let her sort it out herself? No helping? Thumbs down. But, then, if that was absolutely perfect then this novel would have earned itself right off the chart and we can't have that. Also, for reasons I can't figure out, I hate the name Augusta Brown. (Both fine without the other but together bug me.)

Food: Alkmaarse Jongens (a Dutch buscuit), Marquise Montmorency (a pudding that doesn't really float my boat), Mirabeau steak, lemon custard (and so help me you must try this, Betty Debbie sometime when I'm around) and a dry martini (since when does The Betty have heroines drink martinis?).

Fashion: Augusta's slacks (torn) and cotton shirt (also torn), a mid-length yellow lawn dress with long ballooning sleeves (that she wears for his proposal), a Terlenka pantsuit with a white tunic top, a blue and aubergine organza evening dress (that she wears to Susan's 21st)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Betty talks to the Vicar

"She was in the mood for a good cry; it was a pity that at that moment the vicar should appear round the bend of the lane ahead of her. She composed her unhappy face into a semblance of pleasure at meeting him and was appalled to speechlessness when the first thing he asked was: 'And how is that clever young doctor we had staying here? I'm told you've been seeing something of him during your stay in Holland.'....A little spurt of anger shook her; life was bad enough without well-meaning people rubbing salt in her wounds; the anger went as quickly as it had come. The vicar was a dear old thing, she wouldn't have hurt his feelings for the world."

-Enchanting Samantha

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Betty: Let's Get Physical

As swimsuit season approaches you might be saying to yourself "Gee, this bikini doesn't look as good on me this year as it did 20 years ago." To this we say - "What's a Betty of your age doing in a bikini?" (, not really). Betty heroines NEVER have weight issues. EVER. They may be short and plump, or tall and curvy, but they always have a bikini figure. How do they achieve it? Magic. They eat like horses and never gain an ounce? Gotta be magic. In Discovering Daisy Helene I will van Tromp All Over You is disparaged because she keeps her bony figure by...gasp....going to the gym. Betty Heroines are never caught at the gym.

Betty approved exercise:
Walks on the beach. Check.
Walks in the rain. Check.
Walks in the wind. Check.
Walks on the beach when it's rainy and windy? Check, check, check.
Ditto bike riding.
Rowing (especially for boys).
Sailing (to save the life of an ungrateful child)
Skiing (especially good for recovering dipsomaniacs).

Betty approved sports:
Tennis for fun.
Ditto swimming.
Ditto ice skating.
Rugger (while in college - if you are an aspiring doctor).
Field Hockey (perfect for 12-15 year old girls).
Gymnastics (for the little ones at boarding school).

Actual exercise at a gym (or even at home)? Heavens to Helene! Never! The great thing about the Betty Neels exercises plan is how cheap it is. Very little outlay on expensive equipment. A pair of sensible lace-ups will do for all your walking needs. A pair of "slippers" for dancing, and a swimsuit. Bam. That's it. The rest you can make up as you go along. Cold weather gear? Get out your knitting needles. Field Hockey stick for a younger sister? Get a part-time job. Bike? Borrow one. Ditto ice skates, skis and tennis racquets.

No excuses, ladies. Get out your sensible lace-ups and get moving. (Or do you really believe in magically fitting into your old swimsuit?).

If I Could Say Thanks in Dutch...

...I would*.

I received a lovely package from Betty Janet yesterday. Very unexpected - which makes it even more lovely (Betty Keira got a package from Betty Magdalen a couple of days ago...we'll be posting about the contents of that sometime next week. Stay tuned).
A week or two ago we had a post called "Life After Betty", wherein we discussed authors that might possibly be alternatives to The Venerable Neels. One of the suggestions was Georgette Heyer...and lo and behold, Betty Janet kindly shares her wealth with us! This is a very timely gift - I am really and truly in need of some reading next week.

On Tuesday I will be taking the train down to Betty Keira's. That's 5 hours of reading time. Georgette looks like she will fill that in quite nicely, thank you.

I giggled a little at the the other book. Did you see the author? Carola. (Which I am totally reading "Corolla", as in a car made by Toyota - which my family may or may not have owned back in the 70's. Or possibly the 80's. But I digress...). I'll save her for the ride back - along with my Neels homework for the following week.

*(I just looked it up on Dank u wel ("dahnk oo vel")

Heart of Stone Review

***I'm sure that regular readers of book review blogs have already run across reviews of Jill Marie Landis' Heart of Stone. I know that two of our Bettys have already done reviews for their blogs (here and here though I purposefully didn't read the reviews before I wrote mine) and though I hesitated about doing a review here on The Uncrushable Jersey Dress (a fansite for a deceased Harlequin author has an admittedly niche readership) I thought that it would still be fun to do. I hope you forgive the non-Neels digression.

First let me say that though my antipathy for inspirational books is well-documented I liked this. Maybe not enough to convert me to the genre but enough to want to follow the series perhaps. It was an interesting and fast read when (because it was 'assigned reading') I was expecting it to be a bit of a chore to get through. My gratitude to the author knows no bounds.

The Plot (Werein I Disclose Spoilers Because That's How I Roll):
Chapter One: It's New Orleans in 1853 and Lovie Lane is eleven. She is living with her three sisters (books two, three and four in the series?) in the home of her drunken Irish uncle and aunt. Because Uncle Dearest can't be bothered to keep the girls for nothing he sells the oldest two to a brothel and the younger two go to an orphanage.
Chapter Two: And then it's 1874.
Let's stop right there. The author just performed the literary equivalent of skipping along the Grand Canyon and then hopping blithely across to the other side. The great gaping maw between chapters one and two is not entirely ignored throughout the book but only touched upon. Some might argue that it robs the book of some of it's impact to not detail the awfulness of the intervening years. Personally though, I was dreading what I was certain would be the Circus of Horrors to follow. Imagination was quite adequate to supply the particulars without turning it into The Color Purple or White Oleander (gag)--books that made me want to shower after reading.
So now Lovie Lane, 11 and New Orleans is Laura Foster, 32 and Glory, Texas. Our heroine is a respectable, wealthy widow and has a a sign hanging outside her boarding house--the nicest building in town: Women and Families Only. And that's the way she likes it.
Of course her life is a Potemkin Village--beautiful exterior with nothing behind it. Her organ was purchased to appear respectable, her side tables come complete with fake daguerreotypes of her nearest relations (psychological chaperons of her good name), her church attendance is for show.
Enter the preacher. Reverend Brand McCormick (the name is a bit alpha-male for me) has two unruly children, a spinster sister I never quite warm up to and a dead wife that nobody has anything but good to say about.
Some courtship follows even though Laura has made it clear for the last four years that she likes the celibate life. Brand is not above using his children to get dates--a detail I find utterly authentic as my brother and sister-in-laws have been using my kids to get dates for years now. Laura is surprisingly good with the little demons, proving that breaking up bar fights, acting as your own bouncer and packing heat in the event that someone begs you to practice your Second Amendment rights on them is adequate training for the rearing of obnoxious children.
Though Laura would really rather not like him...Of course she does.
Having a former 'John' visit the boarding house puts the fear of discovery into her. Brand continues getting serious about her and then...
His quarter-Cherokee illegitimate long-lost son shows up in church! Bet you were not expecting that!
Instead of filling Brand's belly full of lead (what he intended) he ends up getting drunk and rescued by the merry widow Foster ('Hey! I think that's a parable!').
Tension follows about whether Brand will get to keep his position in the church or have to move.
Laura's past finally catches up with her in the shape of Collier Holloway. The scene reminds me of that line in Romancing the Stone--"But if there was one law of the West, b*****ds had brothers . . . ” Collier was her partner...
Her partner. Which is a bit different than compulsory prostitution.
If voluntary...erm...relations are Brighton, then I humbly submit that prostitution is crossing the Channel and living in Touville and being part-owner of a brothel is equivalent to chartering package tours of ladies to come live in Touville.
But Landis doesn't ever make Touville a bridge too far for redemption--which is really the point of an inspirational book in the first place.
Laura comes clean to best friend Amelia and to Brand (which name made me irritated throughout). But then Brand proposes anyway and Laura has to choose: Marry him and ruin what little reputation (remember the unexpected reminder of Brand's mis-spent youth is living in Laura's tack room) he has left (because no way is Collier going to keep quiet) or get the heck out of Dodge.
She ups and offs.
She gains her testimony of forgiveness and the gospel on her journey (symbolism!) and he finally tracks her down (with the help of his son) happily well away from the brothel business.
The faith of the town (read: Christian forgiveness) is put on trial when she returns to marry Brand.
But Happily Ever Afters are afoot and on the wedding day she hears word that her sister Megan has been found. What a handy excuse to write another book...

Laura's conversion is actually a very strong foundation to the story. In inspirational lit my beef about conversions is that they are too easy a Deus ex machina for authors. Got a bad guy? Conversion! Inter-faith woes? Conversion! Conflicting worldviews? Conversion! Imminent death? Conversion!
Inspirational lit needs to have that faith tension to work and too often, writers short-change the process or pretty it up in neat packages that don't really work for me. Landis seemed to have a good handle on that delicate balance between reality vs. inspiring story.
I think Landis explores the theme of faith from the perspective of the town quite well too. Laura's deception and subsequent conversion have caused them to have to look inward in some interesting ways.
Also, the relationship between Brand and his adult son was something that I kept wanting to read more of.

Landis totally avoids the question that I was asking myself from around page 20. Would a man--any man, not just a religious man--agree to move his family into The House that Touville Built? Personally speaking, I don't think I could live there and reach for so much as a drawer pull without thinking of it.
Mythical Job Self-Actualization. I understand that period historicals often come it two varieties:

  • Readable but often with a modern outlook

  • Unreadable and ponderously authentic

This book skews to the former but I have a pet peeve about everybody on the Texas frontier having jobs that fulfill them as highly evolved human beings. Amelia is a 'healer', Hank is an editor of the newspaper, Brand 'counsels' prostitutes, Charity teaches a choir with real choir robes...
I don't have an answer to this question (honestly, I don't) but wouldn't it be a good idea, when writing about a particular time to understand the feelings of those living in that time? I don't know, but it seems like mostly these books are essentially modern and enlightened with a powder puff of historical essence sprinkled on them. But then, I'd be annoyed if they were too accurate and didn't allow for interesting twists on predictable there you go. Think on it for a bit.
I also thought the support and proofs for the love story were shaky. Chapter Two begins and Brand is interested in Laura but they've been living in the same town for a while and I'd like to know why he's into her all of the sudden. Yes, she helped out a child while he was around but it still feels like small beer for the abrupt transition.

Still, I mostly liked it and would like to see her develop things in the subsequent books.

The Part Wherein I Become Tedious On the Subject of Doctrine:
"Buy hey, Betty Keira, aren't you as a Mormon possibly unqualified to comment on the subject of Mainstream Christian literature?" To that I offer a few discussion points:

  • I have the Hallmark Channel (she responds tongue-in-cheek). But seriously, there's sort of a default religiosity in the U.S. that is easy to pick up be you Hindu, atheist or whatnot (I'm with the whatnots). It's the kind that you see when the President gives an address at the National Cathedral or soap opera characters get married--an unspecific brand of inoffensive monotheism.

  • Doctrinally most inspirational books don't have time to explore the nuances of faith that might give rise of disagreements of doctrine. The Biggies (faith in Christ, forgiveness, atonement, Christian virtues (kindness, charity, etc.)) are entirely shared among all Christian denominations. And if Catholics are like Olivias and Protestants are like Aramintas (or vice versa) then other Christians sects are Outliers. Short plump red-heads but still recognizable as Neels heroines.

  • I read some Grace Livingston Hill (whose aunt occasionally featured stories of LDS bad-guys!). Essie Summers (whom I a.d.o.r.e. ) certainly shares her Presbyterianism with her readers. Catherine Marshall is also in there. My point is that it isn't religious fiction that bothers me or doctrinal differences (which I really only notice during death scenes) or nuances of expressions or church hierarchy (though these can be noticeably unlike my own) so much as second-rate writing. Women of faith deserve better than to have an okay love story cobbled together (like a creaky mid-Victorian hospital) with a conversion story and sold to them primarily as a refuge because they're 'clean'. There is a vast catalog of Mormon lit that is nearly indistinguishable from Inspirational lit. There aren't church councils and the choir doesn't wear robes and nobody ever invites anyone over for coffee--so even without atmospherics of mainstream Protestantism distracting (not annoying--distracting) me I still don't find most of it really awesome.
Okay, that was tedious. Are we recovered? Does anyone need a digestive?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Betty Goes Antiquing

Imagine a world where, instead of being a history buff, Billy Joel was more into antiques. His epic song "We Didn't Start the Fire" would have turned out a lot differently.

Library steps - George the third, tea pot from Wedgewood
Charm bracelet, dollhouse, rat-tail spoons

Baby rattle, silver bells, diamond brooch (shh! don't tell)
tea caddies, bed-warmers, Georgian Wine Cooler

Dutch painted and gilt screen, glass decanters, figurines,
Emerald necklace, sauce boats, variety of Delft

Milk jug from Rockingham, 1st edition, cabinets
Sevres plate, invoices, Coalport, can't wait!

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it.

I know, I know, it's more than a bit of a stretch (and I'll admit that my meter stinks), but you would be surprised at how difficult writing lyrics with antiques is. The book Discovering Daisy was rife with antiques. In fact, all the antiques I used in my "song" were from that book...and I didn't use nearly all of them.

What's your relationship with antiques?

1) Can't walk past an antique store without going in.
2) I plan my vacations around antique shops.
3) My antique_______(fill in the blank) is more important than my family.
4) Antiques, schmantiques. Children/pets ruin everything, so what's the point?

Spring Break - Bettys Gone WILD!

Ha ha...just kidding (and now a little disturbed at what kind of traffic a title like that might engender).

Many child-rearing experts (and possibly Famous Consulting Paediatricians) advise against bribing children as a way to encourage good behavior. Our response? Bunkum! The Founding Bettys are all about bribery.

The Founding Bettys are having a little get-together over spring break. We promise not to neglect you (we are working like Trojans to get next week's posts done early), but we could use a little help here. This is your opportunity to share your thoughts on the World of Neels. We're not just asking you to do this out of the goodness of your hearts (we know you have good hearts, that's why you're here). We are offering BRIBES! Your choice of Uncrushable Merchandise...a grey felt Betty brooch, a book cover to protect your favorite Neels (fabric varies) OR an Uncrushable tote bag, to carry home your bookish spoils.

How about it? Email us an article (pictures optional - if you don't send any, we'll just pick some for you) are some of writing ideas:

1. Talk about your favorite plot devices - Marriages of Convenience, orphans, pet rescues, evil fiancees...
2. How about where you keep your Bettys? "Are they in a box, with a fox, or on a chair, over there."

3. "My Introduction to La Neels".

Make sure you stay away from "Brighton" (but you already knew that!), and please don't review a specific book (exception: Betty Magdalen will be reviewing Fate is Remarkable!!!! Yea!!! - and yes, she's earned her merchandise).

Looking forward to hearing from you...

The Founding Bettys - Bettys Keira and Debbie

Cinema Betty

Two selections for Cinema Betty this week.

In Stormy Springtime the Professor greatly admires our heroine's serenity. She doesn't fuss or jangle or twitter. Clinking and jangling bracelets always remind me of:
Auntie Mame!

In between teaching a young boy in his formative years words such as libido and blotto, there is also a bit where Mame feigns meekness to get her man.
And when it comes to the appropriate part I hope we all mouth in unison: How bleak was my puberty in Buffalo.
Honestly, the film doesn't care much for the suburbs or what Eliza Doolittle's father would call "middle-class morality" but even so, I've never been so charmingly insulted in all my life.

Our second selection is for Discovering Daisy. Betty Debbie and I thought that we should recommend an African film if only because Africa will never again pass the lips of The Venerable Neels in any other book. My favorite film loosely--oh so loosely--touching African philanthropy is:
The African Queen

Katherine Hepburn (who can either hit it out of the park with me or totally strike out) plays a naive and plucky missionary. She has to enlist the help of grizzled boat (I use the term 'boat' loosely--oh so loosely) captain and all-around drunk Humphrey Bogart to get her down an impassable river.
Adventure and romance ensue and when questioned by nefarious German ship captains on how impossible their trip was, Hepburn's clipped, "Nevertheless" is a thing of cinematic beauty.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Betty and the Real World

  • My brother-in-law called me last night. He's planning a trip to Europe and asked (very tongue in cheek) if, when I had gone with Mijneer van Voorhees some years earlier, I had minded all of the naked art. "Are you kidding?" I replied. "I majored in nudity." Which is sorta true. Humanites majors don't have to be a very imaginative lot. So, I just love it when The Betty talks art. In Stormy Springtime she visits the Rijksmuseum for a half-hour (I protest!). The Professor hustles Meg past the Nachtwacht 'because it was something everyone went to see when they visited Amsterdam'. And then she gets what must be a sprinting tour past the paintings of Jan Vermeer (my fave!), Pieter de Hoogh, Paulus Potter and Ruysdael. Well, if it's good enough for Meg...Hang on to your hats ladies.
  • While in Amsterdam Meg spends a little time exploring on her own and stumbles upon the seedy underbelly of Dutch caricature. One street has some dark, rather sinister S-E-X shops. First I had to get over the shock that Betty said you-know-what, rhymes-with-rex. Second, I had to wonder how Madame Betty (who had certain ideas about things but who also, as a nurse, was well-acquainted with other things) thought about the sea change in Dutch life over the years. At any rate, I don't think I've got enough stickers in my arsenal that could manage to make that visual family friendly. Okay, I think I'm out of euphemisms...
  • In Discovering Daisy, Dr. Jules der Huizma discovers Africa. Okay, maybe not literally. He goes to help organize hospital for children yada, yada, plot device, yada, yada. If you consider that We Are the World was recorded in 1985 (the first time I discovered Africa. I spent it making paper dolls of all the singers and charging 10 cents for my sister Cindy to come see the genuine lip-synced show in my friend Tara and Dawn's living room--the proceeds of which I donated to a mini-market candy aisle) then that only puts Betty 14 years behind the curve.

Discovering Daisy--Discussion Thread

First the dollhouse. I am very jealous if the shadow relative/goddaughter Mies. The dollhouse that Jules buys for her rocks. At the Kasteel van Voorhees we have to put them together ourselves. Here's one I did for The Ya-Ya van Voorhees a couple of years ago. I picked it up at Goodwill instead of a swanky antiques place and used a bucket-load of Modge-Podge on it but she disappears often frequently (not 'often a person who has lost his parents') to go play with it--a lifesaver on our street where having more boys seems de rigueur. Also, I get to enjoy the soft glow of knowing that something priceless isn't going to be handed over to a 7-year-old. [Betty Debbie] The before and after pics are great...'before' looks like it has been used as a crack house by derelict Barbies...

When Daisy meets Jules on the beach and they part she thinks to herself, "...who was it who wrote, 'men were deceivers ever'? Probably they were all alike." It was Shakespeare in Much Ado About Nothing--here's a clip put to music! I had it memorized in high school along with Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken those are the only ones I can recite pat. It's always a good idea to have something memorized in case you are ever asked to exhibit. Anyway, much more damning is the second verse (The fraud of men was ever so since summer first was leafy...). I'm glad Daisy pops out of that 'all men are swine' thing as men-hating is one of the silliest things a woman can cultivate. I'm happy that Daisy gets over her brief stint as a man-hater. Here is the verse that she refers to:

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more;
Men were deceivers ever;
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never;
Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny;
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey nonny, nonny.

Daisy writes a Eurocheque for that Wine Cooler of Destiny. Is this like American Traveler's Checks? Does anyone know?

And then later on that page The Venerable Neels writes, "Daisy, a cock-a-hoop over her successful day..."First, I luuuuuhhhhve the words cock-a-hoop. I have no idea what the idiom refers to but it sounds so thoroughly like what it is that there's no possible way to mistake the meaning. Second, can you be 'a cock-a-hoop'? Someone who speaks British English fill me in. one in California has been named Hank for at least a hundred years. But I do love Betty for trying to make an American semi-likable so I give her a pass on this.

The moments before Jules tells Daisy (in the nicest way) that he's in love with her they are having lunch. For afters she got "chocolate mousse laced with brandy and topped with cream, accompanied by small paper-thin biscuits, while Mr. der Huizma ate cheese." I wonder if lashings of whipped cream is beneath his dignity or if he suddenly had to proclaim his love because the dairy in all those cheese boards was giving him fits. That cheese board would be giving ME fits.

Lets talk about her clothes. Daisy's off-the-peg clothes earn her nothing but [Desmond's] secret mockery. I personally have never owned anything "designer" in my life...and I would have to say that it has never been an ambition of mine. The closest I ever come to "designer" clothes is when I stumble across a great sale at the Ann Taylor store in the local outlet mall. Why would a small-town girl have anything BUT off-the-peg (or possibly hand-made) clothes? I'm just saying that I don't think her clothes really deserve anyone's secret mockery. I do love it when Jules daydreams about Daisy...and in his daydream she is wearing her grey "I'm selling antiques" dress - thus proving that love is blind - even when it's daydreaming.

Discovering Daisy - 1999

Conspiracy theorists may doubt that The Venerable Neels wrote Discovering Daisy. She was, after all, nearly 90 years old when Discovering Daisy was published (Dr. van der Stevejinck's grandmother lived to be 93 and up until the last year or two was mentally quite alert). Whether it was Betty or an Oxford don writing under a nom de plume, I don't care. I love this book.

Daisy Gillard. 24, ordinary - middle height, charmingly and unfashionably plump, unassuming features redeemed from plainness by a pair of large hazel eyes, thickly fringed. In other words, an "Araminta". I love Daisy. Once she sheds her illusions about the rat Desmond, she is completely natural. She says what she means. She may be unassuming, but she's not particularly shy. We first meet her while she is in the throws of "love" with a Slimy Toad named Desmond. He is just using her as filler...until the right girl for him comes along (prettier and richer). We readers know that he is a shady character - he is of shortish stature and longish hair. He squires her around her seaside tourist town - taking her out to dinner and tea, and finally to A Dance. Slimy Toad tells her to buy herself a new frock...a red one. Of course she is out of place with Desmond and his friends - after one obligatory dance she is left to fend for herself. Which is actually a good thing. This is when she first meets Dr. Jules der Huizma. His eye is first attracted by the inappropriate red dress - then by the fact that the girl in the dress doesn't go with the dress. He chats her up just a little. Too bad for Daisy that she overhears him talking to his friend (about her) in the coat room. "I found someone...a plain little creature in a regrettable red dress. A fish out of water" . When Slimy Toad drops her off at the family antique shop, she immediately parcels up the regrettable red dress to send to charity - more hurt over the stranger's remarks than over being unceremoniously dumped by the Slimy Toad. A few weeks pass...Daisy is getting thin and her parents urge her to take afternoon walks (on the beach in November). Into the teeth of wind and rain Daisy obediently trots day after day. Her doggedness is rewarded one day when Jules is also walking in the wind and rain. "How delightful to meet someone who likes walking in the rain and the wind." He smiled at her as he spoke, and she forgave him then for calling her a fish out of water - a plain fish too. After all, in all fairness she had been both. Indeed, when it came to being plain she would always be that. That's part of what I love about Daisy - even when she's feeling down she's sensible. Jules (she doesn't know he's a doctor) stops by the antique store a couple more times before Christmas...first to buy a charm bracelet for a god-daughter, then to pick up a doll house for a five year old girl named Mies. Possibly a niece...but we are never destined to know.

Mr. Gillard buys a Dutch painted and gilt screen which Daisy carefully restores. A couple of elderly Dutch men come in the shop and are thrilled...the upshot is, they buy it and need Daisy to escort it to Holland. Dad says, great! Now you can stop at Heer Friske's shop and pick up The Georgian Wine Cooler of Destiny. Hey Dad! Do you mind if I spend a day sightseeing? Sure, why not? What could happen? Umm. Yeah. About that. Daisy does spend a day sightseeing and then caps the evening off with a quick dip in a rat infested canal. Lucky for her (or is it Fate?) that Jules is on hand to fish her out. After she is "thankfully sick", he trots her across the bridge to the hospital where they clean her up, give her a jab (the rats, you know) then send her off with Dr. der Huizma...who drops her off at her hotel. The next morning she takes a taxi back to the hospital and exchanges the hospital robe and slippers for her disinfected clothing. It's time to get The Georgian Wine Cooler of Doom and toddle back to Merry Olde England. And she would, she really would...if only she didn't get mugged on the way to Heer Friske's shop. Dr. Jules hears that she's back in the hospital when he goes to work in the morning. He pays her a courtesy visit - he is nice, but in a purely professional way. "Probably he considered her a nuisance and would be glad to see the last of her. Her spirits, already at their lowest, sank without a trace..."

Do not despair, little Daisy! Even now the good doctor is starting to have thoughts of you. Too bad he is already engaged to a handsome (even though on the wrong side of 32) and stylish woman(who is thin to the point of boniness). The part of the villainess will now be played by Helene van Tromp. As in, "I will van Tromp all over little English girls". It is at this point that Jules begins to wonder why he wanted to marry Helene. "It was a sobering thought to take to his bed...strangely enough it was Daisy's face which imposed itself upon his last waking moments."

Daisy checks herself out of the hospital in order to finally take The Georgian Wine Cooler of Destiny home. Jules decides otherwise...he shows up at Heer Friske's just in time to stow the antique and Daisy's bag in the boot (British word alert!). She is taken to Jules home wherein the butler, housekeeper and dog all immediately fall in love with her. Natch. Helene stops by and sums her up as No Competition. At this point neither of our protagonists are admitting to love (but if a man drops everything to haul you and your antique Georgian Wine Cooler of Destiny across the channel in his lovely Rolls...there is a chance that those feelings might just be about to change). Helene may have been quick to dismiss Daisy as dull and badly dressed...but Jules finds himself looking at Daisy more and more. There is just something about her. "He was beginning to find her too interesting..." Interesting enough to invent excuses to stop by the antique look at a diamond brooch that you just know he's never going to give to Helene I Will van Tromp All Over You.

"Busy already Daisy? Do you not take a holiday from time to time?" "Well, going to Holland was like a holiday..." (if by holiday you mean two trips to the emergency room, swallowing rat water and getting mugged, then yes, it was a fabulous holiday!). This is actually quite a sweet scene because for once in Neels, both protagonists realize they have feelings for the other at nearly the same time. We are only on page 77. There are more than 100 pages to go before a final declaration of love! Wow. What could happen in 100 pages? Jules now realizes what marriage to Helene will be like. "He saw nothing but unhappiness for himself and Helene if they were to marry." Now there's some depression just waiting to happen. Jules now starts to get a little devious. He goes to visit Heer Friske (antique dealer of The Georgian Wine Cooler of Destiny). He very slyly puts an idea in Heer Friske's head that Daisy should come over and intern with him so that she can learn more about antiques. Heer Friske rises to the bait. Daisy is sent a letter inviting her to come to Holland and work for him for a little while. Mr. Gillard says "...I would say that it is a good idea." (Evidently he has conveniently forgotten the two trips to the emergency room from her first foray into Holland). This set-up is nicely timed so that Jules can drive over and pick up both Daisy and the diamond brooch. Daisy is installed at Casa de Friske...there to learn of and sell antiques, pick up a little of the Dutch language and eat thick pea soup.
Oh, and go on long drives through the Dutch countryside with Jules (but not with Helene who has gone to California - what? She'll be back). Helene returns from van Tromping America and Jules decides it would be a good time to go to Africa. I'll bet you didn't see that coming. Africa makes it's one and only appearance in Neeldom. We can now add it to the map. Yea! He has been asked to go to the famine areas and advise on the feeding of the starving babies and children, and now that Helene is back, it's a good time to go. Helene is less than pleased. "But it will be ghastly, you'll pick up one of those horrible diseases..." Daisy is much more understanding when he comes to say farewell to her. Jules sweeps Daisy into his arms and kisses her. "It was a kiss not to be easily forgotten. Indeed Daisy hadn't known kisses like that existed outside of romantic novels." "I have to have something', said Mr. der Huizma in a goaded voice, and released her so violently that she nearly fell over." Then off he goes. To Africa.
Mevrouw der Huizma (mother to Jules) invites Daisy over on her day off. They have a great time until who should drop by? Yup. Miss Helene I Will van Tromp All Over Daisy. Helene now begins to feel a little uneasy about Daisy, so she starts her campaign to eliminate the competition. First, she writes a long letter to Jules about how she ran into Daisy, who is so nice, and by the way, did you know she's going to be married? Then she works on a sugar coated arsenic pill sort of way. Very sweet on the outside, pure poison inside. The day comes for Daisy to go home - she runs into Jules who is just returning from Africa (my, fate IS remarkable), he again sweeps her up and kisses her. Helene is still around though...and spreading more lies about Daisy's love-life. Helene has got a little extra love-life of her own going on. Mr. Hank Cutler, An American from California, is in Holland on business...and part of that business is Helene. Jules just can't seem to stay away from Daisy - he goes over to visit her and see what's up with the boyfriend. The non-existent boyfriend. He asks Daisy how things are going - then comes a Big Misunderstanding. Daisy thinks he talking about a potential job opportunity that has come up in the antique world for her...he thinks she's talking about the non-existent boyfriend. Jules admits his love for her(there are still 23 pages to go!!!) and then finds out that she doesn't have a boyfriend/fiancee. That's right, she's free...but you're not, Jules! Back in Holland Jules stops by to see if he can talk Helene into releasing him. She's not home, so he sits down to wait. In walks Helene with Hank the American, who is quite willing to marry her and take her back to his nice place in California (did I mention he's rich). Meanwhile, Daisy is roped into nursing her cousin Janet and children. Janet has the flu and the kiddies are recuperating from chicken pox. After a few days of working herself to the bone, here comes Jules. He pitches in with the kids (he is a paediatrician, so he knows kids), does the shopping and eats scrambled eggs. He takes her back home and drops her off at her parents??? What's the hold-up? Daisy cries herself to sleep, then goes grocery shopping in the morning at Mr. Pati's store. As she reaches for the Assam tea, Jules lifts it down for her...then proceeds to put random things in her trolley (British word!) such as cat food (Daisy is one of a select few Neels heroines that doesn't have a pet). "We haven't got a cat," said Daisy. "Then we will take it back with us; Jette has a cat and kittens." At the end of the aisle Jules proposes. While the kissing is going on, Mr. Pati "watching from a discreet distance, crept a bit closer and stealthily wheeled the trolley back to the check-out desk. He was a romantic man at heart, and he liked Daisy, but business was business, so he began to tot up the goods in the trolley. A most satisfactory start to the day." The end.

Food: thick pea soup, pancakes with bacon bits, melon balls, jellied lobster (I just had to look that one up...), lamb cutlets, pork cutlets, pork chops, braised chicory (sounds weird), red cabbage, boiled potatoes, spinach tarts.

Fashion: Most notably "clothes off the peg", the infamous red dress, plain brown jersey dress that doesn't crease when packed, sober grey "'I'm selling antiques" dress, 3 piece dark green jersey.

Rating: Queen of Puddings! I should have been bothered by Jules pursuing Daisy while he was engaged to the odious Helene...but I wasn't. Jules kissing Daisy...again, it didn't bother me. There was quite a bit of delightful hero Point Of View going on - he kept trying to do the honorable thing by the heartless Helene - but Daisy was simply irresistible (And now I'm imagining Jules looking like Robert Palmer...). It was lovely to see the hero having to deal with his tortured love life. Jules was also quite nice to hooded eyes, sarcastic comments or mocking smiles. There were only two parts of the book that I didn't love. The first was Slimy Toad Desmond (aren't you glad I didn't go for an acronym there) and the incident of the red dress . I may not have loved that part, but I did get it. The other part was almost at the end...I have no idea why Betty made Daisy spend days taking care of the sick...unless she needed to eke out a few more pages. The episode with cousin Janet really does nothing to further the plot.