Friday, December 31, 2010

Year's Happy Ending...

One year ago today, we posted our first review on The Uncrushable Jersey Dress. Year's Happy Ending seemed an appropriate title to start off with, since it was New Year's Eve. Right now, I'm sort of wishing we'd saved it for the end of this year. Oh well. In honor of the completion of an entire year of reviews (Betty Keira and I have each cranked out about 50!!!!) here's a look at what we've done, and what we have left to do... I took all the books that we've already reviewed off my shelves - clearing the way for the final countdown. By my calculations, we should finish up on or around April 22nd.

Cinema Betty

In A Christmas Proposal Bertha has one of those dire families that argue forcibly for being raised by wolves. So too does the main character in:
About a Boy (2002)
I have nothing but affection for you Bertha, I'm just trying not to look at your sweater...

I love, love this movie even though, along with Betty Debbie, it occupies a spot high up on my shelf where the children can't reach (language mostly). It has a bleak little Christmas and a posh, upscale New Year's party--the kind where the Rachel Weisz doesn't look a bit out of place--a young boy (Bertha?) who is forced to wear awful vegan clothes (nearly!) and Hugh Grant playing the creepy man/boy so well that it's hard to unknot fact from fantasy.

I think we need another New Year's movie for A Happy Meeting. How about:
The Apartment (1960)
The Apartment: Just like Mad Men...if Fred MacMurray is Don Draper

The premise is quite racy (corporate types co-opt an office drone's apartment so that they may conduct their illicit liaisons) and the bit where Shirley MacLaine has passed-out on sleeping pills is shadowed slightly (so slightly) in A Happy Meeting when our heroine falls asleep in the snow. The abrupt and lusty ending of A Happy Meeting is also mirrored in the film when, upon hearing Jack Lemmon's character declare his love for her, Shirley responds, 'Shut up and deal.'

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Happy Meeting--Discussion Thread

They decided to call the dog Caesar...supposedly a common name in both countries. I'm sure all us Bettys have pet ownership experience. So, 1) What have the pet names been? and 2) How did you go about finding the right one?

Aldrik allows his grandmother to win at cribbage which is a sure sign that he has his priorities in the right place. Ten years of motherhood have taught me to be an indifferent Scrabble player and positively careless at chess. Don't get me started on Old Maid and Memory...They practically hand out leaflets at the hospital titled 'How to Take a Dive for Your New Baby'
On her way to Holland, Cressida shares a cabin with three strange women. Oh I can do you one better. On a night train out of Venice (heading to Rome) I shared a train sleeping compartment with my husband and two strange men. I'm sure it would have bothered me a little had I not been completely knackered but as it was I popped off my shoes, closed my eyes, ignored the pleading of my bladder and fell to...
Speaking of knackered...Aldrik has a couple of percherons purchased from the knackers. I wonder how you go about doing that. I mean, they're there to be...oh dear, this is such an expressively clinical word...rendered (not fed and held in a pasture for more than a day or so) and I wouldn't imagine that Aldrik would be one to stroll past a knackery (yes) on his days off.

Nicola is the name of the villainess and Betty Debbie comes from just a geeky enough family to be forcibly reminded of brilliant electrical engineer Nikola Tesla. Though not blonde, he is flat-chested (as presumably Nicola was) and a bit of a cold fish (which you just know she is). Tesla never married. He was celibate and claimed that his chastity was very helpful to his scientific abilities. Nonetheless there have been numerous accounts of women vying for Tesla's affection, even some madly in love with him. Tesla, though polite, behaved rather ambivalently to these women in the romantic sense.
I don't know if I buy that. He's got a look, that one.

How YOU doin,?

Cressida gets stuck polishing the family epergne. Yeah. I had to look that one up. There's an interesting article on the history of epergnes here. Wikipedia has a less detailed article:

An epergne generally has a large central "bowl" or basket sitting on three to five feet. From this center "bowl" radiate branches supporting small baskets, dishes, or candle holders. There may be between two and seven branches. Epergnes were traditionally made from silver, however from around the turn of the century glass was also employed.

The epergne is a large table centerpiece which may hold any type of food or dessert. It may also be used as a designer object to hold candles, flowers or ornaments for a holiday etc.

In traditional use, the epergne was a fancy way to display side dishes, fruit, or sweetmeats, or can be used for chips, dips, or other finger foods etc.

Chips and dips? An epergne would come in very useful at World Cup or Super Bowl parties.

A Happy Meeting - 1992

First of all, I'd like to petition Harlequin to change the name of this book to something slightly more memorable. My choice? The Girl Who Forgot She Had a Smokin' Hot Red Velvet Dress and Wore a Grey Jersey Instead. Too long? No, what was too long, was the time it took me to read this book - nearly a week.

Cressida Preece aka 'Cressy', needs a ride to Minton Cracknell in a bad way. The book opens with her seated on the side of the road with a mangy abandoned dog and a badly sprained ankle. And so begins a Cinderella story.
Cressy (ugh, as a nickname it's not quite as bad as Tishy, but a close second) lives in ye olde family home...with her wicked stepmother. Daddy is dead, and had the bad judgement to leave all to the second Mrs. Preece...with the vague idea that she would provide for Cressy. Yet another example of poor financial planning in Neeldom. He did leave an annuity for Mrs. 'Moggy' olde family retainer. Mrs. Preece has manipulated Cressy into staying on as an unpaid servant by implying that Moggy will lose everything if Cressy leaves. So Cressy stays. In two years Moggy will be sixty and supposedly eligible for her annuity, and Cressy can get a life. Not that she has any skills. Of course not.
Aldrik van der Linus looks respectable enough - he wraps up Cressy's ankle and bundles her into his Bentley and trundles off to Minton Cracknell and ye olde family home. He is surprised to see the daughter of ye olde house is relegated to a bare little garret of a room. Something is fishy here, but he's not sure what it is. He does call the local doc and tells him of Cressy's injury as a little insurance that Cressy will be taken care of properly. It's a good thing he does - Dr. Braddock stops by to check up on her - only to find her sitting up in bed polishing ye olde family silver epergne. Dr. Braddock promptly enlists the aid of Moggy in carting Cressy downstairs and off to hospital for a nice little vacation/convalescence.
Aldrick may not be able to remember exactly what Cressy looks like, but he does remember a beautiful pair of eyes...which prompts him to do a little sleuthing and find out why Cressy is content to play Cinderella. His grandmother, Lady Merrill, is a willing accomplice. She provides the name of ye olde family solicitor - Mr. Tims, who happily divulges privileged information. Aldrik pulls a few strings...greases a few palms...has Mr. Tims inform Moggy and Cressy (ugh) that Moggy's annuity is ready and waiting and btw, Cressy has 100 pounds ready and waiting for her. They both drop Mrs. Preece like the live snake that she is. Moggy is off to live with her sister and Cressy has a job! What? You heard me, a job. She is to be a temporary companion to Lady Merrill. Yes, that Lady Merrill. Lady Merrill is rather delightful, but Aldrick never makes an appearance...only by phone. Cressy has no idea that this is a made up job OR that Aldrick is at all involved or related.
With this toehold into employability Cressy is not too surprised at another job offer as a companion - to a lady in Holland. Unfortunately, this job will not end well. Well, it wouldn't...seeing as how Jonkvrouw van Germert is Nicola van Germert's aunt. Nicola? She Who Would Like to be Mevrouw van der Linus. Aldrick has a lost a few credibility points with me by allowing himself to be somewhat duped by the fair Nicola. He talks about Cressy's situation with Nicola!! Ouch. Nicola suggests that instead of taking Cressy up to Aldrick's friends in Friesland, Nicola's aunt would be willing to take her on as a companion much closer to home - he can keep tabs on her. All this concern would be touching if it didn't hide her true motivation - which is to keep Cressida close so that she, Nicola, can keep tabs on her.
Cressida is somewhat dismayed to find that being a companion to Jonkvrouw van Germert is nothing like being Lady Merrill's companion. Jonkvrouw v G. treats her more as a servant and less like a lady...
Aldrick stops by to check up on Cressy and finds that she's cleaning out the pantry...the Jonkvrouw goes on the defensive and brings up the fact that Aldrick was responsible for getting her not only her current job but also the job with HIS GRANDMOTHER!! Of course Cressy feels humiliated...but she still manages a magnificently dignified exit. Nicola coos at Aldrick...she'll talk to Cressy and smooth things over - Aldrick agrees. Aldrick agrees??? Yuk. Nicola returns to talk with Cressy and lays it on with a trowel...Aldrick told me all about you, Aldrick and I have no secrets from each other, Aldrick pities you... Cressida marches up to her room, packs her bag and leaves. She's got enough money to get back to England.
Aldrick catches up with her before she gets on the ferry - and hauls her up to Friesland the next day. Cross-over characters Tyco and Charity van der Brons (from The Final Touch) are happy to put her up for the night. We get to see a fair amount of the van der Brons household, which is lovely. Charity is quite pregnant. Cressy and Charity hit it off and Charity is able to reassure Cressy that even though her potential employers have six children, they are quite nice. Editor's Note: I have six children and am usually considered fairly nice. If I had a cook, housekeeper and a nanny plus Cressida, I would potentially be even nicer.
The ter Beemstra's are a nice family. As far as I could tell, Cressida's main duty is to speak English with the children. Much better than cleaning pantries. Cressy spends her days off over at the van der Brons house...which is where Aldrick finds her. He runs her over to his own ye olde ancestral abode...where Cressy is treated to the House and Garden Tour O' Love. Aldrick's olde family retainers fall in love with her - she's much nicer than the dread Nicola. When Aldrick drop's Cressy back off at the van der Brons Charity peeks through the window and sees Aldrick giving Cressida a kiss. Tyco tells her to adopt a wait and see attitude. Cressida enjoyed being kisses by Aldrick...but was unsure of why he kissed her with such satisfaction (dang, now I've got the Rolling Stones in my head...). Aldrick knows why...he's known for weeks that Cressida NOT Nicola is the gal for him. He's just got to talk to Nicola (always a bad idea) and let her know that as far as she's concerned, he's not the man for her.
Meanwhile, Christmas is fast approaching, Cressy keeps herself busy by teaching Christmas carols to the ter Beemstra children...Aldrick keeps himself busy by going to England to spend Christmas with Lady Merrill. This absence allows Cressy's heart to grow a little fonder - she realizes she's in love with him. Just in time too. The local domine tries his hand at chatting her up on Christmas - but frankly, he's a non-starter. Her heart belongs to Aldrick.
Aldrick does show up on New Year's Eve - Cressy is treated to a kiss on the cheek and enigmas. Argh. the deal could have been sealed, but there's another 30 pages to get through. So...let's have a bit of drama.
Blizzard Rescue! Nanny and Baby haven't returned from a visit to Nanny's sister's house and a blizzard is blowing up. Cressy volunteers to go find them - which she does - hunkered down by a rickety bridge. Too bad for Nanny, but she has a Pott's fracture and can't walk. Cressy heads back for help and runs into Aldrick. Literally. He gets Lucia and hands her to Cressy, then goes back for Nanny. Cressy carries the three year-old until more help comes...then she falls down and goes quietly to sleep in the snow. Aldrick notices she's missing and goes back for her. This would be a great place to end, but gosh, there's still 20 pages to go. Let's sum up:
  • Aldrick takes a trip to Argentina...or Brazil - somewhere in South America.
  • Charity has her baby.
  • While the cat's away, Nicola drives up to Friesland to play. She flashes a diamond engagement ring and allows Cressy to think it's from Aldrick.
  • Moggy is in dire straits - her sister has died and Moggy is about to be turned out of house and home.
  • Cressy uses this excuse to flee back to England.
  • Aldrick returns from South America, finds Cressy gone, goes to England, buys a house for Moggy and proposes.

Him: I love you.

Her: I'd like some explanations...

Him: A waste of time - let's get on with the kissing.

The End.

Rating: A Happy Meeting was just okay for me. Cressida and Aldrick spend too much time apart for me. I do like seeing more of Tyco and Charity, but the attention to other characters just doesn't make up for a so-so hero. Aldrick might not be engaged to Nicola, but the fact that he talks about Cressy to her (granted, he doesn't know he is soon to realize his love for Cressy) is a bit icky. So is the fact that he follows Nicola's advice - against his better judgement. Twice. Keeping in mind that I had oral surgery, houseguests and Christmas over the time that I read this (which didn't help) I'm going to give this one a treacle tart. Your mileage vary.
Food: Mrs. Preece has her daily serving of junket, fairy cakes, cheese rolls, a mouth-watering mountain of a cream cake, erwetensoep, cheese souffle, creme brule, speculaas, roast pheasant, briased celery, ices with whipped cream and nuts and that Dutch New Years treat, Olie Ballen!Fashion: A shopping trip to Yeovil which yields a tweed skirt, a couple of blouses, a woollen jumper...and a dark red velvet dress (purchased at Laura Ashley) which is never heard of again, instead, she wears a grey jersey dress over and over again and bemoans the fact that she doesn't have anything festive to wear during the holidays. Too bad she didn't have a dark red velvet dress...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

White Turkey Chili

Okay, okay, so this one is a stretch...but one of the ingredients is beans - and since I have no desire to try out beans on toast, this is my substitute.

The recipe comes to me by way of Betty Suzanne and is my favorite way to use up left-over turkey.

White Turkey Chili
1 1/2 cups onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 jalapeno pepper, minced (I don't bother with this)
1 can chopped mild green chilies
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chicken broth
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cooked turkey, cubed
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Jack cheese (I use pepper jack)

In a 3 quart saucepan, over medium-high heat, saute onions and garlic in oil until onions are tender (about 5 minutes). Add jalapeno, chilies, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper and salt. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in broth, beans and turkey. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Serve hot with cheese on top and tortilla chips on the side.

Verdict: I've already said that I like it. Part of what's great about this recipe is that it is more like a guideline...I've made it without cilantro and it's fine. I don't add jalapenos and it's fine. I stir in extra cheese and it's fine. Cook it in the crockpot? Fine. You get my drift.

Question of the Week

How's about we Foxtrot over to the oliebollen and ring in the New Year, Olivia?

New Year's Eve is just around the corner and, as we all know, The Venerable Neels held a very soft spot in her heart for a traditional oliebollen Oud en Nieuw with the hero either bestowing a telling kiss upon some Araminta's mouth at the stroke of midnight or avoiding her altogether in a similarly telling fashion.

So, what do you do? Party? Sleep? Curl up on the sofa and ring in a Rockin' New Year with the near-perfectly preserved plasticized remains of Dick Clark?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Upcoming Reviews

Monday, January 3rd. Polly. Polly has a natural bent for dead languages. Manuscript typing. Kissing and proposal in the middle of Crewe Station.

Thursday, January 6th. Roses Have Thorns. After getting sacked because of a favor she does for Radolf, Sarah disappears. Radolf searches high and low before he accidentally finds her working as a housemaid for his god-mother.

British Word of the Day

Pray, snigger at my accent and I'll draw your cork.

snigger snɪgə] US and Canadian, snicker snɪkə] n
a sly or disrespectful laugh, esp one partly stifled

What a darling word--perfectly sounding just what it is--a furtive, patronizing thing. It reminds me of that line in My Fair Lady when Eliza uses the term with semi-disastrous results:

Lord Boxington: Do you mean he drank?
Eliza Doolittle: Drank? My word something chronic.
[responding to Freddy's laughter]
Eliza Doolittle: Here! What are you sniggering at?
Freddy Eynsford-Hill: The new small talk, you do it so awfully well.
Eliza Doolittle: Well if I was doing it proper, what was you sniggering at? Have I said anything I oughtn't?
Mrs. Higgins: No my dear.
Eliza Doolittle: Well that's a mercy anyhow...

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Christmas Proposal - Discussion Thread

Bertha reads to old Mrs. Duke (before she dies) and the woman asks for her to read Love's Undying Purpose. I tried Googling the title - nada. It obviously wasn't a title Betty Neels would have chosen for one of her own books - it sounds like it might either have purpler prose than The Great Betty used or it was the British equivalent of Grace Livingston Hill - which would be even cleaner than La Neels.

Her father is never around but we find out that his job is as QC (Queen's Council, I think)--he's rather well known. This novel was published in 1996. Umm, my question is, why, oh why doesn't her father ever call home and talk to his daughter? He is completely absent. Not even any emails. He seems have been gone for at least several months, perhaps years. Obviously there hasn't been a ton of father/daughter bonding. At least not enough so that Bertha feels comfortable telling her dad that the only clothes she has to wear are her younger step-sister's hand-me-downs.

Bertha's acid-yellow dress makes Oliver 'full of rage'. Hahahahahahahahaha!!! Despised yellow dresses? Takes me back to my wedding...and the hordes of sisters in yellow dresses, some of whom have yet to forgive me for that. So yes, yellow dresses can be rage inducing.

Oliver does a little psychological warfare against Berta's sister Clare, asking her to read for the old woman knowing she will refuse and let Bertha do it. Clare's response: 'Yuk. How absolutely grim.' He's brilliant at reading Clare and Mrs. Soames - he knows just when to use the reverse psychology. I love using reverse psychology on kids. Unfortunately...well, I guess fortunately, my kids are pretty smart and have all outgrown my amateurish attempts at reverse psychology.

Bertha. Discuss. I'm thinking of those lines in Voyage of the Dawn Treader: "There once was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." Bertha. Gah. Bertha??? Really? Bertha has got to be near the very top (or bottom - if you turn it upside down)of my list of Worst Names Ever, right next to Beulah, Gertrude and Maxine... And now, for your educational enlightenment, I give you A Bertha From History (courtesy of wikipedia):
Bertha of Holland (c. 1055–1093) was the first wife and queen of Philip I of France, King of France.
She was the daughter of
Floris I, Count of Holland, by his wife Gertrude of Saxony, the daughter of Bernard II, Duke of Saxony. After her father died in 1061, her mother remarried to Robert I, Count of Flanders, called Le Frisian. In 1072 her stepfather concluded a peace treaty with King Philip. As part of the terms of the treaty Bertha was married to Philip.
Nine years passed before Bertha produced the desired son and heir, Louis. Reportedly, her fertility was only restored thanks to the prayers of a hermit, Arnoul, who also named the child. In 1092, Philip repudiated Bertha, alleging that she was too fat. He confined her to the fortress of
Montreuil-sur-Mer, and took up with Bertrade de Montfort, the countess of Anjou.

A Christmas Proposal--1996

What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet...
Let's go test that theory, shall we?

Bertha Soames' parents had a chip on their shoulder. They had to have. Who looks at the miracle of a tiny defenseless newborn and thinks to themselves, 'It is never too early to begin blighting a life. Bertha it is.' I will allow that the name sounds infinitely better with a British accent but there is a reason (see right) that the popularity of the name resembles a precipice you'd need crampons, an ice pick and a Sherpa guide to conquer.
Professor Oliver Hay-Smythe is one of those handy unattached bachelors--the demand of which always outpaces supply. So when his friends tow him along to a socialite's birthday party he is sure of a ready welcome.
He sees an abominable outfit--elaborate and ill-fitting shrimp-pink. And then he sees the girl in it.
Maybe he's sorry for her--there's a lot of compassion in his make-up (your average lame-dogs-over-stiles fellow) and she's having a dire night. Persuading her that he's hungry and bored, he spirits her out of the house and off to a pub.
Editorial Note: Other than not believing for a minute that Oliver would have nothing better to do than hang about with strangers for a cocktail and un-filling bits and pieces, the meet-cute is
Clare, the indispensable step-sister, appropriates Oliver, puts a premature notch in her lipstick case and awaits his eventual proposal.
Oliver, meanwhile, wants to help little Bertha (you're imagining a bosomy Teutonic lass, now aren't you?) get a job. He asks her to read to Mrs. Duke who likes romances. (I wonder if Mrs. Duke liked the racy stuff. Reading that aloud would be a job...)
Meanwhile, Bertha takes every opportunity to display her awesomeness. Street thugs mug an old woman? She descends like a Fury. Clare takes the credit? Bertha holds her tongue and lets Clare hang herself. (Oliver invites them down to his house in the country on the strength of their trauma. Poor Bertha has to wear a vile acid-yellow get-up. And after a while you really have to wonder if Clare is buying such unsuitable sartorial abominations just to pass them on.) Child nearly flattened by the wheels of a speeding car? Bertha pushes little Timmy out of the way and earns a concussion and shredded leg for her pains.
That last one lands her in the hospital (in one of Oliver's beds! Marinate on that a while...). Clare and Step-mommy-dearest can't come. Clare is so sensitive to pain and distressing scenes. (cough*pansy*cough)
They aren't earning any points with Oliver who sends Bertha flowers and makes those middle of the night 'Oh, Sister, I'm just on the ward to check on one of my patients...the one with the empurpled eye...I'll just be looking at her for twenty minutes or so in the dark without taking a pulse or anything...' visits. For her part, Bertha finally realizes that she's in love with the generous professor. ('So that's why I wanted to bawl the steps out when they wanted to hand-me-down more wretched clothes.' (smacks head))
On the very next page we get the long and complete history of Oliver's love. It started in the shrimp pink, continued in the lime green...he's loved her all along.
Editorial Note: He unpacks the story of his dawning realization in all the hurry of a man with no clean clothes and a business trip in the morning. I take issue with this as this story would have been marvelous if The Great Betty had sprinkled his feelings a little more liberally throughout the earlier pages. As it stands, many of his actions appear perilously similar to pity. In contrast, he makes it clear enough that he hates her clothes which got me thinking. At The Church of the Founding Bettys (that does sound official) we have a lay clergy (leaders are chosen from congregations and hold down full-time jobs in addition to their church-y duties). A few years back, when the Stake President (head of a group of 5,000 or so) was called, there was an audible gasp of dismay in the audience. See...he's my OB/GYN (delivered most of my kids, in fact) and the OB/GYN of hundreds of other ladies in our area. (He's a brilliant delivery doctor.) I won't pretend that the idea of him having seen...(gulp)...everything was potentially mortifying. Thank heavens, he seems to have a happy knack of mentally segmenting every woman he meets at the neck. At his offices he's a genial and folksy professional, walking you through a breast self-exam with a matter-of-fact aplomb. At church he can't see anything below the Clavicle. Oliver has that happy knack as well...I think he keeps his chin well up so that lime-green and putty-beige dresses fade into the unimportant periphery.
Oliver invites her to his mother's for Christmas and she's all set to go when the steps engineer a sudden emergency at Aunt Back-of-beyond's. There is no emergency, of course, but Aunt is happy to see her anyway and effect a much-needed make-over. (Bibbity-bobbity,boo!) And when Oliver finally shows up there is nary an acid or electric or abrasive hue in sight.
Kisses, proposals and hopes for a hasty marriage!
The End

Rating: Hm. It did no good that this one was so memorable by reason of those hideous outfits because, while on one hand those outfits make this book, on the other hand, I had remembered this as a shade better than it turned out being. So, I think if I'm a wee bit dissatisfied it is just because the re-read didn't quite come up to expectations. I generally love La Neels' shorter stories--she really shines at a hundred pages--but this needed a little more self-awareness (by our hero) earlier on.
Still, it is pretty good.
Clare was enjoyably nasty and step-mama, though predictably horrible, did the thing with verve. I mean, if you are troubling to make Cinderella comparisons I'd say she holds up.
And the clothes. Great Cesar's ghost they were awesome. The Great Betty surpassed herself. Brilliant! Acid-yellow! Shrimp pink! My retinas are burning.
So, anywho, I'm waffling on this but I'll give it a dollop of Treacle Tart and a dash of Mince Pies and take my licks like a Betty.

Food: Bangers and mash and some 'old and mild' (which I think refers to some beer), tonic water, tea and meat paste sandwiches, orange cream souffles, miniature onion tarts. A breakfast comprising bacon (Up with bacon!), mushrooms freshly picked, fried bread, a sausage or two, egg garnished with tomato, which Betty describes as 'a meal to put heart into a faint-hearted man.'

Fashion: Where to start? He falls in love with her while she's wearing an 'elaborate shrimp-pink' number. We get a 'brilliant' thin linen dress, a lime green dress with too wide shoulders, a jersey two-piece in a 'ghastly color' (this is the acid-yellow one). Clare, meanwhile swans about wearing high-heels and perfectly-fitting blue and white gowns and, if Oliver hadn't shown up, I wonder if Bertha could have had those sooner or later.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Delft Blue With Envy...

Having a best friend with uncompromising perfection and a handy way with just about every craft known to man (seriously, she's like the heroines who think longingly of setting up shop on a high street full of hand-smocked items and demi-millinery) is just about the best thing ever. Add that to her tolerance of my Neels obsession and what do you get? You get Delft blue with envy. I know you do:
And I have to say it looks about 1000 times more awesome in real life. Thanks, Betty Kylene! You're the best! When I die they'll have to rip this from my cold, dead hands...

Betty Goes to Church

Looking back at the end of the day, she wasn't sure which part of it she had enjoyed the most; the great church had been wonderful--all that space and loftiness...
Roses For Christmas

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Betty in the Wild

Via email from Betty Kylene:
Betty in the Wild on Christmas morning on a frosty Montana day. All of the trees are coated in frost and it is beautiful Especially the ponderosa trees. Betty was also seen in my vintage reproduction stocking! [editor's note: stocking picture to come later]

Expect more Montana Betty pics, I WILL get a picture with a cowboy!

Merry Christmas!
Betty Kylene

A Very Betty Christmas!

Just by chance I stumbled across this little introduction at the beginning of A Christmas Proposal:

Dear Reader,

Isn't it a comforting thought that whatever happenings the year has brought with it, Christmas is the time we all look forward to? Families gather together, small differences are forgotten, friends send their yearly letters and the children are in their own little seventh heaven.

And as for romance, there must be many of you who remember being kissed under the mistletoe--a kiss that may have led to your own romance and, even if it didn't, is a memory never quite forgotten.

I do hope that this Christmas--with or without the mistletoe--will be a romantic one for you.

A very happy Christmas.

Betty Neels

The Founding Bettys add our wishes to hers. Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Cinema Betty

Roses For Christmas revolves around a very sick little boy. Boy, that was easier than falling off a log:
A Christmas Carol (1984)
Henry is a very Tiny Tim sort of character and Baroness Oss van Oss could easily pass for Scrooge's (Fulk's) wretched vision of Christmas future...
I really don't mind Scrooged one little bit either and The Princess Bride also almost made the cut when I found a picture of supposedly-ill Fred Savage being read to by Peter Falk with a Santa Claus craft hanging on the wall behind him. (But even I couldn't torture logic that much...)

I'm not going even try to tie in A Christmas Romance in with my next pick. It's simply my favorite Christmas movie ever:
We're No Angels (1955)

We always watch it after Thanksgiving and shush (and hang by their toes in the dungeons) anyone who tries to talk over the Peter Ustinov bits. I suppose, as an anemic tie-in, it does have a Christmas romance (or two).

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Christmas Romance--Discussion Thread

Theodosia can type, take shorthand, cope with a word processor AND a computer. Plus she's reliable. I think that's what they call in office-parlance a 'triple threat'. I've been sashaying around the home-front (in a powder blue gossamer housecoat and nicely made-up face, careful to never let the drudgery of hoovering the den put a glisten on my brow) for the last decade but my husband's reports and my own managerial memories lead me to believe that simple professionalism (reliability, if you will) is a rare and wonderful quality in a worker. Other deficiencies can be overcome but that one is sort of a deal-breaker.

She runs full tilt into him 'he fielded her neatly'. I watched a film this week about cricket. Nearly three hours later into the Bollywood equivalent of Hoosiers and I had learned precisely two rules to the game. (Ball rolls out is worth 4 runs. Ball sails out of bounds is worth 6 runs.) The rest of it is a closed book. Though if I were to consider myself a ball and had to choose a sport for 'fielding' I might go for American football (Did you just see how culturally sensitive I was there?)--where the ball is tucked into a secure embrace.

She needs a new dress for the ball - so she goes to a posher Oxfam. I have that sort of designation for thrift stores so that if I tell my four-year-old that we're headed to Goodwill, he asks, 'The swanky one or the scary one?' By the way, don't think that an Oxfam store won't be on my list of 'must-see' attractions when/if I visit Great Britain...

Hugo kisses Theodosia goodbye on the cheek--Aunt Mary disapproves of 'casual kissing'. I was in an elevator during our Hawaii excursion with a man from Montenegro. Our party had had a conversation with him the day before in the lobby and when he stepped into the elevator he remembered me. He leaned over and did that hand-shaking-cheek-kissing thing. Alone in an elevator? Near stranger? I think I might be with Aunt Mary on this one. I cheek-kiss my father, brothers, nephews (sometimes) and...that's about it. Still, Hugo wasn't really being casual, now was he?

When Theodosia hears a couple of nurses talking about Hugo, she deliberately drops her papers so that she can eavesdrop. Now who hasn't done a spot of that from time to time?

Rosie (his sis) is delighted to be visiting him and have a whole day to herself - sleeping in, shopping, eating meals she hasn't cooked! Every-ish Thursday my sainted mother-in-law takes my two younger boys for a day with grandma. I love that woman down to the marrow of my bones. I run errands without having my arm tugged off, I wear fabrics that would show snot in a hurry, I nip off my beaten path. I hear Rosie. She's my soul sister.

Mrs. Towzer utters perhaps the very best line: 'must get meself poshed up!'

He tells her at one point, 'I could have been a thug in a Balaclava helmet.' There's one at left but I think more modern incarnations have more fabric covering the lower face.

A Christmas Romance - 1999

Dear Family and Friends,

Hugo and I have had the most wonderful year. It's nice to be able to catch up with those of you who missed the happenings of last Christmas. My goodness, we had an exciting time.

We were married just DAYS after Christmas. The special license speeded things up a ton, and a quiet church wedding was just what the doctor ordered. Hugo's sister Rosie was there, along with her husband and children, so we weren't entirely without family.

As many of you know, I don't have any family except for the Great-Aunts. Before Hugo, I was sharing an attic bedsit with Gustavus(my cat) and counting my meager blessings, when Hugo and I met at the hospital. It was sheer chance that Miss Prescott should send me down to Sister's office with some diet sheets at the same time Hugo was looking for them. It was love at first sight for him. I took a week or two longer.

Hugo was sooo adorable. He kept offering me rides in his great socking Bentley - mostly when I needed to visit the Great-Aunts. He even gave me a kiss on the cheek in front of them (he later told me that he often wanted to kiss me, but he held back because he was afraid of scaring me off!)!

The hospital ball was fabulous. I wore a grey dress that was 'new to me'...with a bit of hand-stitching and dim lighting I don't think it looked too bad. At any rate, Hugo wasn't embarrassed to dance with me - he even took me home!

We had a lovely lunch at Fortnum & Mason's. Hugo caught me as I was rushing off to do some shopping for the Great-Aunts. Instead of spending my entire lunch hour picking up all of their Christmas foodstuffs, Hugo simply handed the list to an employee and asked that the lot be ready in half an hour. Gosh, what a fun way to grocery shop! Leave the boring stuff to the experts and have a relaxing lunch. Hugo just barely restrained himself from kissing the tip of my nose when I thanked him for a lovely time.

Of course I needed to take the box of food to the Great-Aunts that weekend, and Hugo very sweetly fibbed and said it just so happened that he was going that way also. I nearly froze to death during my weekend with the aunts...they are enthusiastic environmentalists! They eat much of their food either cold or underdone, not only that, but they keep their thermostat set at a positively glacial temperature. Brrr. Hugo could see right away that I wasn't in good tick, so he very sweetly swung by his home to give me a nice hot dinner and some medication for my cold. When he dropped me off at my bedsit he kissed me. I was concerned that he might catch my cold, but he must have a iron-clad immune system. That kiss is what made me realize I was in love. TMI?

Hugo was out of town for the whole week, and I missed him terribly - I had no idea he was gone until I overheard a couple of nurses talking. He didn't get back until Sunday morning - when he nearly ran over me. That was my fault. I was trying to flag down some help for an old lady who had just been run over. He was marvelous at stopping the bleeding. I did what I could to help - mostly by discussing the elements of a Christmas dinner. I know, I know, I sound useless - but I did keep her calm until the morphine kicked in.

Hugo ran me home to change(I was covered in blood *shudder*) - then we went to his place for a proper breakfast. This was the day we got Maximilian! Hugo saw the look in my eye and that was all it took. He never can resist that look.

The following weekend, Hugo invited me to see his country cottage. It may not be big and fancy, but it is a delightful place to retreat to. Hugo gave me a big scare while we were there - he said that he planned to get married and that the girl he was going to marry approved of the cottage. How was I supposed to know he meant me? This led to a tiny misunderstanding on my part when I saw him with his arm draped across ANOTHER WOMAN(!!!) a few days later. Little did I realize that woman was my soon to be best friend and sister-in-law, Rosie.

Things came to a head for us on Christmas Eve. I was supposed to be going to stay with the aunts - but they sent me a letter that morning telling me not to come because they had given my room to some friends of theirs. Instead of spending Christmas with them, I now faced being alone with Gustavus. Hugo tracked me down, we sorted out my misunderstanding and he proposed!!

We really are blissfully happy. Hugo works hard at the hospital, but spends every spare minute he can with me, Max and Gustavus. In other news, we expect a new addition(s) to our little family any day now.

Happy Christmas to you and yours,

Hugo, Theodosia, Max & Gustavus

p.s. Betty Debbie sends her regards along with Lashings and Lashings of Whipped Cream!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wish List

When I was a little girl (back in the 60's and early 70's) I loved getting the yearly Christmas catalogs in the mail. Betty Marcy and I would call a temporary cease-fire to our sibling rivalry and go through the pages together. We had games we would play - seeing who could pick out the coolest toy on the page, or the most expensive (not always the same thing)...we would make lists of what we would like to get. Mind you, we weren't greedy and being brought up in a family that had raised a tradition of Low Expectations to an Art Form, we didn't expect to get anything from our elaborate lists. Of course, that didn't stop us from wishing.

Eleanor (Roses for Christmas) seems to have had the same type of wish list as we would present to our parents. A few things that we really really wanted (but didn't expect) a few more reasonably priced things, and finally a couple of cheap things, to prove we weren't greedy, ungrateful children. Which we really weren't.

Christmas 1973 was arguably both my worst Christmas AND my best. There were only two presents for me under the tree. One was from my grandmother(might have been something useful like socks), and the other was from whichever of my siblings had drawn my name that year (the default present back then was a $1 bottle of bubble bath). That's it. Dad handed out presents to all the kids, but he kept having to skip me, because there were no presents to give me. I was just 14 years old...and trying to be mature about the whole thing, but there were definitely some tears that escaped and trickled down my cheeks from time to time. When there were absolutely no more presents left under the tree, my dad pulled an envelope from the tree and handed it to me. It was the first clue to a treasure hunt. The treasure? A very expensive new flute that I had no idea my parents had bought. I knew exactly how much that flute cost ($180 - which was a lot for one child of a large family - especially in 1973), and I knew how much of a sacrifice it was for my parents to get it for me...the funny thing was, I never expected to get a new flute. If it was even on any Christmas list of mine (unlikely), it would have been the equivalent of Eleanor's sable coat.

Question of the Week

Just pretend you're in the audience of Oprah's Favorite Things show
...except we're not handing out free stuff and you don't have to cry at the terry-cloth robes.

Thought it might be fun just to have a chit chat about our favorites around here. Whenever I look over the books that have earned my highest accolades it's clear that I favor the plucky Aramintas and the RDDs who just can't help themselves. A few of my faves (not anywhere near a definitive list) are:

An Ordinary Girl (it sparkles with fun and was an unexpected find)
The Hasty Marriage (is it wrong that I chose to mention this one just to drive Betty JoDee out of her mind? My Betty muse says no.)
The Promise of Happiness (his stalking her to the chamber music concert makes this for me)

and (one we haven't reviewed yet)

The Little Dragon (intentionally dousing someone with a cocktail qualifies as awesome in my book)

What are yours?

P.S. I was reading my review of The Promise of Happiness and muttered to Mijnheer van Voorhees, 'Ugh, it's hard to read a review better than anything you've written in a month.' (I blame the holidays.) His reply, which is really why I married him in the first place: 'And that is why bands break up.' True that.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Upcoming Reviews

Monday, December 27th. A Christmas Proposal. Cinderella story, some truly hideous clothes worn by Bertha. Yes, Bertha.

Thursday, December 30th. A Happy Meeting. Household help named Jolly!! Crossover characters Tyco and Charity from The Final Touch. Daring blizzard rescue!

Happy Anniversary

It's been one year since we catapulted ourselves headlong into the Land of Betty. Honestly, we didn't know what we were getting ourselves into. Our very first post (here) seems like such a slender little toe-hold--like we didn't really mean it and we weren't really sure what we were going to do. (All true, by the way.)

Betty Debbie (despite my lusty shoving of her under any handy bus) has done the yeoman's work of organizing and slave driving. She's the heart and soul of The Uncrushable Jersey Dress--assigning books out and adjusting post times and answering emails. Without her, my affection for Betty would probably have prompted me to post three paragraphs every fortnight or so before I succumbed to my inherent slackerishness. She's kept us moving at a nice clip and makes us find time for Betty, sandwiched in between keeping house for all our kids and Mijnheers and other similarly pressing details of life. So three cheers for Betty Debbie! (Huzzah!, etc.)

And then there are you guys--no, The Venerable Betty would never have referred to her compatriots and friends as 'guys'--so, I'll amend it to you 'darlings'. You darlings have kept us going and, in many cases, have steered the course of The Uncrushable Jersey Dress. Your comments and feuds are such a delightful dividend. We would have plowed through this unheralded and unsung, doggedly doing our duty to the blog, but how fun not to have to. (I'm still very John Mellencamp about all of you: 'Still hayseed enough to say look who's in the big town...'. We have readers! Squee!)

For a fabulous year we thank you, dear Bettys. Happy Anniversary!