Saturday, June 30, 2012

Betty in the Wild

Betty Mary here, back from the wild and wild fires in Virginia. Betty Ariel has grown up so nice. She was a lovely hostess and it was a real vacation for me. Professor Vue der Plane and I spent two days at the local Historic Inn. Thank heaven for Groupon. ;-) Actually not a lot of history, as it was built in 1931. However, Eleanor Roosevelt did stay there during the opening of Shenandoah in 1936. 

 We did some hiking but mostly drove and stopped, repeat, at every scenic overlook for the next 3 hours.  I did hike down to a waterfall and back up. Very proud of self. The professor made it almost all the way. The girls were up and back before I felt the spray. As you can see, I found my rock and tunnel. I'd been wondering what happened to them. 

Our group of six took a trip to Mount Vernon, which was supposed to start with a boat trip, but we missed the boat (no jokes please) and took the subway instead. We did get the boat on the way back. We were surprised to see that the Queen had been there before us.  It was summer, but we were seldom Idyll.

While in Luray with Betty Ariel, the mountain caught fire. It was the first time in over 50 years and was far away from us. We were still able to hike in the park. As we left for home we stopped to let Lucas and Octavia view the smoke.
Betty Ariel let me know today that last night after we left, a severe storm came through and blew out the fire. What a blessing, it had already burnt 250 acres. But it wasn't encroaching on homes, so the Park Service policy is to let it burn. Betty A says a fire every 50 to 100 years is good for the wood(s).
All total we had a wonderful time. But what do you expect when you are traveling with Betty and then meet our first president and the Queen!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Call of the Wild

The Brighton Swim Club, 1863*, weren't low class yobs.  They wore the top hats to keep their semi-nudity tasteful.
I'm back from a 2500 mile round trip with my Mijnheer and the four pledges.  It was really, really good.  We spent a lot of time at the pool (not a discrete dip into a pool, hidden behind hedges, sitting behind a stately Dutch home but at a water park...with the Middle Class...who have tattoos (Oh my stars and garters!  Ward maid Maisie would have loved it!)

Alas, I went into the wild without a Betty!  How sorry I was not to capture any (ANY) Bettys in the Wild...or did I?
Yes!  We traveled through Provo, UT on our trip and swung by our Alma Mater.  While showing the kids through the massively huge Harold B. Lee Library, I asked my husband if he thought they carried any Betty Neels.  'No way,' he said.  'And you'd never find them anyway.'  Fifteen seconds later...Seriously, I'm like a bird-dog for Betty.  They had 10 or so. 

Anyway, I'm back and our epic march to the Best of Betty will continue.  Tomorrow-ish.

 *I found this image on a great site on all things retro.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Heaven is Gentle - Reprise

I sort of wonder whether The Great Betty penned Heaven is Gentle directly after a holiday in Scotland?  A holiday wherein the weather played a dismal and dampening part. Frankly, Scotland does not fare well in this book.  Not well at all.  The Founding Bettys have two sisters who, with their families, are currently vacationing in Florida.  Along with Tropical Storm Debby. The oldest nephew of the bunch (age 15) has posted some of his grumblings on Facebook.  I imagine that if he were to pen a memoir of his life right now, Florida would be getting a bad name, weather-wise. 

On a personal note, I'd like to mention that today I'll be celebrating 32 years of wedded bliss with Dr. van der Stevejinck. 

Love and Lardy Cakes,
Betty Debbie (no relation to the tropical storm)

Heaven is Gentle begins with such a cute premise that it makes what follows all the more disappointing. Professor Christian van Duyl and Doctor McOldFart are discussing hiring a nurse to run an experimental asthma clinic for several weeks in the Scottish Highlands. Several names on the list are discarded simply because they sound frivolous and incapable (just as hearing the name Tiffani Amber Thiessen could only possibly conjure the image of Tiffany Amber Thiessen) until they reach the name Eliza Proudfoot--surely a battle-ax of a woman, a buxom warrior princess fit for managing Beta-male asthmatics.
Er...for men of science they make some pretty silly suppositions as Eliza, though 28 and the capable Ward Sister of Men's Medical at St. Anne's, is small, shapely, blonde and has men falling over themselves for the chance of having their proposals turned down by her.
Now let's skip to the bit where they meet. She's driven herself up in a rattle-trap of a Fiat over roads that closely resemble a pony track, it's sheeting rain and the 'lodge' is forbidding. Knock, knock, knock on the door. "Hey, it's raining down my back out here...why are you standing there with a moronic look on your face?"
Christian is surprised and initially (in the first 30 minutes or so) disposed to find the whole thing funny. They were expecting Boadice
a and they got Helen of Troy. More fool them.
Eliza isn't very impressed with the place. Someone has written 'dust me' in the layers of grime and dirt on the mirror, her asthmatics live in a converted WWII Nissen hut (actually quite cozy but there's no escaping the sardine can comparisons), nobody seems at all convinced that she's good at her job and if only Christian would wipe that nasty, sneering look off his face she could get down to brass tacks.
Scotland (the Other Woman in this phase of the book) does not sell herself as anything pleasant or vacation-worthy. I love grotty weather, myself, but this seemed particularly dour.
Christian, in between being very nasty (To him, her presence is not funny anymore. He's attracted to the Fair Eliza and terrified.), asks the men servants to make her a good tea everyday. He probably tells himself that it (his consideration) is nothing.
Eliza, for her part, charmingly sets to making the Scots wilderness a home. She adopts a pregnant cat--over whose delivery Christian and her call a truce--and settles into her allegedly comfortable cottage. As for the lodge, a housekeeper is found, rugs are beaten, charming smudges of dust are sported. But I wouldn't put it past Eliza to have done this as an elaborate ruse for getting into Christian's room to look at his picture of this 'high-minded' woman he's engaged to.
What?! He's engaged?
That's right. Doctor McOldFart tells Eliza that Christian is gettin' hitched and it isn't until she's 'cleaning' his room (and holding the picture of Estella which Christian catches her at) that she realizes that her preferred brand of catnip is a potent mixture of scorn, insults, off-hand consideration and ice.
When Scotland, that saucy minx, sends a storm of Biblical proportions cascading through Eliza's cottage, it's Christian to the rescue! She thrusts a broom into his amused arms and they stem the tide together. At last! A half hour of mellow dialog (wherein he discloses that his hometown was once the site of the Hanseatic Empire and a Summer residence of Charlemagne while she discloses the precise GPS coordinates to her parent's Regency house) finds them in uncharacteristic charity with one another. I think this calls for a tortured and grudging kiss...
Because of that kiss, Christian probably feels angry at himself and a little guilty (though only a little) so, naturally, she has earned his icy disdain. Which introduces a little episode I like to call, Why Did You Hike Up the Mountain Alone You Barking Idiot? A Storm Was Coming and You Didn't Tell Anyone? Also, You Had Been Told Not To--Which Seemed A Reasonable Request in the Scottish Highlands in Winter. Why? Why? Why?
I have little patience with Little Miss You Can't Tell Me What to Do. Still, he isn't horrible to her and she is quite sporting. This constitutes progress. Take your pitiful crumbs, be grateful and don't ask for seconds.
Eliza toys with the idea of taking Christian away from the frigid cardboard figure of his fiancee'. (Which is a little presumptuous and mean if you think about it. She can tell from a single photo that Estelle deserves her contempt? Harsh.)
On a trip into the bustling shopping town of Ullapool she is pestered by a rat-faced man and hauled across the coals by Christian for it. Tears. Apologies. Grudging admission of her attractiveness wrung from him. Around and around we go...
As the end of the asthmatic experiment looms, Christian wonders what Eliza will do with the kittens and offers to take them.
She: Oh really? I thought that Estelle would probably drown them in a lake, as like as not.
He: No. She'll have to like it or lump it.
She: She sounds like a crushing bore!
Yeah, that last bit was real. Eliza is playing some dirty pool.
But the good news is that as they leave Scotland behind, some of The Great Betty's usual awesomeness begins to shine.
In a wayside inn on their last day together, he calls her into the coffee room for some postmortems which I won't spoil. Sufficient to say, he cowers behind glasses, lists her attributes (A Scout is loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous...), tells her he's glad she's leaving and gets one of the best tongue lashings in all of Neelsdom.
Editorial Note: The Venerable Neels can be a little parsimonious with her showdowns. Mercy and forgiveness for all sort of evils flow freely. Heaven is Gentle is a different kettle of fish and, if I've been hard on this book, I genuinely love this part.
Christian is not so chastened that he doesn't kiss the tar out of her anyway.
Since this is only page 124, you know we have to have a medical emergency to bridge the gap between meet-cute, exposition and the glorious end.
Doctor McOldFart is chosen to play the part of deathly-ill romantic facilitator. His asthma attack brings Christian and Eliza together. But none of it is very interesting until she takes Doctor McOldFart to Holland (to visit Christian and work on that asthma study).
Let's look inside the brain of our fair maiden:
  • He's rich! I can't steal him from that frigid bag-of-bones now!
  • Estelle gives me indigestion!
  • She doesn't bore him to tears? How can she not bore him to tears!
A word about Estelle: I don't hate her. She doesn't want any more pets. She treats Eliza like a nurse. She has salt-cellars for bosoms. (Thank you, Betty!) She wants to run the house her own way when she gets married (instead of her future mother-in-law). She kisses another man during her engagement--hey, wait. Erm...didn't Christian? Her future MIL is cheer-leading the opposition. She and he are incompatible but she's not beneath contempt.
It isn't long before Christian finally (FINALLY) decides to cut bait with Estelle. (Champagne all around!) Estelle, for her part is inching closer to a certain Doctor HandyLips (and his interest in Roman ruins).
Christian makes some earnest attempts at wooing, is cute-put-out when she can't come to dinner with him, defends her to Estelle ("I like small women..." ) and turns himself into quite a likable fellow.
It only wants Eliza catching Estelle and Doctor HandyLips clinching in the shrubbery for gaskets to be blown to kingdom come. Engagements are broken at last.
Christian wastes no time getting Eliza alone. Come into the study...and I will ask you to marry me in a manner which you will never forget as long as you live.
The End

Rating: Heaven is Gentle is a head scratcher. I honestly almost loathe the beginning. Scotland is sodden and dire and bleak--even when it's not raining it lays there like a damp blanket. Christian and Eliza's relationship borders on cruel. Still, here and there I find some flashes of genius. ('Dust me') The middle is middling--Christian's mood is described too often as sneering and icy but we're making progress. The end is smashing. Love, love, love it. Twenty pages from the finale, Betty tells us that they went to lunch together and were 'taking with the enthusiasm of two people who have discovered each other for the first time'. That's when it struck me--All the rest of it was written not as a love story but as the Anatomy of a Bad Break-up. Only when Estelle the Inoffensive seems poised to leave him does Christian settle down to wooing in Fair Eliza in earnest. The prelude to that was merely a dissection of his inner turmoil at being attracted to Eliza and attached to Estelle. I'm going to give this the cheese board because:
  • Eliza plays dirty. She could very easily be written as a villainess--scheming to marry Christian, snooping in his things, hating Estelle without provocation, calling Estelle names to his face, etc. That's not cricket.
  • Running off to the mountains was unforgivably stupid. She is plucky thereafter but still...
  • I somewhat enjoy watching The Travails of Christian as he struggles with his attraction but he's often jerky.
But again, the second half is pretty good and the end is great. (Boeuf en croute great.) Read it from his perspective (extricating himself from the wrong girl) and you'll like it quite well. I totally get why those that like it do (it has some very charming bits), I just wasn't that Betty.

Food: Hot soup and sausage rolls, saddle of lamb, apricot upside-down pudding, lovely macaroni and cheese and a cherry cake (which both repels me on the matter of cooked fruit and attracts me because I love cherries).

Fashion: To Scotland she packs thick sweaters and slacks, a long cloak, old anorak, an old rose mohair skirt and cashmere top. She wears Wellington boots and knitted gloves to tramp about the countryside. Our hero rescues Eliza in a great socking sheepskin jacket. She also owns a high-necked brown jersey. Also, much hay is made of the fact that she doesn't travel with an evening dress to Holland.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Betty Pets: Pepper the $2,000 Cat

via email from Betty Lulu:
Pepper (?1996 - 2012) was a stray whom I took in when I was in Texas.  She was a small-sized cat with a gentle temperament.  In this picture, she was in her thinner days.  She was usually rounder in the face and rounder in general.
We went through a lot together.  She traveled with me from Texas to the East Coast.  Within a month, she stopped eating and developed hepatic lipidosis, where her liver cells started turning into fat cells.  Survival was fifty-fifty, the vet said.  Pepper underwent surgery to have a stomach tube inserted.  I had to medicate her and feed her through a stomach tube three times a day.  She recovered, but the inside end of the stomach tube was defective and didn't pass through her system.  She had to undergo another surgery to have that piece of plastic removed.  She recovered after a month, and was back at 100% health.  I called her my $2,000 cat.  (I briefly thought about suing the manufacturer of the defective stomach tube to recoup costs, but it wasn't worth it).
While Pepper was recovering, I adopted another cat, Creamsicle, to keep her company.  His story will have to wait for another day.
Pepper died peacefully in the Midwest.
Thanks to everyone for your kind words of sympathy.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Birthday Adventure Part 4

The final installment of Betty AnoninTX's Birthday Adventure:

I then made myself a cup of assam tea with milk, had a slice of Dundee cake and several biscuits, and read a chapter of Fate Is Remarkable!  Loved it!

Birthday Adventure Part 3

Part 3 of Betty AnoninTX's birthday adventure:

The hamper comes with tins of assam and ceylon orange pekoe tea, a tin of golden crunch biscuits (so good...), a tea strainer, and a **Dundee** cake in a tin.  It also has a book Tea at Fortnum & Mason.  I also ordered a tin of clotted cream biscuits (very rich and oh so good...) and a tea cup and saucer.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Birthday Adventure Part 2

The second in a 4 part series from Betty AnoninTX:

I finally have a hamper!

Betty AnoninTX Birthday Adventure. Part 1

Not to whinge or anything, but this has been/will be a tough week for me.  Why? Let me count the ways:
  1. Betty Keira is on vacation and is one of those archaic types who doesn't use a cell phone.
  2. I'm in charge of the planning, buying and preparing four meals for 150 people for Friday and Saturday (church activity).
  3. The van der Stevejincks are in the middle of a huge backyard renovation...the cement truck will be here today to pump yards of cement for a new patio and walkways.
  4. I'm having to type with only nine fingers as the middle finger on my left hand is rather clumsily bandaged...which will make #2 even more difficult (luckily I am familiar with the word 'delegate').
Okay, so I was whinging...usually Betty Keira would be the one to get an earful, thanks for your patience.  I needed it.
-Betty Debbie

Because of all the stress going on here at home, I was especially pleased to open my email this morning and find a new series (4 parts) from Betty AnoninTX.  Enjoy:

I have the hardest time ever deciding on something I want for Christmas or my birthday!  I have all the Betty Neels books.  What else is there?  My mother has had a hard and fast rule for years:  nothing she has to dust.  I've pretty much adopted the same rule, which has resulted in many fabulous Starbucks cards.  But this year, as I turned (cough, cough), I knew just what I wanted.  I seriously desperately desired a hamper from Fortnum & Mason.  I drooled, more times than I can count, over the exportable hampers.  I finally picked the "tea experience" one.  And, happy belated birthday to me, it came today!

Curiosity almost killed the portly cat.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Vicar's Daughter - Reprise

Since Betty Keira is on vacation this week, I volunteered to post the reprise of the week - which I am totally happy to do.  

I love The Vicar's Daughter - in spite of the tragic death of two of The Least Deserving of Dying in a Tragic Motor Fatality parents in Neeldom.  There are so many other candidates in the canon that I would rather have suffer a vehicular fatality - but I guess that's why I'm not an author, I would have a hard time dishing out the angst.  

Betty Debbie

Yay! I get to review a book that I really enjoy! The Vicar's Daughter might very well make it onto my top ten Neels list.
Professor Gijs van Kessel
is enjoying a relaxing drive in the country late one evening, when suddenly a girl pops out in front of him and flags him down. Margo Pearson, 28 year-old parson's daughter, is helping with the delivery of a baby - after all, she's got her First Aid merit badge or something. Gijs grabs his doctor bag and crawls into the tent with Margo and the laboring girl. Non-squeamish Margo is actually very helpful - including following the "put your hand here and keep it steady" post-partum instructions.
Margo Pearson is the epitome of my favorite Neels heroine. Plucky, pragmatic, resourceful, sensible...I love her. A lot. I also love Gijs. He's kind, thoughtful, handy to have around in an emergency, and pretty darn direct.
Margo is an only child. Her father is the vicar (maybe you already guessed that from the title?), Margo and her mum are his able assistants. Margo has been drifting into potential marriage with pig farmer George Merridew. George has been courting her cautiously with a view to eventual marriage with the grudging blessing of his overbearing mother. Mrs. Merridew thinks that as a vicar's daughter, Margo would be a suitable wife for her boy - after some moulding. Unfortunately for George, Margo is not a girl to be moulded. And frankly, after seeing Gijs, Margo knows that prosaic, pig-farming George is not the man for her. She doesn't have any illusions about her looks, or rather, lack of them, but she does wish she had looks that would make men look twice and remember her. Professor van Kessel does remember a small girl without fear, sensible and bossy. Ouch. That's not what Margo has in mind.
Sir William, local bigwig, asks Margo if she will take his granddaughter to London. No problemo. Margo takes Imogen to her aunts house...Imogen's young cousin is being seen by a paediatric specialist...none other than Professor van Kessel. Professor RDD offers to take Margo home in an hour. During which hour, Margo is ignored by the household staff and practically starves to death. The Prof. offers to buy her some lunch, since he missed his too (he's fibbing - he just had lamb cutlets and some substantial apple tart at the hospital - see, I told you he was kind). Margo endears herself to the doctor by just ordering an omelette and salad.
Back at the vicarage in time for a substantial tea, Professor Doctor Gijs van Kessel endears himself to me by inviting the Pearson family to just call him Gijs. Editor's Note: I really like the fact that Margo doesn't have to spend 185 pages calling the RDD "Professor van Kessel" - and not just because it's a pain to type.During tea, Margo gets to thinking about what Gijs' home life might be like and wonders whether he is married. Margo, being Margo, it was no sooner said than done. "Are you married?" Embarrassment klaxons are blaring...but Gijs is adorable...and described by Betty as "either a man with the kindest heart imaginable or was prone to deafness."
Despite the burgeoning friendship with Gijs, Margo goes over to the Merridew farm to help George's mum preserve plums. While stoning plums, girlfriend has an epiphany that she can't possibly marry George the pig-farmer. Upon returning home, she tells her own mum that although she's fond of George, she just doesn't love him. She would like to be cosseted and spoilt and loved very much. Frankly I think it's the thought of living with George's mum that really has her put off the idea. She'd rather stay single than marry George and have to live with his mum.
George takes the news the next morning with a disturbing lack of concern...which was a very lowering thought to a girl...
In order to take a breather and "clear the decks", Margo heads off to visit Aunt archdeacon's widow with a sharp nose, a sharp tongue and a warm heart. While taking a walk, Margo spots a toddler lying unconscious in the creek. She recognizes the little girl as the granddaughter of Lady Trueman, and marches her back to the manor in the pouring rain, losing a shoe in the process. A paediatric specialist is called other than our Gijs. We've got to stop meeting like seems that we are destined to only meet in emergencies. He drives her back to Aunt Flo's house where Margo discovers that "the peculiar feeling she had been experiencing for the last hour or so wasn't a cold in the head, it was love!" Margo is bundled off to bed while Aunt Flo and Gijs chat about her over a cup of coffee. Gijs reflects to himself that besides being surprised at seeing Margo again, he was also pleased. Hmmm. Pleased and surprised? Nice.

Pleased enough to stop by Margo's stall at the church bazaar. Margo is in charge of the "Good-As-New" clothes...and steps out of character to remark, "do people really buy other people's clothes?" Editor's Note: I would think that a vicar's daughter would know better than that. At twenty-eight years old she's probably been to at least a couple dozen bazaars or jumble sales...which probably had used clothing stalls. But I digress. Gijs stops by to dispense a little fashion advice to the customers and invite Margo out to dinner - getting to know each other without an imminent medical emergency.

Dinner is lovely (even if her clothes aren't), and the two carry on a refreshingly two-sided conversation. Good-byes are said, Margo assumes that's the last she'll get to see of Gijs. Which it is, until time for her to head back home. When Gijs shows up at the door, Aunt Flo tells her that it must have slipped her mind, but Gijs is going to drive her home. Another last good-by? He reminds her of a promise he had made to arrange a hospital tour for her. He'll pick her up next Tuesday.
Gijs really does admire Margo - she would make a splendid wife and mother, so hey, maybe while he's at it he can find a way for her to meet one of the younger doctors, however, when he does see her with Houseman Alec he forgets his idea - he finds no pleasure in the sight of her with the younger man. Hmmm.
Meanwhile, Margo is not too happy with Gijs. In fact, she's boiling with rage. What? Mild-mannered Margo is ticked off? Why for? Gijs is mystified at her coolness towards himself during the drive home. He makes Margo stay in the car until she tells him. Tell him what?
Her: "You said I was a sensible girl with no silly ideas. Alec thought I sounded like a schoolteacher. If that's what you think of me I don't want to see you again, ever."
Him: But you are a sensible girl with a refreshing lack of silly ideas...
Her: See what I mean? It's call damning with faint praise. I'd rather have none of that.
Margo bitterly regrets her words.

One week later. Mom and Dad are out for the day running errands and doing a spot of early Christmas shopping. Oh, and dying in a motor accident.

Margo calls Aunt Flo. Who finds Gijs at her doorstep. Who offers to drive her to Margo. Who cries on his shoulder. Who swallowed the spider who ate the fly...I don't know why...

Gijs is so sweet...he would take her grief on his shoulders if he could, he even goes so far as to tell Margo. I'm going to use this to excuse some future bad behaviour. Gijs proceeds to help with all the formalities associated with the funeral and comforting Margo.
Aunt Flo is distressed about Margo - what will happen to her now? I shall marry her. Oh heck, I'm in love. He takes Margo for a walk to the place where they met, gives her a hanky while she sobs and snivels, then proceeds to propose in a rather delightful way. It might be a marriage of convenience...but it's very friendly and open.
Margo is a little worried about marrying him - but Aunt Flo has no such qualms..."you're marrying him because you love him, so of course you're doing the right thing." Wow. Even Margo's ecclesiastical aunt can tell.
In preparation for the wedding, some judicious shopping is engaged in - including a new house for the newlyweds. Yup, they jump right into buying real estate together. Which is surprisingly easy for them...unlike the months Dr. van der Stevejinck and I took to find our current residence.
On the way to the wedding ceremony Margo considers the fact that since Gijs isn't in love with anyone else, she may as well have a go at helping him to fall in love with her. It might take years, but it would be totally worth it.
The wedding is lovely - the whole village turns out for it. Cross-over characters Gijs and Beatrice van der Eekerk (Wedding Bells for Beatrice) are in attendance also. Note: Gijs has got to be the most commonly used RDD name in Neeldom, which does lead to some confusion on my part. Sir William throws a lovely reception for the happy couple before they head off for the requisite trip to Holland. On the drive through the countryside Gijs promises to get Margo a car so that she can be independent..."She had no wish to be independent - she would like to stick to him like a leech."
The house of van Kessel is awfully big and fancy...Margo has her suspicions that Gijs might actually be a millionaire. Which he happens to be.

Her: I dare say I'll get used to it..
Him: If you can't bear to live here, we'll close it up and live in a cottage. (see - he's nice!)It's very close to Christmas - so Margo and Gijs go  Christmas shopping for all of Gijs family (who Margo hasn't yet met) and the servants (who she has). Christmas is a lovely family occasion - all of Gijs siblings, their spouses and children are there. And everyone likes her. After Christmas the extra family leaves, and it's down to Gijs and Margo (and the servants). It's pretty quiet - and so Margo goes for a walk. Unfortunately it starts snowing and she gets lost. Of course Gijs saves the day - but he's breathing pretty hard by the time he does - and it's not altogether because he had been running.
Gijs takes Margo furniture shopping (for their new house) in the attic of his house in Holland. Amongst the detritus of past decorating styles, Margo spots a cradle. Turns out all the van Kessel offspring spend their first month or so in it. Which begs the question...Gijs wanted a wife, but does he want children????
Back to London and the new house - it's coming along swimmingly when Gijs announces that his younger sister, Corinne the Corrupter, is coming to visit. Even though Corinne the Playing Fast and Loose with Her Marriage Vows is Gijs' sister, she is no role model for future Neels heroines. She carries on a secret 'Brightonless' (we hope) affair with the dastardly Jerome...secret until she fesses up to Margo, then vows her to secrecy. Corinne the Terminally Stupid gets into trouble with Jerome - he wants her to 'go to Brighton'. Corinne the Too Stupid to be Allowed sheds some tears in front of Margo and begs her to get rid of Jerome for her...when Margo shows doubts about helping her, Corinne plays the "I'm going to have a baby" card (don't worry, it's her husband's child...not Jerome's) and Margo agrees to help. This leads to some BIG TROUBLE with Gijs...because he sees Margo and Jerome having an intense conversation on the steps of the National Gallery - and Margo won't explain (remember - vow of silence). Since Margo won't say anything, Gijs ships her off to Aunt Flo's for a week - which doesn't help. When Margo gets back, Gijs announces that he's going to Holland for a couple of weeks. Alone. Margo sticks it out for about a week and a half then follows him to have it out. She offers to have the marriage annulled...Gijs tells girlfriend that he loves her too much to see her unhappy...Whatever shall I do, she wails. Gijs drives up to Friesland for the night - then goes straight to his office in the morning. Corinne the I'm Pregnant So I Should Get Away With It shows up and confesses all (her husband is making her do it) and ends her confession with tears and baby news. Gijs is way the heck too nice to her - but he does beg her never to ask Margo to make any more promises - because she was brought up to keep them. At all costs.
Gijs races back to the house - Margo hasn't left for her flight yet. He finally finds her in the attic, sobbing over the cradle. I love you's all round...then some implied future conjugal relations - "The cradle will need a good polish." The End.
Rating: I love this book. A lot. Margo is my favorite kind of Neels heroine: plucky, resourceful and cheerful. Gijs is adorable. He's nice even before he falls in love - no hooded eyes for him! The age difference is not that great - 28/35. The only fly in the marital ointment is baby sister. If I could change one thing about this book, it would be that Corinne got a little more closely acquainted with consequences, but that's not how The Great Neels rolled...I give this one a queen of puddings!
Food: I'm guessing Betty penned this in the fall, because we have apple crumble (twice), apple tart AND Dutch apple tart. Not only that, but we also have a couple of casseroles, bacon sandwiches, toffee pudding, treacle tart, jam roly-poly pudding, roast pheasant , almond tart with lashings of whipped cream - all these things sound very fall/winter comfort food kind of dishes.
Fashion: at the used clothing stall there is a dress of puce nylon with a pattern of startling green leaves, draped to disguise the wearer's curves. Wow. Margo buys a new wardrobe consisting of a velvet skirt, elaborate top in delicate apricot, blue dress and jacket to be married in, brown jersey dress, blue cashmere dress, brown cashmere coat, and two party dresses, including a dark green velvet with a very immodest neckline.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Great Betty Talent Show

We received this entry yesterday. Ummm...can I just say I'm gobsmacked? Betty Anonymous has hit the red ball out of the park, figuratively speaking.

Speaking of The Great Betty Talent Show, yes, we here at TUJD have been a bit lackadaisical about announcements, rules, reminders...yes, the whole nine or ten or eleven yards (here is the post where we discussed rules...such as they are).  We've received 3 or 4-ish entries - so far (I'm counting this cake, the Litrik van Hotness photoshop post, Betty AnoninTX's extended Betty in the National Parks series, and Betty van den Betsy for her Betty By the Numbers series. Have I missed any?). We have 6 prizes to distribute, so here's the deal.  We'll close out the Talent Show when Betty Keira returns from vacation - around the 26th or 27th. 

Tot ziens!
Betty Debbie

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Proposal - Reprise

While The Proposal may be just average (an average Neels - not an average anyone else), this review by Betty Keira is well above the norm.  I love her story about our brother Joe, which must have taken place circa 1990-ish. It's one of those embarrassing situations that befall us all - in one way or another.  My personal equivalent would be the time I discovered that I had inadvertently tucked my uncrushable jersey dress into the top of my tights (while in the loo), just before walking into one of the larger lecture halls in college.  Oops. Thankfully I didn't run into Dr. van der Stevejinck just then - or else history might have taken a drastic turn.  I doubt if my ego could have handled a conversation with any man at that juncture - quailing doesn't even begin to describe how I would have reacted. 
-Betty Debbie

There are a few certainties in the Universe. God is good. The sun will rise in the East. Betty Keira will spare no effort to be as lazy as possible. And a certain Hollywood star will continue her descent into plastic surgery dementia. (Watched one of her films last night. How horribly frog-faced the once-gorgeous lady looked. To quote Better Off Dead: Truly a sight to behold. A man beaten. The once great champ, now, a study in moppishness. No longer the victory hungry stallion we've raced so many times before, but a pathetic, washed up, aged ex-champion. )
But I digress...
This Betty likes to review the short books generally (They're short. What's not to like?) because those stalwart pioneer genes skipped around a bit, landed squarely on Betty Debbie and only glanced off Betty Keira (I"m rubber, you're glue...). So, The Proposal. Let's on to it:

First, we'll begin with a short personal story. When I was 12 or so, my mom sent me to the park with some younger siblings, one of whom was my brother Joe (also 12) who has Down Syndrome. When you've got a family like ours being stared at is rather par for the course but Joe (who is awesome and couldn't hurt a fly if he tried but was big, slobbery, able to lick his eyebrows, etc.) was making some of the mommies and little kids nervous. He, while pretty big, still liked the kiddie slide and whatnot.
One mommy beckoned over a police officer (for why?) who wanted to talk to me. There I was, standing in a growing circle of interested observers, 12, mortified, angry at dumb grownups, both defensive about my brother and wishing him to the Black Hole of Calcutta, and talking to a uniformed officer of the law. Out of nowhere, my big puppy of a brother tackles me to the ground and I'm looking up at blue sky. Kill me now, I think.
It is this that makes me have such affinity for Francesca Haley.
There she is, a bright, vivid girl of 25, dressed in shabby clothes and engaged in the less-than-impressive activity of walking her employer's tiny lapdog. Meeting the man of your dreams in such circumstances would surely make even the bravest woman quail. Meeting him after being knocked to the ground by a massive and dirty-pawed one-eyed dog--and being kept there while he rests his paw on your chest--is too much to ask.
She's a bit touchy but being at such a disadvantage excuses great swaths of bad behavior as far as I'm concerned.
She hurries back to the service entrance (Betty Kylene has a service entrance in her new-to-her retro 50s house and I have become converted.) so as not to be late. Lady Mortimer, as The Great Betty so scathingly points out, is the widow of a wholesale textile manufacturer (shudder), which is supposed to disgust me but I'm a fan of meritocracy so can't be too fussed by self-made men who donate so much to charity that they become knighted. And wholesale cloth? I'd probably love to visit that store.
We find out that Francesca tolerates the pitiful wages and demanding conditions of work at Lady Mortimor's because of Lucy--her younger sister is still school-aged, out-spoken and helping a family of kittens live 'clandestinely in a big box under the table'. Francesca tells her sister about the man in the park. 'He thought it was funny, me falling over.' Her pride, while not excessive (Hasn't she spent two years sinking it and biting her tongue to afford a roof over her head?), is a little bruised.
She sees Doctor Renier Pitt-Colwyn (the man in the park and half-Dutch on his mother's side) again and admits to herself that when she doesn't see him she's looking for him. When he shows up at Lady Mortimor's for a consultation she is disappointed that he doesn't acknowledge their acquaintance in any way. Maybe he's distracted by the production Lady Mortimer is putting on for him: Artistic poses, smelling salts (that hoary convention!), and manufactured illness.
That night she confides in Lucy about her disappointment in him. 'Only I thought he was rather nice.' Not a dawning realization but close enough to ruffle the surface of her complacency. 'Maybe I should try night classes,' she mentions off-handedly--excuse enough for her sister to open up a Grade A Can of Butt-Kickery. 'Darling, you must be crazy--you mean sit for two hours learning Spanish or how to upholster a chair? I won't let you.' (Let us not pause to take a poll of Bettys who would be willing to have a few hours to themselves once a week for an education in furniture refurbishment. Few would concede the Indubitable Horror of Night Classes, I think.) The larger point is that Francesca has spent her twenties being a palace eunuch to an encroaching mushroom and wouldn't mind a little social life.
Well, she's not going to get it here.
Renier (whose name, despite the slightly different spelling, I am afraid will always connote Grimaldi chinless-ness) has other plans for her. He suggests that she come to work for the widow of his best friend. Eloise is an actress (Code Red! Code Red! Scramble the jets!) who must leave her small daughter, Peggy, while she tours with a theatre company.
When Francesca hands in her resignation to the deep-bosomed Lady Mortimor, it is truly a petty-minded highlight. 'You have ruined my day. Such ingratitude has cut me to the quick.' Francesca forebore from saying that, for someone of Lady Mortimor's ample, corseted figure, the cut would have to be really deep.
Peggy is a plain and shy child who offers our heroine all kinds of opportunities to show off her domestic skills. Renier catches her kneeling on the kitchen lino shooting marbles, casually toasting bread in the fire, and making bucket loads of tea. Peggy, it should be noted, doesn't miss her mother (a 'love the one you're with' gal if there ever was one) at all but she does miss her deceased father.
Renier, meanwhile, comes and goes as he likes and makes water-muddying visits to Eloise.
Lucy is just happy to be away from Lady Mortimor's and pines (quietly) for a skiing trip that her schoolmates are taking.
But none of this is actually driving the plot anywhere. It's as though The Venerable Neels had forgotten that at at 102 pages, she didn't have time to eddy around in The Mists of Exposition.
To that end, Peggy gets the chicken pox.
During her recovery, the doctor suggests that she travel to her paternal grandparents' house with Francesca and that Lucy board with her school for a week.
The country is lovely and restful and clearly Peggy is getting the love and attention she so desperately craves. 'Hmmm,' thinks Francesca, 'the natural solution to this pickle is to marry off Eloise to Renier.' I warn you that the reminder of this book comes off as an amicably settled custody dispute.
Renier, determined to marry Francesca, makes one more trip to visit Eloise. He also makes a visit to Lucy in London and takes her 'To the Ritz, no less!' 007 would call this little tea party a bit of First Class Reconnaissance.
And then we're back to the countryside to tell Francesca that he has arranged for Peggy to live with her grandparents (and a young nanny) permanently and also for Lucy (who LOVES boarding!) to go on that Swiss alpine adventure with her schoolmates. How officious. How high-handed.
She travels with him to Holland to see Lucy off and then realizes that she doesn't know what comes next. Is being trapped across the Channel with a handsome doctor merely a prelude of Brighton?! No. It's a prelude to proposals, kissing, and an unexpected visit to his mother.
The End

Rating: Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower was a noted fan of paint-by-numbers pictures. I appreciate their kitschy whimsy and bought a couple of them myself a few years ago(see right). They lovingly adorn the children's bathroom. But that's what they are. Children's bathroom art. The Proposal struck me as a bit of the same--safe, tidy, neat, nice and very between the lines. It always comes attached to another book because of it's length which is probably good as it doesn't represent the canon with vigorous bodacity--though the protagonists are wonderful people that you root for the whole time. Anyway, it is not to say that this book doesn't have it's high points. It does. And in a longer book all the space she wastes getting us from Room A to Room B wouldn't stick out so much. Making Sure of Sarah, a similarly short offering, is punchy and sweet and uses every inch of the pages allotted to it. And maybe comparisons really are odious as The Proposal wasn't all that just wasn't all that good. Treacle Tart for this one.

Food:McDonald's (I almost had a coronary when I read that!), crumpets dripping with butter, baked salmon with a pastry crust, Marmite, and chops that taste like sawdust in her mouth

Fashion: An elderly Burberry, Lady Mortimor's velvet housecoat with gossamer undies, an old but elegant brown jacket and skirt

Friday, June 8, 2012

Free Cookbook

No, this isn't a contest.
We received an email from Betty Drisdy alerting us about this great deal!
Anyone with a kindle can download Traditional British Jubilee Recipes free from
Here's the link.

Traditional British Jubilee Recipes. 4 Book Collection - Cakes, Puddings, Scones and Biscuits (Traditional British Recipes) 

Thank you Betty Drisdy...did you know I have a kindle?  Now I just have to decide what to make...perhaps something in honor of my Queen's Jubilee Commemorative Tree.  I plan to name my tree Elizabeth (in honor of the queen), but call it Betty (in honor of you-know-who).
Our new little tree is a Katsura...which has heart shaped leaves and is supposed to smell like cotton candy in the fall.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Litrik van der Hottness on Tour

via email:

Dear Founding Bettys and Contributing Bettys with  special consideration to Betty Cindy,

I must apologize for disappearing from the home of the charming Betty who entertained me last.  I will not name her as I feel totally responsible for the delay in contacting you.
Things were fine at her home, just a little boring. You know what a busy life an RDD leads. We really don't have time for checking in and checking out.

As a proper RDD, at first I was appalled at life in America.There were trips to New York and Philadelphia, but only when we were peeved. So I was quiet unprepared for my Adventures in these United States. Some one had us very misinformed. This country is quite civilized and interesting. And the women are more than acceptable.

I packed and was out before breakfast at the host Bettys domicile. I had a arranged a ride to the nearest Bentley dealer and drove away in a used but immaculate
Convertible Bentley Continental GTC. Not exactly 'great' or 'socking', but definitely dashing. And that is what a getaway calls for, is it not.

The details of my touring are not important or interesting to most of you because the only details you are interested in is when I meet the lovely girl I've been waiting all these 36 years to find. So look at the photos quickly and we'll cut to the chase.

I enjoyed all the lovely sites, but did not sight the love of my dreams until I headed back to my starting spot toward the noble state of Pennsylvania.  Feeling a little homesick, I detoured to a town where I knew I could find familiar food and music. It was great being in Holland again. This was Holland, Michigan during the Tulip festival. But I was still able to kick up my clogs. The hospitable Hollanders invited me for lunch and we were just about to eat our Krokets and Bitterballen when shouts of FIRE were heard.
The windmill I had just toured was pouring smoke. The local emergency personnel were ushering hoards of tourist down narrow stairwells. One plucky, somewhat plain young miss with beautiful eyes, went dashing up the stairs.  Youngsters had told her that a fainting goat from the petting zoo had panicked and ran into the mill elevator and was now at the top of the structure, she was fainting, of course. The goat not the girl.  I heard a sharp but melodious shout. Above me was that bothersome chit, clutching the unconscious goat to her chest.  Oh, that it could have been me.

All went as expected, she threw the goat to me and I muttered a few Dutch Oaths. We worked side by side on the injured patients from that point on.  I made demeaning comments or maybe they were that veiled courting we RDD's often do. Whatever it was, it worked. Our eyes met over soiled bandages but all we saw was each other. After a hard kiss or two our fates were sealed.

The windmill heroine turned out to be Maisiella Spitfire. A member of the burn team unit at the local medical center.   As a burn specialist myself, I knew I had to lend aid back at the medical center. At one point during the grueling toil, my dance partner Gretchen, who had twisted her ankle in her rush to leave the fire,  confided to
Maisiella that she and I were to be married. This was complete and total rubbish, which Maisie (a hated nick name that only her step uncle-in-law used) took as gospel.  It took some time and many almost spurned meals to correct this misconception. Gretchen decided to confess that she was trying to make her ex-dance partner jealous. So all was good.

Maisiella and I were married the following Thursday at the local Cathedral.

Life cycles of bobble heads RDDs are quite sped up compared to regular RDDs. We already have adorable twins, Gigi and Guenther.
We will be having a delayed honeymoon in Oregon with the founding Betty's. Please send your snail mail address to this email.
Well, actually I'll be the only one there in physical form as the former Ms.
Spitfire and our children are cyber bobble heads.  But for the life of me, I can't spot the difference.

I remain your servant,
Litrik van der Hottness

Post Script:  Try if you must to figure out my former hostess Bettys Identity. But don't toil too hard. If this wins her a prize, she will gladly come forth.