Sunday, December 29, 2013

Betty in the Wild: Meet Me at the St. Louis Zoo

St. Louis has one of the premier zoos in the world, and it's free to all.  Amazing.

This statue might seem vulgar at a Somerset estate or Den Haag mansion, but a heffalunk with a late-October celebratory punkin on its head is just the right welcoming touch for a zoo.

Nothing is more relaxing for a convalescent aunt then a peaceful afternoon gazing at ephelumps.

Margaret is not a hyena.

Cats don't get a lot of type-space in Grasp a Nettle, but you know Jenny cares about them.  And these cats can keep up with Eduard's Great Dane.

Sightseeing, as we all know, is exhausting, and requires a reservation for tea at The London Tea Room.  While not quite Fortnum's, it has a massive selection of teas, with a Betty-worthy literary quality to the menu.  As a for-instance, this is their menu listing for their grilled cheese sandwich:  "The Grilled 3-Cheese Sandwich - Sharp English cheddar, Swiss and chèvre cheeses cross international boundaries and melt unilaterally with caramelized onions on Pugliese bread. One frightening step closer to the New World Order and/or heartburn."  Ha ha!

Jenny would not approve my choice of Jasmine Dragon Tears green tea, but she'd be able to pick a more traditional blend, like maybe Queen of Hearts -- certainly not Naughty Vicar!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Betty in the Wild: Not Everything is Up-to-Date in Kansas City

For instance, the steamship 'Arabia,' which sank in the mighty Missouri River in 1856.  Just three years old at the time of the wreck, the Arabia was pretty high end for her time.  However, no boat of those days was a match for the Big Muddy; the ships that survived were just luckier than the ones that went down.  The river was famously described as, "too thick to drink; too thin to plow," and less famously, its course could alter by as much as a mile in a single day.  In other words, one could cut engines, paddlewheels, oars or whatever and drop anchor in one place in the evening, and be a mile west or east of that by morning.  Since the steamships of the day were powered by burning wood, sailors cut down trees all along the shifting banks, which created erosion, which sent tremendous tree trunks and root systems into the thick and mobile riverbed.  Those downed limbs, trunks and roots became 'snags' that could stove in a wooden hull without warning.  That's what happened to the Arabia.  Everyone managed to debark in darkening evening, but most of the luggage and all the cargo, and one unfortunate mule (kind of like a donkey, Betty) were left aboard, and all had vanished into the water and mud by morning.

Over a century later, an intrepid family managed to locate the deeply-buried ship with the help of friends, and dig it up between harvest and planting seasons.  They've put most of what they found on display in a museum in Kansas City, Missouri.  Their story is quite a bit more interesting than the Arabia's.

The paddle wheel.  Sarah Ann and Hugo will surely go on a cruise someday.

The hapless anchor.  Hugo is Sarah Ann's anchor.

A portion of the snag that wrecked the Arabia.  Sarah Ann and Hugo encounter several less literal.

The reconstructed hull of the Arabia.  Doesn't Sarah Ann feel rudderless at points?

They've recovered 200 tons of cargo from the ship, much of which is on display.  It's mostly mid-priced housewares and farming and hunting tools.

Hardware.  Is that Alice's department?

China, mostly, and not Delft.

Boots, etc., for use in the Highlands.  Or frontier.  Whatever.

The more up-to-date parts of KC include a delightful New Orleans-style cafe called Beignet, a happy dog at a sidewalk table, and the super-wonderful chocolatier Christopher Elbow.

New Orleans is strongly influenced by French culture; the van Elvens visit France.
Non-stray dog who seconds before I snapped this photo was all over me.  As soon as his human companion returned to luncheon, however, Pup was done with me.  Obviously loved and well-cared-for, otherwise I'd have thrown him in the car and brought him 3,000 miles and eventually home with me.  Like almost all dogs, he was a sweetie.

Inspired, no doubt, at least in part by Dutch confectionary, KC favorite son Christopher Elbow is one of the world's most acclaimed chocolatiers.  The woman working the register (my tab was over $150!!  Lots of gifts for friends and hosts!  Plus a hot chocolate for me.  And a few choccies for me.) was born near Detroit to Canadian parents, moved as an adult to Washington, DC and then to Los Angeles, and settled a few years ago in Kansas City.  She loves it.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Quick Quiz - Yay Betty AnoninTX; Hints Added for #3

Courtesy of my English brother-in-law, who seems to have dug into the oeuvre.  Please, no web-searches for book quotes; just answer as best you can from your standing knowledge of the World of Betty:

#1)  In which Betty does our plucky heroine consider "Michael Caine and Kojak" (!?!?) the pinnacles of masculinity?
WINNER:  Betty AnoninTX!  Expect a prize from Fortnum and Mason to arrive soon, assuming you've ordered yourself a Christmas present therefrom.

#1a)  Whom do you consider to be the pinnacles of masculinity?

#2)  In which Betty does our plucky heroine get covered in chips (french fried potatoes)?
WINNER:  Betty AnoninTX!  Ditto on the F&M.

 #2a)  What is the most distressing thing in which you, or your favorite hero or heroine, have ever been covered?

#3)  In which Betty does our plucky heroine own a dog named Rough?
HINTS:  Our plucky heroine gains Rough as part of her MOC.  There is no celebration of Christmas in the book.  The title is poetic.

#3a)  Have you ever accidentally named a dog something you couldn't shout easily when s/he escaped the lead whilst gamboling in the park?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Betty in the Wild: OOOOOOklahoma (and a bit more Texas)

After a lovely Lubbock visit, the Betties and I hit the road once more, heading east and north through Texas.  As previously noted, we saw classic ranch entrances whilst we traveled toward and through the panhandle.

Not Jenny's ancestral estate

Throughout the mid-section of the United States, I have been struck by the beauty of the grasslands.  The long, multi-colored grasses glimmer in the sunlight, unlike the not-quite-so-long, pretty-much-just-green grass of my front yard.

Not the conventional floral beauty of Madeira and the Canaries,
but Texas nonetheless offers some pretty awesome scenery.

I had never been in Oklahoma before!  As per, I loved it.  Big, broad, beautiful landscapes every which where, except in Oklahoma City, which seemed to stretch about 30 miles.

Not Jenny's ancestral home farm.

Not Jenny's ancestral autumnal hill.

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma is helping to preserve not only prairie dogs and bison, but also longhorn cattle.  It's gorgeous and has great hiking trails.

Oh, give me a home...  where the winds go sweeping down the plains...

Fuzzy!  Wuzzy!  I should have put Tishy and Jason in this
photo, so they could save George from goring.  Bison
run fast.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Final Touch - Reprise

It's been 2 1/2 years since Betty Keira and I finished reviewing all the books in the canon.

The first time.  

Nine hundred and fifty days ago.  

It's been fourteen hundred forty three days from the very first post.  Nearly four years.  

The Founding Bettys never imagined that their secret love of all things Neels was shared by anyone else...or at least by anyone else willing to admit it. Our Uncrushable Manifesto  was simple...
"Our original goals were modest. Review all the Betty books and enjoy ourselves and try not to talk about it too much in front of our not-yet-Betty sisters. Maybe, just maybe, our signal fire on the beach would catch a stray visitor but we knew better than reach for the moon. After all, this was a blog about Betty. And nobody we knew ever read Betty. And even if they did...would they know how to use 'computer'?"
Well, our signal fire has grown to 1,494 published posts (yes, I checked) and well over half a million page views (over 579,277 according to the stats on Blogger). That's a lot more action than we ever anticipated when we began. 

The Uncrushable Jersey Dress hasn't been the only thing The Founding Bettys have been involved in during this time:  

Betty Keira's family has both size and number.

Betty Keira's family at the very beginning of our blog...

...and at the end (well, she still has a husband, evidently he was taking the picture here).

My family has had its share of milestones: 1 child graduated from high school, 2 kids returned from missions, 2 kids graduated from college, 2 kids got married, one grandchild was born, and we've been on about a million road trips/vacations.
Grandson Henry meets his Uncle Alex for the first time.
The van der Stevejinck family has driven countless miles...(COUNTLESS!!!) on their many road trips...
It's been a ride.  Now it's time to pull the great socking Betty Bentley into a lay-by and take a bit of a breather.  

Betty Keira and I won't be abandoning this blog completely - feel free to make comments on old posts, take Betty in the Wild pictures (and email them to us), send recommendations for Betty-approved Life After Betty suggestions (non-Neels authors/books), Cinema Betty suggestions or whatever else floats your boat.

Plus, for those inclined, there is always Facebook.

It's been our sincere pleasure sharing our love of The Great Betty with our fellow Bettys.  Thank you so much for participating.  

Love and lardy cakes,
The Founding Bettys

p.s. I hope you enjoy The Final Touch.  It's a lovely little book to finish up with.

Even Bono feels it: 'And the last Betty read, 
yeah, sounds the clanging chimes of doom...'
 Have you felt the gnarled, chilly hand of disaster reaching out to you in the dark watches of the night?  Have you strode quickly past dead-end alleyways, fleeing from the dread that dare not speak its name?  Have you caught yourself staring into the sun hoping, always hoping, to bring back those carefree hours of days gone by when this vague menace wasn't annexing room after room of your fevered brain?  Me too.  We're done, Bettys.  The Final Touch really is the final touch and when I had finally turned the last of some 13,000 pages I've read this last year I was genuinely sad.  (Not that I haven't rehearsed the ticker tape parade of The End of Days but I did not expect to feel that Tom Hanks-ian Brain Cloud.)  But that was a week ago and I still have a review to write!  Let's gird up our loins, adjust the C-cups and get on with it.

Professor Tyco van der Brons, 39, does not work in the Path Lab.  So why is he staring with microscopic intensity at the mousy English nurse?  He knows her history--hasn't it been hospital grapevine fodder for weeks now?  She found a job here in Holland on the recommendation of Cor van Kamp (a worthless young scalp-collector) and, with a trusting instinct no more developed than a babe newly born, she built high hopes on the lines he fed her.  Tyco sees all this but his own troubled romantic history lends him an extra-sensory perception.  Though he is a lofty professor/consultant of 39, he sees that Nurse Charity Pearson , 23, is about to have a similar romantic fall.  Moreover, he seems to know that she won't be able to brush it off like other girls her age.  He doesn't love her but he, nevertheless, knows that she's JUST. LIKE. HIM.     
Charity is heartsick--not just to be on the receiving end of pitying glances and bracing smiles, but genuinely torn up that Cor proves himself to be so unworthy of her, by this time, unwilling regard--and accepts the Professor's brotherly hand of friendship with happy relief.  Still, Cor is becoming a growing problem.  He's like a barnacle that has attached itself to her hull and won't shake itself loose.  She's convinced that an extended stay at a maritime museum dry docks is just what the doctor ordered--barnacles will be scraped and no new ones will have a chance to try their cement glands on her at all.  
My side-arm is in my other pants...
As he pesters her on the ward and brushes her hand or squeezes her shoulder, Cor is revealed as that most tiresome kind of man--the kind poisoning the water wells as he moseys into the sunset.  Thank heavens Tyco is handy with six-shooters and side-winders.  Charity is moved to the burn unit...headed by the Rootin'est Tootin'est Gun in the Holland.  
Tyco already knows that Charity has self-control, dignity, a fine work ethic, empathy toward the disfigured and a willingness to throw her punches straight from the shoulder but he also has occasion to learn that she's an Urban Supergirl.  Rushing into a burning row house she saves the life of an infant and a toddler, receiving some burns on the backs of her hands herself (which, btw, seems like a funny place to get them unless you're holding a baby and pushing open a door with the exposed part of your hand).  Tyco discovers her in shock sitting on her bed in the nurse's home, treats her and (I think) decides then and there to sometime soon offer her a marriage of convenience.  Why else would he lay bare the sordid history of his philandering first wife?  He establishes himself as a fellow sufferer of love's outrageous fortune, gets to tell her about his marital status...and the kids.
Oh, have I not mentioned them?  Letizia and Teile (First wives--for that matter, all wives--in Neelsland are Fertile Myrtles) are two precocious 10-year-old twins brought up by their soon-to-be-leaving governess, Miss Bloom--a velvet hand in the steel glove. They like Charity right away (which Tyco observes with relief) and press her to visit them again.  (She's there for tea.)  Not very long after, she makes the amazing discovery that Cor no longer matters.  
Hard on the heels of that is Tyco's proposal.  Only believe me when I say I have a great regard for you and believe that we could be happy as a family. He proposed for the sake of the girls, of course.  That, and the cold fact that she doesn't excite him.  Why else?  Not even Tyco could answer that one.
There's Newly Married and then there's Snuggie Married
So they marry.  The little girls are outfitted in matching dresses and Charity is wearing a new hat and patent leather shoes.  The ink isn't try on the wedding license before Mijnheer and Mevrouw van der Brons have commandeered two fire-place adjacent wing-back chairs that, though it illustrates a different scene, reminds me forcibly of the words 'And Ma in her Kerchief and I in my Cap had just settled down to a long Winter's nap'.  As Sheryl Crow might say, 'This ain't no disco.'  But he reads his papers and she knits jumpers for the girls and, no doubt, he is congratulating himself on a task well-managed.
Until he falls in love with her.  He thought he knew what she was like--and he did know on some cerebral level that she was loyal, brave, plucky...But living with her is something else entirely and maybe he remembers that first, wretched marriage (that was never any sort of marriage at all) contrasted with the quiet pleasure now of coming home to his family and his feelings become quite jumbled.  Suddenly it matters awfully that anyone would ever hurt someone as wonderful as Charity and maybe it matters, too, that he's so much older than she is and...As you can tell, Tyco is on his beam ends.
But Charity is still wandering flashlight-less in a Dark Romantic Fog and might still be if not for the untimely appearance of Eunice, who, is probably as flat-chested as her name indicates.  She is Charity's step-sister and your average, run-of-the mill fashion model come to play tennis.  (Not tennis?  Then why is her back-hand so good?)
I love this part because it could really have gone off the rails but doesn't.  
Charity had the exterminator on speed dial.
  • Eunice invites herself to the townhouse.  (I'm reminded of those Orkin commercials where the life-sized bug wants to use the phone as a pretext to home invasion.)
  • Charity lies to her face and tells her she has to leave at the end of the week.  (Birthday party. Loads of family.  Don't let the door hit you on the rear on your way out.)
  • Tyco backs Charity up to the hilt (Which is a welcome relief from all those RDDs who think out of a mistaken sense of honor that one mustn't dislodge a guest under circumstances short of burning the house down--which, come to think of it, Charity might have been willing to do.), making the most of his opportunities by ramping up the endearments.
  • One of the girls gets sick on the very night that Tyco promised to take Flat-chested Eunice out to dinner. A minor spat ensues and then, later that night as Charity lurks in the shadows, Tyco KISSES Eunice...or she pretends to.
Happily, Charity doesn't have to resort to burning down the house.  Though Eunice was to leave the following afternoon, she tells her to get the $^%$  out of her #@!$#  house and not to darken her *@#;*!@ -- ;#@@#^  door ever again.  (Think of a Samuel L. "Bleep-Bleep" Jackson-Snakes-on-a-Plane freak out.)
Tyco and Charity have another spat (pretty minor stuff) where they are more than willing to meet each other half-way (but not at the same time) and it is just too bad that when Tyco leans forward to deliver an affectionate kiss Charity steps away.  Don't do that.  I can't bear it.  
A mini ice age develops on their front doorstep.
Later the next day, Charity is trotting down the hospital corridor on her way from having tea with the SNO and probably feeling less the Grand Married Lady than she ever has, when Cor oozes out from under the nearest rock.  Though he attempts to break her composure, she sweeps past him in a gesture that reminds me of when the mad-cap Sister Maria returns from her honeymoon with The Captain and he has to sing Edelweiss in front of everybody and she moves to his side, picking up the threads of his lost melody and beckons with all the confidence of a happily married woman to her children to join them.  
Tyco sees them, however and missed the subtleties of her confident gesture and accuses her of "meetings".  She fights back the only way she knows how; by reaching up on her tippy-toes and kissing his chin.
He chases her down, bundles her into the car, gets her nice and alone and kisses her back.
The End

Rating:  Queen of Puddings.  I really like this book and maybe it doesn't deserve this high a rating but my Wistful-O-Meter (see right) over the end of reviews has been hovering around Anne Murray and threatening any moment to enter the hitherto uncharted Don McLean reaches so I'm giving myself some artistic license on this one.
I have a theory about books--that any one of them can find a comparable Jane Austin equivalent.  So, The Final Touch is not sparkling like Pride and Prejudice but quietly romantic like Persuasion.  Charity has such a raw deal and Tyco expects so little happiness in life that, even though they're not riding many emotional roller-coasters, you're rooting for them to make a happy family.  I'm never tempted to get irritated with Charity for that I-shall-never-love-again business because her hurt and humiliation are just so fresh.  Tyco is forgiven for it because his first at-bat was a fiasco of Homeric proportions.
Letizia and Teile are darlings.  I love the part where they make doll houses out of old boxes with Charity.
I enjoy all the hospital set-up in this one too.  You really get a sense of the enormous social chasm that ought to have separated them (underlined vividly when Charity returns after her marriage to have tea with the senior nursing officer) but doesn't because, at heart, they are cut from the same cloth.
Eunice is an interesting distraction and, happily, Tyco isn't terribly good at dangling her in Charity's face (for that matter, Charity is being rather obstinate about her motherly duties), even going so far as to compliment Charity for her ability to lie like a trooper just to toss her sister to the curb.    

Food: Groentensoup, zeetong (sole), spekpannenkoeken with stroop, kerstkrans (a ring-shaped Christmas cake), poulet a l'estragon, pumpkin souffle, biscuit glace with fresh raspberries, wedding cake, little mushroom pancakes, and vichyssoise (just saying it makes my IQ jump ten points).

Fashion: Charity owns a soft, grey jersey dress which sounds suspiciously mouse-like, a burned coat gets replaced with a dark green winter coat and she buys a cranberry needlecord that carries her through upsetting social occasions like getting proposed to.  She has to talk the girls out of satin and yards of lace and a pearl-embroidered veil and satin slippers and long white gloves and into the considerably less romantic wool coat, hat and patent leather shoes (If Kate Middleton shows up in these tomorrow I lay odds that the monarchy could cock its toes up.).  She totters around on high heels for the girls and owns a gorgeous sapphire dress.  Sister Eunice swans around in fashions that probably reached their sell-by date before the book hit the publishers.