Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Very Mer-Ray Christmas

With the holidays approaching, I will be taking a blogging break, but I will leave you with the lovely descriptions of the Christmas festivities as described in Heaven to Betsy:

Christmas was definitely in the air now, not only in the churches. In school both literary societies were preparing Christmas programs, and teachers were growing indulgent under the influence of the approaching holidays. Anna was involved with Christmas cookies, plum pudding, mince meat, and two kinds of fruit cake. Mrs. Ray had thought one kind enough, but Anna had said firmly that the McCloskeys always had two. (188) 
The Ray house by this time was almost bursting with Christmas. Holly wreaths were up in all the windows. Mr. Ray had brought home candy canes; Washington had a red and green bow on his collar. And everyone had been warned by everyone else not to look in this or that drawer, or this or that closet. (194)
There was the usual Christmas Eve ritual. They decorated the tree. Betsy put on the golden harp from this year's shopping expedition with Tacy. She hung the red ball she had bought last year, the angel from the year before. | The tree stood in the dining room, and its candlelight mingled with the soft light from the fire in the grate as Julia went out to the piano and they all sang, "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem," "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear," "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing," and "Silent Night." | Then they gathered around the fire with Margaret in the circle of her father's arm, and Betsy read from Dickens' "Christmas Carol," the story of the Cratchits' Christmas Dinner. Margaret recited "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," and Julia read the story of Jesus' birth out of the Book of Luke. Later they turned out the lights to fill one another's stockings which were hung around the fireplace. (197)
Have a blessed holiday season!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tutorial for Making a Betsy-Tacy Activity Book

This year for Christmas, I made my nine-year-old sister a Betsy-Tacy activity book. Since this blog is for all things Betsy-Tacy (and Tib!), I thought it might be fun to share a tutorial of how I made it. I was thinking about linking to a PDF of the book, but I want to protect the copyright of these images. The good news is that you can make your own! As long as you don't sell it or start mass-producing them, I'm pretty sure that it still respects the copyright (correct me if I am wrong).

First, I scanned a bunch of images from the books. They needed a little post-scanning editing work but it was easy enough that even I could do it. I cropped and rotated the images and then used the BW Threshold setting in Photoscape (or you could use Photoshop, or most other photo editing programs. It's a very basic setting) to make sure there was a clear contrast; I didn't want them to be grayscale. (I hope that explanation makes sense. I'm not very computer savvy and I was able to figure it out. But it's easier to show than explain.)

I then arranged the images in a Word document, shrinking the margins to fit them in better. I made the pictures as big as I could without running into the margins. I also made simple cover. I actually opened two windows in Word--one for vertical and one for horizontal, as I wanted both layouts in the book.

Next, print the pages and arrange them in order (I put the pictures from the first book first, etc.). Most of the pictures I used were from the first four books (Lois Lenski's drawings), because I think those would be better for coloring. However, I did include some of Vera Neville's illustrations, because I thought my sister might like coloring some of the dresses and hairstyles in those.

I just noticed recently that the paper here is called the Free Press (the name
of the real Mankato newspaper) instead of The Deep Valley Sun, which it is
known as in all subsequent books.
It would have been fun to add quotes and titles to each page but I decided to
keep it simple.

I divided the two sections with some great activity pages I found on the Betsy-Tacy Society website. They also have a few coloring pages that you can download and print (in case you don't want to scan your own). In my book, I included the word search, the personality quiz, and the crossword puzzle. You can find links to downloads for all of those pages (and more!) here. (There is some really fun stuff on the site: ideas for a Betsy-Tacy book club, games, a page for how to have a birthday like Betsy, make your own journal, etc.)

Kudos to the people who made these. What a great idea!!!
The finished book is 30 pages.
My sister has only read the first four books, but I thought she would enjoy
coloring some of the later illustrations, too.

I used a binding machine to put all of the pages together, but you could just hole punch them and put it in a small three-ring binder, or even a folder. If you would like to bind it but don't have access to a machine, you may wish to check at your office supply store (like Staples or Office Depot) to see if they do binding. Many of them do.

This picture shows the plastic overlay on the cover.
This is the back cover, also with plastic. Under the patterned paper is a piece
of cardboard.

To protect the covers I put a sheet of plastic on both ends. I also placed a piece of cardboard on the back to reinforce it. Over the cardboard I put a sheet of patterned paper to make it look a little prettier (my mom's idea).

Tada! The finished book!

This was a really simple and easy thing to make (although it might sound complicated), and I think my sister will really enjoy it. She loves to color!

While I was making this I couldn't help but think how fun a real published activity book like this would be (with a lot more pages, obviously). I know for the American Girl franchise they have several of this type of activity book (my sister has a few and really enjoys them). There are a lot of possibilities--period games, recipes, and pastimes that young kids could do...but also things like word searches, quizzes, and maybe even stickers, punch outs, etc. I think it would be really fun, and a great way to enrich the reading experience for young fans. Hmm... In the meantime, however, you can make this activity book!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

First Quotes of Each Book

Anyone who has ever written anything, knows how hard it can be to begin. Within the first chapter of a book the author usually seeks to engage the audience, set the tone for the piece to follow, and introduce the characters and setting. With this in mind, I thought it might be fun to see all of Maud's beginnings to her Betsy-Tacy and Deep Valley books. Which is your favorite? I think I love the opening of Betsy-Tacy most, since that's what started it all.

It was difficult, later, to think of a time when Betsy and Tacy had not been friends.
Betsy-Tacy and Tib: 
Betsy and Tacy and Tib were three little girls who were friends.
Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill: 
Betsy, Tacy, and Tib were nine years old, and they were very anxious to be ten.
Winona's Pony Cart:
Winona Root and her pug dog Toodles were sitting on the wall which hemmed in one side of the large Root lawn.
Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown: 
Betsy was sitting in the backyard maple, high among spreading branches that were clothed in rich green except at their tips where they wore the first gold of September.
Heaven to Betsy:
Betsy was visiting at the Taggarts' farm. It was Wednesday, and soon the kitchen would swim with warm, delicious odors.
Betsy in Spite of Herself:
"Just a few lines to open the record of my sophomore year. Isn't it mysterious to begin a new journal like this? I can run my fingers through the fresh clean pages but I cannot guess what the writing on them will be. […]"
Betsy Was a Junior
Betsy Ray sat in a rowboat which was anchored in Babcock's Bay, two watery miles opposite Murmuring Lake Inn, where the Ray family had been spending the summer.
Betsy and Joe:
At the top of Agency Hill, Betsy Ray turned Old Mag off the road into the shade of an elm.
Emily of Deep Valley:
"It's the last day of high school . . . ever," Annette said. 
    She said it gaily, swinging Emily's hand and pulling her about so that they faced the red brick building with its tall arched windows and doors, its elaborate limestone trimming, it's bulging turrets and the cupola that made an ironical dunce's cap on top of all.
Carney's House Party:
Carney was climbing Sunset Hill. 
    Far below she could hear a group of her classmates, like herself just released from examinations, singing as they strolled beside the brook. 
Betsy and the Great World
"Down to Gehenna or up to the Throne,
He travels the fastest who travels alone."
Betsy was chanting it under he breath to give her courage, as laden with camera, handbag, umbrella, and Complete Pocket Guide to Europe, she started up the gangplank to the deck of the S.S. Columbic.
Betsy's Wedding:
Almost choked with excitement and joy, Betsy Ray leaned against the railing as the S.S. Richmond sailed serenely into New York City's inner harbor.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Review of *Future in a Handbasket: The Life and Letters Behind Carney's House Party*

    "Myself, I like the world ordinary people live in. I just want the Loco, lots of fishing, poker at low stakes, my sax . . . a home and kids sometime, of course. A girl like you, I think, would like a home and kids, with music just for the frosting on the cake.
    "You'll keep playing the piano. Probably your husband will hound you to play for him every night after supper. But as the kids grow older you'll play less and less. And you won't feel bad about that, for one of the kids will be musical, maybe . . . All your technical skill and talent plus a little from his dad. Say, that would be swell!"
    "Wouldn't it!" They glowed at each other.
    There was a shout from downstairs. "Carney! Sam! Where are you?"
    Carney jumped up and she saw the third floor room had grown quite dim. Beyond the tall windows the western sky was a sheet of flaming color.
    "Heavens!" she cried. "It's time to go home."
    Sam put his hand over hers. He gave it a warm squeeze.
    "There's your future in a handbasket," he said. (Carney's House Party, 128)
After reading Future in a Handbasket, that exchange from Carney's House Party has a whole new meaning.  I recently read and enjoyed Amy Dolnick's book about the real Carney, Marion Willard Everett, and decided to share some of my thoughts on it. If anyone follows me on Goodreads, this is just a slightly altered version of the review I posted there.

Some of Marion’s college letters are a bit gossipy, and not as interesting to me as the rest of the book (but still enjoyable). It seems like it would’ve been really fun to go to Vassar in those days. In that section in particular, I found it hard to keep track of who’s who (some people mentioned had the same name, and then there are the fictional names based on some it gets confusing). The footnotes were very helpful. If anything, I wished for more of them (and it might be nice if they were at the bottom of each page and not at the end of the chapters). It also struck me while reading this how people really knew how to write good letters then. I'm afraid that is something that is becoming extinct. But maybe we just write good e-mails instead?

I greatly enjoyed reading the parts about how Marion and Bill raised their children, and their life as a family. I also found the war letters to be extremely interesting. **SPOILER: Ted’s death really caught me off guard; I was not expecting that at all.  His letters were very touching and introspective. **END OF SPOILER** Tears were shed more than once during the reading of this book. I’m still confused about who is Willy/Bill and who is Ted/Ed in the photos. It seems like they are labeled inconsistently. Why didn’t we get to read any of Will’s wartime letters?

The letters from Maud Hart Lovelace to Marnie are absolutely delightful, and it makes me admire Lovelace even more. An example of an interesting quote from one of Maud's letters:
“I like to work a little religion into these books. You'll notice that I usually manage to.” (161)
I never realized that Maud liked to work these themes into her books, but looking back at the series I can definitely pick up on that. I also learned that Maud called Delos "Delossy" (159)! Cutest Maud trivia I've learned in awhile. Delos helped Maud with a lot of her male characterizations, which is another thing I learned reading this. It was interesting to get a small peek at Maud as a wife and mother. It sounds like her daughter Merian was very smart and busy with many school activities.

My biggest pet peeve with this book is that we aren’t given the responses to letters. I feel like we only get one side. The part where this bugged me to the point of frustration was in Maud’s correspondence with Marion while preparing to write, and during the writing of Carney's House Party. Maud would ask questions, but Marion’s answers were not all published! I really wanted to get to know Marion through her own words as she grew older. Were those letters just not available? Did anyone else who's read this feel this frustration? Maybe there is a good reason they were left out, I don't know. I also wanted to hear more about Kathleen Baxter and friends' visit with Marnie in the '60s.

Dolnick did a marvelous job; I’d love to read her other Maud-related books. The real people in this book seem like such lovely individuals. I kind of feel like each of the Crowd members deserves a book like this! It would've been amazing to meet them all. I think it is neat how so many of them stayed friends throughout their entire lives.

I consider this a must-read for fans of the Betsy-Tacy series and Deep Valley books, especially those that love Carney's House Party.

Have you read this book? If so, what did you think of it? I really appreciate all of the work that went into it. There are also a lot of great photos included.

I think this book is out of print, but you can find it used online--or interloan it from your local library system, which is what I did.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pompadours, Part 2: Men's Styles

1907. Morse-Made Clothing Catalog {Source}
I guess these men sport a sort-of pompadour style.
In the first part, we talked about women's pompadour hairstyles. Today I'm going to address the masculine version of this style. To begin, here's a little refresher of what a pompadour is:
  1. A woman's hairstyle formed by sweeping the hair straight up from the forehead into a high, turned-back roll.
  2. A man's hairstyle with the hair brushed up from the forehead. {Source}
The term is more common in referring to the puffy women's styles of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, but as Lovelace does in the Betsy-Tacy books, it can also refer to men's hair. Where women's pompadours often used rats, padding, hair pieces, and pins to achieve the look, men's pompadours were much simpler. I actually had a rather hard time coming up with information on men's pompadours of the 1900s, but at its most basic, the style is comprised of combing the front locks back to create a slightly puffy effect above the forehead (I hope that makes sense). 
Joe (and his pompadour) as
pictured in Heaven to Betsy.
The real Joe, Maud's
husband Delos Lovelace.
This photo of him in his
WWI uniform is from the
back of  Betsy's Wedding.

Most of the information regarding men's pompadours refers to the 1950s, when icons such as James Dean, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash popularized an exaggerated version of the style. Although this cut was worn through most of the early twentieth century and beyond, it fell out of favor when the shaggy and unkempt hair of the 1970s came into vogue. While men's pompadours are not as common today, they are certainly seen more than the women's version!

But, this post is supposed to be about men's styles of the time in which Maud wrote about--the 1900s and 1910s. I had a very hard time finding anything about this, especially photos. So I'm sorry if this post doesn't have as much detail as I would like.
Here are a few quotes from the books regarding Joe's pompadour (which seems to get a lot of description from Maud):
[Joe] was so extremely good looking with light hair cut in a pompadour, and blue eyes under thick golden brows. (Betsy Was a Junior, 17)  
Joe held her off at arm's length. Under his blond pompadour and tufted golden brows, his eyes were blazingly bright. (Betsy's Wedding, 374)
This photo is from the back of Betsy Was a Junior. You can spot a few pompadours on some of the players. For
instance, I would say the boy in the second row, third from left, has a pompadour. 
Cab/Jab seems to wearing a type
 of pompadour here. This photo is
from the back of Heaven to Betsy.
 You can also look in the books (or "the tomes," as they are referred to on the Maud-L Listserv) for pictures of pompadours in Vera Neville's illustrations. For more examples of this style, I would say that Herbert's hair (pictured in this post) could probably be considered a pompadour. Also see Cab, pictured to the left. Although I am listing Herbert and Cab as examples, I don't recall Maud every describing their hair as such, so maybe I have the meaning of pompadour confused? To me, the way that their hair is puffy in the front seems to signal that it's a pompadour.

I hope this post makes it a little easier to picture what Maud is talking about when she refers to this style, and I also hope that I have all of this right! I'm kind of tired of typing pompadour now. : ) It's such an odd word, which actually comes from Madame de Pompadour.

Thank you again for the great questions, Marissa. I hope these two posts cleared things up. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Deep Valley Thanksgiving

I hope you are all having a happy Thanksgiving! In this post I am going to share some of the wonderful passages from the books about this holiday.

This picture is from Chapter 14 of Heaven to Betsy and isn't related to Thanksgiving.
But we can just pretend that Cab, Herbert, and Tony (the one waving the knife)
are cooking us Thanksgiving dinner... instead of a surprise Sunday night lunch,
which is what they're actually doing (164-165)

I didn't include the mention of Thanksgiving that occurs in Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown (584-585), because it is brief, and seems more like a winter story (to refresh your memory: "the night after Thanksgiving night" is when they went bobsledding. I'm surprised they had that much snow in November!) But here are some Thanksgiving mentions from many of the other books:
The Slades came for Thanksgiving dinner, bringing Tom who was home on vacation, which made the occasion eventful for Betsy. He was not only that highly desirable creature, a boy, but he was an old friend. He and Betsy and Tacy hard started school together. (Heaven to Betsy, 181)
The days slipped along to Thanksgiving. Tom came home, and that meant parties. Carney, Irma, and Winona all gave parties, and  Tony took Betsy to Winona's, while both he and Cab accompanied her to Irma's. (Betsy in Spite of Herself, 454)
The Rays had Thanksgiving dinner with the Slades this year. The families entertained each other at Thanksgiving, turn and turn about. The dinner was magnificent, as usual, and after it was finished, the grown people napped, Margaret went roller skating, Harry took Julia to the Majestic, and Tom and Betsy went for a walk. (Betsy in Spite of Herself, 455-456)
If Margaret was able to go roller skating, there must not have been snow that year! 
Julia came home for Thanksgiving. The train swept down the track with a special brilliance because it carried Julia. She alighted looking citified, and soon filled the Ray house with color and excitement. […]
    The Rays and Slades always had Thanksgiving dinner together. It was at the Ray house this year and was followed about twilight by Mr. Ray's turkey sandwiches and coffee, and Grandma Slade's stories. (Betsy Was  a Junior, 151-152)
[…] Thanksgiving was upon them. This year it was the Slades' turn to entertain. The Rays alternated Thanksgiving dinner with their friends, the Slades. (Betsy and Joe, 440)
"Let's go up to the Kellys'," [Tom] said off-handedly, after Thanksgiving dinner was over.
    The Kelly house was crowded with brothers and sisters home for the holidays. Tom and Betsy were warmly welcomed and offered nuts, chocolates, apples, and spare pieces of pie. (Betsy and Joe, 441)
 And I can't leave out Emily:
Thanksgiving was near now. Emily and Aunt Sophie were drawn together by their mutual eagerness.
    "You and your grandfather are coming for Thanksgiving dinner," Aunt Sophie reminded. (Emily of Deep Valley, 137)
The Betsy-Tacy books--another thing to be thankful for! : ) HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Blog Things: Amazon Links, New Poll, Page Numbers, and More

Here are just a few blog things that I wanted to mention.

This picture is from the B-T Convention website. I hope they
don't mind that I used it. I thought it was very clever! {Source}
The original, unaltered image appears in Betsy Was a Junior.

Betsy-Tacy Convention 2012 

Speaking of the Betsy-Tacy Convention,  I have added a banner to the sidebar to spread the word about this. You can visit the website for lots more information.

Amazon Associate Links

I set up an Amazon Associate account. I don't actually expect to make money on this, but I wanted some way to display a link to where new readers could buy the books. You will now notice the Betsy-Tacy and Deep Valley books listed in the right column. I contacted the Betsy-Tacy Society to say that I would be happy to post the links to their account, but I never heard back from them. I do encourage you to support them also, if you plan on buying something. Just so you know, clicking through these links does not add any additional charge to the items.

A New Poll

I set up the first poll on here. You will notice that on the top right. The question is: "Which man was right for Betsy?" In other words: who do you think she should have ended up with, or are you pleased with how things turned out? Several people have already voted and I am a bit surprised at the loyalty to Joe. I thought there were some diehard Tony fans out there. Or Marco? Don't get me wrong; I like Joe and I think he was right for Betsy…but what do you think?

I realized I accidentally left Dave Hunt off of the poll. I can't fix it now because there are already votes. Hopefully no one was planning on picking him! If you were, just click 'Other' and leave a comment on this post with your selection. Or if you had someone else in mind that I overlooked, you can do the same thing. Feel free to write and comment on this post why you chose who you did!

Giveaway Winner Announced

The giveaway has ended and I have contacted the winner. Thank you all for participating, and for your great suggestions!

A Note About Page Numbers

You may have mentioned that I try to source any quotations given from the B-T or Deep Valley books. I debated about which page numbers to use, and eventually decided on the latest editions of the books from Harper Perennial (because those are the ones that I own). The only draw-back to this  is that all of these volumes except Emily of Deep Valley have bound together two or more of the books. This makes it confusing when pointing out page numbers because the earlier single editions will have a different number (I hope that made sense). I really wish they had restarted pagination for each book, even if they are bound together. Alas, they did not. The point of mentioning this is if you go to look up or read more about a section I mentioned, it might not line up with the edition you have (unless you have the latest printing). I know this is confusing, so if you have a question be sure to let me know. (Note: I went back and corrected previous posts that used different editions. All quotes on this blog should now be from the most recent printing of the Betsy-Tacy and Deep Valley books. These are the editions linked in the right column.)

Does Anyone Know What This Is?

I came across this the other day in my random searching for Betsy-Tacy things. Are they zines or something? They look interesting! (If you click on one it shows the contents.) I am especially intrigued by the "Betsy-Tacy Christmas" and Emily of Deep Valley ones. 

I think that covers it for now. Remember to vote in the poll!  : )

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pompadours, Part 1: Women's Styles

One of the things I wondered about most when I first read the Betsy-Tacy series was what is this thing called a pompadour? It seemed to be a hairstyle of some sort, and Maud mentions them quite frequently--on both men and women. So how could they both have the same hairstyle? It's all very puzzling. Well, apparently I'm not the only one who has wondered about the mysterious pompadour. I've received a couple questions in the giveaway post (you have until tomorrow to enter!) from others who are wondering about this. In one such comment a B-T fan named Marissa wrote:
Pompadours. 1). Why are they mentioned so frequently in the Betsy/Tacy series? 2). Why is that word so hard to say? 3). What were they exactly? How can both men and women have pompadours? Why is Joe Willard's pompadour so fabulous? What makes a pompadour more special than regular hair? It is mentioned so much in the books, I am quite perplexed. I'd love a little ditty all about pompadours with perhaps a picture or two.
It's sounds like we've been wondering many of the same things! Never fear; in this post I plan on addressing all of those questions and more (although I don't think I can give a reason why "Joe Willard's pompadour is so fabulous." I think it just is.)

There is a difference between the men's and women's pompadours. This post will talk about the women's version. 

First things first: how do you say "pompadour." According to Merriam-Webster, it is pronounced:
pom·pa·dour (päm-pə-ˌdȯr)
If you'd rather hear what it sounds like, there  is a handy site you can go to just for this purpose. All you have to do is type in the word and click on "Say it!". 

So what exactly is a pompadour? 
Any hairstyle with the hair brushed back and arranged up creating a puffy effect. Variations were especially popular in the 18th century and in the late nineteenth and early 20th centuries.{Source}
The pompadour could take many forms, from a simple topknot (left) to series of
more elaborate poufs and curls (right). {Source}
The pompadour hairstyle or the 'Gibson girl' look was seen pretty much throughout the Edwardian period, 1901-1912 and was worn by women from the working classes to society ladies. The style is quit [sic] 'pouffy' right around, with the ends of the hair either tucked into a roll at the back or formed into a bun on top .... {Source}
In this illustration by Charles Dana Gibson, the women pictured
are all wearing a variation of the pompadour hairstyle. {Source}

As to why this style is mentioned so frequently in the series, I can only think that it is because it was an especially popular way of doing one's hair during the period in which these books take place. Also, I imagine that in the early 1900s putting one's hair up, as with wearing longer skirts, was a sort of a coming-of-age thing. Now that Betsy and her friends are in high school, they are growing up. Paying attention to the fashion mentioned in this series shows the outward signs of their blossoming maturity. But perhaps Maud just really liked the word!

Now that you know what this style is, I'm sure you will recognize it a lot in Vera Neville's lively illustrations. (Lois Lenski also draws a few pompadours on Mrs. Ray, Mrs. Muller, Mrs. Kelly, etc.)

To achieve the illusion of added volume, women would use "rats" (made from matted hair cleaned out of the hairbrush or horsehair), frames, back-combing, or other forms of padding. Also:
None of the hairstyles of the day would have been accomplished without firm hair pins made of much heavier wire gauge than those used in hairpins today. {Source}
There are many mentions in the series of the methods used to construct these hairdos: 
Betsy shows off her transformation hairstyle to Tib in  
Betsy in Spite of Herself. Illustration by Vera Neville.
[Tib] looked at Betsy keenly. "I know a wonderful way to do your hair."
    "Come here and I'll show you."
    They went to the dressing table, and Tib asked for Betsy's biggest rat. She pinned it on firmly and erected a magnificent pompadour, topped off with a high, pointed knot. (Betsy in Spite of Herself, 536)
She fluffed Betsy's hair over the wire "jimmy" into an airy pompadour. (Betsy Was a Junior, 142)
I'm not sure what a jimmy is or how it's different than a rat. I was unable to find any information online about it.
Tib had come as usual to dress for the party with Betsy – and to do Betsy’s multiplicity of puffs. The pompadour was rolled over a big sausagelike mat and each puff was rolled over a small one.
    “The rat and all the little mice, Tony calls them,” said Betsy, acting lighthearted. (Betsy and Joe, 479)
I hope this cleared things up on the subjects of women's pompadours. Let me know if you have any questions and I'll see what I can find out.

Style your own Gibson Girl updo. This site  also links to some video tutorials (which I haven't watched).

>> Pompadours, Part 2: Men's Styles

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Wildflowers in Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill

A couple weeks ago, I highlighted the wildflowers mentioned in Betsy-Tacy and Tib. Today I'm going to feature the ones from Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill. Like last time, I omitted the common flowers, like daisies and violets. (Click image for source.)
They walked back slowly, picking flowers as they went. They didn't find many violets, but they found bloodroots, and Dutchman's breeches, and hepaticas, rising from the damp brown mat which carpeted the ground. (288)

Dutchman's breeches
Indian paintbrush
They scattered the flowers picked that morning on the hill, columbines and daisies and the scarlet Indian paintbrush. (442)


The went down the hill, running sometimes and walking sometimes, picking columbines and yellow bells and Jacks-in-the-pulpit and daisies to make a bouquet for the princess. (427)
Yellow bells

Some of these, like the Indian paintbrush and yellow bells, had different pictures come up for them. Hopefully I got the variety that would be indigenous to Minnesota. If any of you are gardeners, botanists, or flower experts, feel free to correct me!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Merry Widow" Fever

One of the (many, many...) things I love about the Betsy-Tacy series is their incorporation of popular music. One piece, "The Merry Widow Waltz", is practically a character in Betsy in Spite of Herself.
The Merry Widow was the world’s first hit musical. The tremendous acclaim that accompa­nied its premiere in Vienna on December 30, 1905 brought instant fame to its thirty-five-year-old composer, Franz Lehár, and began an international success. In the century since, there has scarcely been a night without a performance somewhere in the world. {Source}
Author, blogger, and Betsy-Tacy fan Melissa Wiley did a post last year featuring this lovely waltz. Since she did such a great job, I won't try to say it all again. Just head over to her blog, Here in the Bonny Glen, to:
  • Hear what this waltz sounds like
  • Read the excerpt from Betsy in Spite of Herself when she first hears it while in Milwaukee
  • See a list of links relating to the song, including a funny gallery of postcards poking fun at the extravagant style of hats inspired by the piece
These photos are in the back of Betsy In Spite of Herself
Speaking of Merry Widow hats, these are also mentioned several times in Betsy In Spite of Herself. For example:
Beside him was a slight graceful girl, beautifully and expensively dressed in a gray suit with a big fluffy fur and a Merry Widow hat so wide that it made the one Betsy cherished in a box upstairs look positively narrow. (606)
"Tell Irma if she wants to see the Merry Widow, she can just come up and look at me."
    "You don't sound very heartbroken."
    "I'll put on my Merry Widow hat for her," Betsy joked. (645)
The first quote leads me to think that the bigger the hat, the more stylish you were! Do you remember in the post on shirt waists how I described the S-shape silhouette that was popular in the early 1900s? Well, as the new century wore on, a different shape came into vogue, hallmarked by the rise of the Merry Widow hat:
1907-8 saw the start of a new body silhouette called the Empire or Directoire where the long columnar outline that tapers to the feet is contrasted with the big Merry Widow picture hat.  The fashion designer Lucile had designed the original widow hat for an operetta in 1907, but it influenced hat fashions for 3 more years.  It was always black and encased in filmy chiffon or organdie and festooned in feathers. {Source}
Lily Elsie modeling the Merry Widow
hat designed by Lucile. {Source}
While Franz Lehar’s 1905 premier of The Merry Widow did give this beautiful and often outrageous hat its most well known name, the hat in general had already begun to grow larger and larger since the end of the 19th century. It now took on gargantuan proportions compared to its predecessors. As is often the case, fashion had its own logic; As [sic] the new century moved forward, a larger millinery style was required to accommodate the larger and very popular pompadour hairstyles. By the middle of the new decade waistlines were radically raised and skirts became much slimmer, without frills and decorations. A large-crowned and wide-brimmed hat created the needed sense of balance for the silhouette. Although one might wonder at the precise meaning of balance when the depth of the brim could be up to one foot! {Source}
Apparently, this opera took 1907-08 by storm. Besides hats and music, there is also mention in BISOH of Merry Widow Sundaes ("Merry Widow Sundaes were the rage" [583]). I was curious what this creation would be comprised of, so I looked it up. With the help of the very useful Google archives, I came across three different recipes for Merry Widow Sundaes. Clearly it wasn't a certain recipe that made this concoction unique, it was just cashing in on the popularity of Lehár's musical. I'm not sure what particular sundae was served at Heinz's, but here are the three period recipes I found:

Place 2 No. 20 portions of chocolate ice cream close together on a split banana. Cover with whipped cream so as to make an oval mound, sprinkle with a little grated sweet chocolate and place 3 fresh cherries on top of the mound.
 Place a cone of ice cream on a dish around the edge of which lay three vanilla wafers flat, the wafers marking the points of a triangle; now put a slice of banana at each point where the cakes join together, placing crushed peaches on one side of the dish and crushed strawberries on the other, sprinkle a little chopped nuts over the ice cream, and top off with whipped cream and a cherry. Price 15 cents-- The Soda Fountain.
From 1908 Druggists Circular:
Place a tall cone of strawberry ice cream in a flat dish, pour a little grape syrup and a little "champagne syrup" around the bottom; add two slices of peach, and on top of the cone balance a thin slice of pineapple topped off with an arabesque dab of whipped cream and a red cherry.
More Merry Widow links: 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Giveaway of The Betsy-Tacy Treasury

The recently released The Betsy-Tacy Treasury includes the first four books of the Betsy-Tacy series, conveniently bound together in one volume. It is available in both a softcover edition and an e-book. Just a reminder: if you order it through Amazon or Barnes & Noble, be sure to click through the links on the Betsy-Tacy Convention website to help support the Betsy-Tacy Society! 

The New York Times featured a wonderful write-up about this new edition, and the enduring charm of the series in general. Be sure to check it out!

Also, throughout these coming weeks, remember to visit the sites that will be part of the blog tour for this book. Sarah has a list here.

Harper Perennial sent me a free copy to review and I can assure you that this edition is just beautiful! There is also a new biography in the back of the book featuring illustrator Lois Lenski. I am delighted to add this volume to my book shelf.

If you haven't gotten around to ordering your copy yet, you are in luck; thanks to Harper, I have an extra copy to give to one lucky reader!

To be eligible for this contest you must:
  • Not already own the Treasury 
  • Be a resident of the contiguous United States
 There are two ways you can enter:
  1. (Mandatory) Leave a comment with a suggestion or topic idea (Betsy-Tacy related, of course!) of what you would like me to post more of on this blog. Do you enjoy learning about the famous people mentioned in the books? The fashion? The places? Popular music? Quotes? Characters? Whatever it is, let me know! You can also leave any suggestions you have to improve the site.

  2. For an extra entry, you can tweet this giveaway. Just be sure to come back and leave a comment saying you did so. 
This giveaway will run until Tuesday, November 22, 2011. I will come back then and update this post with the randomly-chosen winner. I will also privately contact the lucky person, so please be sure to include an e-mail address. Giveaway has ended.

Thank you to Harper Perennial for providing these copies, and for republishing this wonderful series! (Disclaimer: I was not paid to host this giveaway. I think you all know that I love this series, so my positive accolades are genuine!)

The winner is Christine from A Rambling Fancy. (If you don't already own the book, please send me your address and I will get it out to you. My email is justaudrey[at]live[dot]com.)

Thank you everyone for participating. You all had some terrific suggestions and I look forward to covering them in the months ahead! 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lillian Russell and Mrs. Poppy

As I mentioned in the Chauncey Olcott post, Lillian Russell comes up a couple times in the Betsy-Tacy series.

In Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, Mrs. Poppy is described  as looking "like the famous beauty and actress, Lillian Russell…except that she was stouter, of course." (485)

What do you think? Does Mrs. Poppy (a.k.a. Roma Saulpaugh) resemble Miss Russell? 

Russell is mentioned again in Betsy and the Great World when Betsy gets the doll--"The yellow-haired charmer with the pink plume on her hat."--while visiting Sonneberg, Germany:
She marched out triumphantly with the pink and blue beauty. "She looks just like Lillian Russell," Betsy thought. (235) 
So, just who was this woman?
Lillian Russell (December 4, 1861 – June 6, 1922) was an American actress and singer. She became one of the most famous actresses and singers of the late 19th century and early 20th century, known for her beauty and style, as well as for her voice and stage presence. […] For many years, she was the foremost singer of operettas in America, performing continuously through the end of the nineteenth century. In 1899, she joined the Weber and Fields's Music Hall, where she starred for five years. After 1904, she began to have vocal difficulties and switched to dramatic roles. She later returned to musical roles in vaudeville, however, finally retiring from performing around 1919. In later years, Russell wrote a newspaper column, advocated women's suffrage and was a popular lecturer. {Source}
 In 1940 there was a movie made about her, with Alice Faye in the title role.

You can hear Lillian Russell sing here (this song was recorded in 1912, which would've been slightly before Betsy and the Great World takes place. It's also after she apparently started to have vocal difficulties. Hmm). This isn't the greatest recording, but it gives you an idea of what she sounded like. While Russell is very lovely, the American concept of ideal female beauty has certainly changed over the years (I'm not necessarily saying that's a good thing...but that's a discussion for another day!).

Friday, November 4, 2011

What Is a Shirt Waist?

Shirt waist designs from 1906, when Betsy would've been 14.
Click to enlarge. {Source}
I received a request to do some posts about fashions of time. (Thanks, Kate!) So today I will be talking about shirt waists.   

As the Betsy-Tacy books take place from 1897-1917, the fashions are set in three different periods: the late Victorian period (1837-1901), the Edwardian period (1901-1910; some sources say until 1914), and, finally, at the cusp of the era ushered in by World War I (1914-1918). As you can see, the Edwardian era was the main period which the clothing would be from, as those styles would have been popular through Betsy's adolescence. 

Edwardian shirt waists, probably from
the later part of the period. {Source}
These were twenty years of tremendous change--on the fashion front and in all other areas. One style, however, that remained popular throughout these two decades was the shirt waist (apparently it can be spelled as one word--shirtwaist--or two words--shirt waist--or simply called "a waist").
A simple shirt waist {Source}
Waist is a common term for the bodice of a dress or for a blouse or woman's shirt from the early 19th century through the Edwardian period.
A shirtwaist was originally a separate blouse constructed like a shirt. {Source}
The shirtwaist, a costume with a bodice or waist tailored like a man's shirt with a high collar, was adopted for informal daywear and became the uniform of working women. {Source}
Although skirt and blouse effects had been in and out of fashion for centuries, the shirtwaist with this button up the front bodice and attached skirt really took off in the Gibson Girl days of the early twentieth century. The no-nonsense skirtwaist could be softened with lace and trimmings or pared down for a crisp look. It fit perfectly the trend toward an acceptance of a more active, self-determinate woman.{Source}
So a shirt waist is basically just a blouse, usually worn over a corset and othe undergarments, and then tucked into a skirt. There are many mentions of shirt waists in the Betsy-Tacy series: 
Betsy made sure that her hair was in curl. She put on a crisp hair ribbon and a white ruffled shirt waist, fresh from Anna's iron. (Heaven to Betsy, 297)
…Betsy returned to school wearing a clean, starched shirt waist and even more stiffly starched resolves." (Betsy and Joe, 489)
1908 shirt waist styles (Betsy would be 16). {Source}
In some of these photos, you will notice the unusual posture of the women. This was what was referred to as the "S Curve."
The Edwardian woman strove for a deep bosom, a tiny waist, and rounded hips - not so different from the ideal of other periods. What made the Edwardian fashion figure unusual (though not unique) was the S-curved corset that pushed the bosom forward and the hips backward into a S-shaped silhouette when view from the side. {Source}
I am not sure if this is a style that Betsy adopted. I don't recall seeing any photos of her or her friends in this exaggerated pose, but that doesn't mean that they didn't try to emulate it! In any case, it doesn't look very comfortable to me. I also don't know how Betsy could fall into her Ethel Barrymore droop with a corset like that...

I know that there are probably shirt waists pictured in Vera Neville's illustrations, but I don't have the books with me to check right now. I also recall a photo (click link to view) featured in the back of one of the high school books (I think it was Betsy Was a Junior) where the real life girls that inspired the female characters of Okto Delta are all standing together. I am quite sure that they are all wearing shirt waists in this picture {image source}. Now that you know what this style is, I'm sure that you will notice them a lot in the books. Maud gave many great descriptions of the clothes worn throughout the series, and this is a topic that I look forward to exploring more in the future.

I hope that I have all this information correct. I am not a history or fashion expert! If you would like to read more (or check my facts!) here are some of the sources I consulted when compiling this post: