Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Moving Into The New House

Dolly and Minerva waited until after Christmas Day to move into their new home, a lovely brownstone townhouse. Mrs. Pierrepont had departed for Georgia by train before Christmas and, as she promised, had left the place fully furnished. The furnishings and decorations, however, are not to the Ackermann girls' taste. Nor are the carpets, curtains, wallcoverings, or anything else in the house. 

"Where is the elegance of Mr. Ackermann's Respository?" Dolly mused. "Something awful must have happened between then and now."

Minerva raised a determined chin. "It will be a great deal of work, Dolly, but we will transform this house!"

Iffy is thrilled to see that Mrs. P. has left her dog, Ethel, behind. A neighbor dropped by to check on Ethel's food bowl and gave Iffy instructions on her care. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Celebrating Christmas at Willard's

Willard has invited the Ackermann girls to his apartment for Christmas dinner. Doris and Mabel are there with their father, and Willard's employer, Mr. Arrow. A workmate of Willard's named Sidney joins them, being one of those bachelors who has nowhere to go on Christmas Day. He seems a pleasant sort of man who arrives with a jolly "Ho, ho, ho!" and parks himself on the sofa with a glass of punch. 

Gifts are exchanged. Willard receives an interesting novel from the Arrows and an unusual lamp from Minerva. Its base is constructed from the horns of some African animal. I think I need to build a hunting lodge, thinks Willard. He has given Minerva a glittery brooch, which delights the sisters. Iffy is thrilled with her new Flexible Flyer sled! This thing needs to be tried out immediately and she badgers Mr. Arrow to take her to Central Park. Mr. Arrow, a keen sledder himself, promises her a full afternoon in the park tomorrow.

As the day ends, Dolly, Minerva, and Iffy spend a little time reminiscing about Christmases of old, and missing their loved ones in Ackermann's Repository.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

An Almost Perfect House

Dolly, Minerva, Mabel, and Iffy tour Mrs. Pierrepont's brownstone house and are unanimously impressed. Despite the general layout of brownstones, four narrow floors and a basement, the rooms are spacious and well-lit by large windows. However, the decor is not what the girls are used to. The walls are covered with dark, ornately-patterned wallpaper in vicious colors. The furniture, which Mrs. P. is leaving with the house, is dark and heavy. Dolly shudders. "I feel like I'm in a frightening novel, like The Mysteries of Udolpho," she whispers to Minerva. "They call this Victorian Gothic, and it's terribly "out"," whispers Mabel. 

Mrs. P. points out every piece of massive furniture and heavily-framed painting with pride. "My late husband had all his favorite paintings copied. He was particularly fond of this one," she said, pointing out The Raft of the Medusa. "It was hung in the dining room, in order to make us grateful for any food we got." Dolly shuddered again.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Viewing a Likely House

After a couple of days to recover from their night out with Willard, Dolly and Minerva meet Mabel for another attempt at finding a house. They follow up a lead to an attractive brownstone in Brooklyn. The neighborhood is pleasant, with tree-lined streets, and the house fronts, with wrought-iron railings and steep front steps, are quite attractive. The owner, Mrs. Pierrepont, ancient lady dressed in an antique gown, greeted them from the stoop. After introductions, Mrs. P. explains that she is selling her New York home and will move permanently to her cottage on Jekyll Island in Georgia. 

Before they go into the house, Iffy spies the most cunning little dog on the sidewalk. It is dressed in a spiffy blue sailor suit, complete with a jaunty cap. No one dresses dogs that well besides Aunt Minerva, thinks Iffy. This is a good neighborhood.

Monday, December 14, 2015

A Less Than Enjoyable Evening

Once inside the speakeasy, Dolly and Minerva find a wild crowd, determined to have a good time. Some are dancing to a jumping jazz band called Clarence Williams' Blue Five. Others are trying to keep up conversation by shouting over the music. Waiters circulate constantly with trays of champagne and cocktails. A number of magazine reporters have gotten wind of the newcomers to the social scene and begin snapping photos of the girls. Willard says "This is what they call "The Roaring Twenties, girls!". All in all, it's not particularly fun for the Ackermann sisters. One more thing on the list of What To Avoid.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Getting Into The Speakeasy

Willard has planned a night at a speakeasy, a clandestine nightclub. In the Prohibition Era, the sale of alcoholic beverages was illegal, so many bars, taverns, and nightclubs had to keep liquor sales a well-known secret. Some clubs were located in unlikely places to avoid detection, and a bouncer at the door screened customers and alerted the patrons of police raids. Inside, storage for liquor was hidden behind secret doors and bars could be disguised with sliding panels. The 21 Club of New York City was one of the most famous speakeasies.

Unfortunately, Willard has forgotten the password required to enter this establishment, but Minerva saves the day - or the night!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Night On The Town

Dolly and Minerva are feeling rather unstrung by a day of house-hunting in New York City. Modern women have such a burden to organize their own lives. Returning to their hotel, they find that Willard has left a message at the desk. He proposes a night on the town to unwind and will pick them up at 8. 

At the appointed hour, Willard arrived. The girls were looking quite lovely in their new dresses. Iffy was dressed for bed and complaining about having to stay alone with an unknown woman, supplied by the hotel. The doorbell rang, and in came a comfortably-built lady with a very familiar face. Dolly, Minerva, and Iffy were struck speechless for a moment. It was their old parlormaid Lizzie.

"Lizzie!", cried Iffy. "It's our Lizzie from home!"  
"Whatever are you doing here?" exclaimed Dolly. 
Lizzie blushed as she always did. "Your mother is worried that you need help, so here I am."
Dolly and Minerva sighed a long sigh of relief.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Better Neighborhood

Clearly, Dolly and Minerva are looking for something more upscale in a place to live. Doris and Mabel take them over to Brooklyn to view some attractive brownstone houses. The tree-lined streets and curving stoops are quite to their liking. Their first visit is to Astolat Castle. 

Astolat Castle is actually a dollhouse that is on display in New York City. From the website: Astolat Castle is nine feet tall and has 29 rooms, hallways, corridors and sitting areas that are complete with interior decors, furnishings, fixtures and miniatures of every type imaginable. It also features a Wizard’s tower, wine cellar, chapel, Knights of Columbus room, garage, kitchen, marble hallways, bathrooms, balconies, towers, and a ballroom. Each of the many thousands of miniatures within this 800 pound structure were built, bought, or commissioned to the highest standards possible. Fine interior craftsmanship throughout the dollhouse include hand-crafted parquet floors, elaborate working fireplaces, mosaics, hand-etched wood panels, carved wood moldings, stained glass panels and marble details.

It is worth 8.5 million dollars, making it the most expensive house per foot in New York City. 


Dolly and Minerva decide that it would be wiser to find a home of their own before enrolling Iffy in school, so they ring up Doris and Mabel to help them. The sisters are quite excited about it and arrive with a list of houses for rent. They make some calls and set out to view the properties. The first appointment doesn't go so well. It's more of an apartment than a house; so cramped and with no style whatsoever. Minerva, however, is enjoying the unfamiliar furniture styles. She's sure Mr. Rudolph Ackermann would appreciate the simplicity of Arts and Crafts furniture, especially the Morris chairs with pull-out foot rests and adjustable backs.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Mrs. Quartermoon's School For Young Ladies

When Dolly and Minerva went to school, their parents chose Mrs. Quartermoon's School For Young Ladies, and excellent establishment that provided a sound education with a cheerful atmosphere. Mrs. Q. appeared to be a widow with two small daughters, but it was rumored that her husband had disappeared under very mysterious circumstances. Deve the Camel was a cherished pet of all the girls. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Iffy Must Go to School

With all the excitement of life in New York City, Dolly and Minerva have forgotten that little girls of ten must have an education. It seems that governesses are passé, and going to an actual school is how things are done in modern times. How to find the right school for Iffy? Dolly and Minerva arrange to visit a number of schools. They reminisce about their own good experience at Mrs. Quartermoon's School For Young Ladies. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Day Out With Doris and Mabel

Dolly, Minerva, and Iffy settle into a hotel and are met by their old friends, Doris and Mabel Arrow. The Arrow sisters are eager to show the Ackermann girls all the fun of New York City, and spend the morning sightseeing. At noon, they take a break by going to a sandwich shop. They try the various sandwich options on the menu: Doris orders her favorite Reuben, while Mabel goes for the Monte Cristo because she likes the jelly. Minerva tries the French Dip sandwich, Dolly takes the club sandwich, and Iffy takes a chance on peanut butter and jelly. "I want to eat this every day!", Iffy declares.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Willard Meets Minerva in New York

It's the long-awaited moment when the ship docks in New York and Willard and Minerva are reunited. All around them, people are hugging and kissing, but Willard, sensitive to Minerva's aversion to public displays of affection, plants a passionate kiss upon her hand. His bouquet of lush roses are just short of a vivid red, showing tasteful restraint. What a prize this man is!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Last Night on Board

It's a beautiful night on the RMS Berengaria. Dolly, Minerva, and Iffy are decked out in their best gowns, looking forward to sitting at the Captain's table this last evening on board. Conversation is a bit awkward as the girls are asked about their backgrounds. Eventually, everyone came to the consensus that they were the extremely sheltered daughters of an aniquarian, which in fact, they were.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Irresistible Lure of Tea Cakes

Ocean travel is a wonderful experience. When I was 11 years old, my family took a month-long cruise from New York to several Mediterranean ports. Our out-going ship was the Italian liner, the Vulcania. Launched in 1926, it was on its final voyage. What a lovely ship! Watching the movie Titanic decades later, I was transported back to that elegant old ship with the great staircase made to provide beautifully-dressed ladies with a memorable entrance. We returned on the Cristoforo Colombo, a very modern vessel, a sister-ship of the ill-fated Andrea Doria.

I was the eldest of four children, and I hate to admit, we were terrors on the high seas. We loved the library-writing room, with its inkwells and pens. We made lots of artistic inkblots with folded letter paper and blobs of ink. We'd sneak into the dining room before afternoon tea and steal all the meringues from the cake trays. Hey, this wasn't a Disney cruise - we had to make our own fun!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Making friends on board

There is much to do on board the HMS Berengaria: There are social events planned, morning and afternoon tea, a lovely hairdresser, and all sorts of little shops to browse in.  Iffy manages to lose her aunts during the day and runs freely around the decks. There she meets Bertie, who enjoys a spell in a deck chair each afternoon. Bundled up in a warm wool lap rug, he sips a cup of tea, while his valet stands by with a thermos bottle. After befriending Iffy, Bertie makes sure there is a second cup on hand for her. Bertie has been to New York several times. His stories are a bit confusing to Iffy, and the valet occasionally interrupts them with a quiet harumph sound in his throat.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Iffy's Adventures on the Berengaria

Before their departure, Mother Ackermann presented Iffy with a nicely-bound journal to record all the interesting details of their up-coming trip. Of course, Mother's ulterior motive was to read this journal and see if Dolly and Minerva were up to anything unseemly. 

Through the travel brochures left by the Arrow family, Dolly and Minerva were able to book staterooms on the HMS Berengaria, a luxury liner travelling from Southampton to New York. Immediately, Iffy began collecting all sorts of labels and beautifully printed advertising.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The New Adventures of Dolly and Minerva

The girls are embarking on a major shift in their adventures in the world of publications. So far, it's been easy to explore French fashion magazines or English publications far inferior to Ackermann's Repository of the Arts. Even their excursion into Currier and Ives lithographs was manageable, though it stretched the limits of well-bred ladies of the Regency world. Now Minerva is following her fiancé, Willard, to his world in 1920s New York. He's an up-and-coming advertiser for the Arrow Shirt Company and moves in the most interesting circles. Father Ackermann has approved of him, but insists that Minerva go to New York with her sister Dolly, and suprisingly, their niece, Iphigenia. Since there is no male relative to act as chaperone, a ten-year-old child is the next best thing to keep two young women out of trouble!