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The Vine: January 11, 2013

Submitted by on January 11, 2013 – 1:00 PM21 Comments


When I was young, I read a couple of kids’ books that were way older than me. Probably published no later than the ’60s, possibly quite a bit earlier. A family purchased an old estate in the VA suburbs of DC. The father was a “G-man,” or at least worked closely with them, and not around much. Mom was the typical smiling but not much involved type, and the kids (I think there were 4) mostly ran around getting into adventures.

These are neither the Bobbsey Twins nor the Happy Hollisters, but very much in that vein — I think the titles may even have been along the lines of “The Adventure in the Old Mansion” or something similar, but searches for that invariably bring up Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, etc. There was a magical negro who did maintenance around the estate, including a vivid scene where he scares off the bad guys while quietly scything the grass, and I think a cook who spoiled the kids with food for their adventures. In one of the stories they find a family of gypsies living in a cellar hole from a decrepit house nearby, and rescue some of them (a mother and infant?) to keep in their Underground Railroad-era basement hideaway. In another there is a Civil War-era ghost that shows up.

I know there were at least the two I read, but there may very well have been more in the series. Thanks for any help!



Dear Sars,

A few years ago, Tomato Nation helped me find the best sports bra ever for the amply endowed. Now I am pregnant and more amply endowed than ever. Any suggestions on where to find plus size (18-20) maternity clothes that will accommodate a 38J (really) chest? Thanks!





  • Jen J. says:

    I think the books may be The Melendy Quartet by Elizabeth Enright. First one is The Saturdays.

  • Amanda says:

    Could they be the Trixie Belden books?

  • Leigh in CO says:

    For Sarah’s question…I know for sure it’s not the Trixie Belden series, despite the fact that the first book in that series is called The Secret of the Mansion. My whole life, my alter ego has been Trixie, and I am very familiar with those books – they are the source of all of my early learning of the Hudson Valley and the realization that there is such a thing as violet eyes. Also, Trixie’s dad is a banker. I could talk about those books all day, if anyone has the time? Happy Hollisters, too.

    I’m sort of thinking it’s not the Melendy books, either. My memory bell is being rung, but I just…can’t…quite…grasp it.

    This was quite helpful, yes? I do hope it gets answered, because I really want to know.

  • Isis Uptown says:

    I second the Melendy Quartet (who later adopted another brother), who were rather spoiled by their housekeeper, though I’m not sure about the Magical Negro:

  • @Melissa

    I hear ya! As I’m finally down to a size 20ish 38I as nursing is winding down, it was a serious challenge to find anything to wear, especially in my last tri. Old Navy maternity 2XL is usually oversized: quality is poor, but they’re always cheap, and usually there’s something bearable on clearance.
    For nicer clothes, I got a lot from Igigi. Not maternity specific, but very forgiving cuts that show off you assets well.
    And I have to give a shout out to Hot Milk nursing bras. Pretty, some wirefree, big enough, supportive. . .I’ll likely keep wearing them even after I get my toddler off the boob!

  • valerie says:

    Pretty sure the first one is The Adventure Series by Enid Blyton: There is a mysterious secret service-type man; he’s not childrens’ father, but does marry the widowed mother later.

  • Anlyn says:

    My first thought was the Melendy books, but I have almost all of those and none of the adventures fit.

    The Boxcar children, perhaps? I’m not familiar with that series, so I don’t know what their adventures were.

  • Jo says:

    That sort of sounds like Trixie Belden, which I loved even though they’re much older than I am. But I think in those, it was just Trixie and her friend solving the mysteries, and maybe she had a little brother.The thing with the estate sounds right, though.

  • Lulu says:

    I don’t think it’s it, but for some reason your description reminded me of the Starbuck Twins books by Kathryn Lasky – featuring the Bobbsey Twin-esque adventures of two pairs of psychic twins – which I only vaguely remember from my own childhood.

    More importantly, what is this best sport bra ever??

  • Nanc in Ashland says:

    I agree with Jen J–it sounds like Elizabeth Enright. If it’s not The Saturdays it could be The Four-Story Mistake. TN readers helped me ID another Elizabeth Enright book–Thimble Summer–a year or so ago and I reread all the Melendy family books at the time. Heck, even if it’s not what you’re looking for, read them anyway!

    Melissa, do you sew? Know anyone who sews? Have a tailor in your neck of the woods? It might be worth having a few things made or alter store-bought (gads, I feel so Little-House-on-the-Prairie!) stuff and just wear the hell out of them.

  • Rachel says:

    Melissa – OLD NAVY. Seriously, their maternity gear is priced right, roomy as hell, and pretty much in the same styling as their regular stuff and doesn’t scream MATERNITY at you. I loooooved the v-neck tops and wore them after the kid was born for way longer than I care to admit.

    I went from a 38B to a 38G overnight when I was pregnant and the Old Navy tops covered up my bits comfortably and cutely enough.

    I also wore a bunch of empire-waist stuff from Lane Bryant, but that stuff fit me (instead of looking tent-y) because I have wide shoulders. So those tops accommodated the shoulders and the boobage and left the belly covered but not uncomfortable. It’s worth a look, at least.

    If you have a shitload of money to spend, try Mimi Maternity and Pea in a Pod, but those two places seemed very spendy to me.

  • Maria says:

    Melissa, there used to be more plus size maternity offerings online. I think what you need would be super sizes on account of the tops aren’t all that shaped anyway, and even a 3X isn’t probably going to accomodate your cup size if it goes as you expect. Here is a link that discusses super sizes and custom orders. I started to pull links but some are dead now, so do your best with it. To Find Maternity Specialty Clothes in Plus Sizes

  • Gina says:

    It could be one of the Trixie Belden books. The one called The Mystery of the Emeralds (#14) dealt with them going to VA near DC to solve a mystery involving civil war treasure. It also had underground railroad themes. I loved this series as a child.

  • Cath says:

    They put me in mind of the Trixie Belden books (which I loved as a teenager!) but they didn’t really live on an estate–more of a ranch and they were more southern than Virginia, if I were to describe it.

  • M says:

    For Melissa,

    You might try Bravissimo ( and their sister clothing site called Pepperberry( They don’t have maternity clothes but are supposed to accommodate big boobs.

    I like JC Penney since you can have stuff shipped to the store for free if it isn’t carried or in stock. I just looked and they do have plus size maternity (

  • Sarah says:

    Thanks for all the book efforts. I’m relatively certain that it was a group of siblings, which rules out the Trixie Belden series, and that it took place south of the Mason-Dixon line, because of the emphasis on Civil War relics (which also rules out the Melendys and Enid Blyton). I’m pretty sure it was within driving distance of D.C., because of the father’s job. Oh, and I read the Boxcar Children as a kid, and this was definitely a separate series from that one. I have faith in the Nation, though – someone somewhere has read these.

  • Canuck Mom says:

    For plus size maternity clothes, Motherhood Maternity (at least in Canada) was great. I bought in-store and on-line and was very happy with the selection, fit etc. Lots of sales too. Only mistake I made was buying a winter coat in the same size as the clothes and (duh!) I had to get a bigger size.

  • Meredithea says:

    I had So. Much. Trouble! finding cute plus sized maternity stuff! (Plus sized AND pregnant with twins? Hahahahahaha so much “fun” finding clothes. Plus, i was on a really strict budget.) I used Old Navy and Lane Bryant. The Old Navy stuff is definitely cheap and cheerful, but they’re great for casual clothes, and you’re probably going to want to burn your maternity wear as soon as you can anyway. I’d shop the clearance rack at Lane Bryant for fancier stuff. It was fun picking up super glittery stuff that I’d never ever wear when non-pregnant.

  • Emma says:

    Sarah’s books *might* be by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. She wrote several about the Stanley family featuring 5 kids (one is a stepsister). I don’t remember if the dad worked for the government but he was often “away on business”.

  • Rebecca says:

    I don’t know what the book is but it is definitely not the Melendys. I have every book engraved upon my heart and it doesn’t sound like any of them. (They did have the housekeeper and the hired man, but neither were magical negros, fortunately, otherwise I’d have had a lot more trouble cherishing the books into adulthood.) It’s not any of the books on this list, is it?

    For plus-sized maternity clothing, maybe check out Well-Rounded Mama’s blog? Here are all the posts tagged with maternity clothing: (and check out some of her other stuff too, it is great!)

  • Jill says:

    Plus-size maternity, try the WomanWithin website. Maternity is not in the catalogs, but you can find some cute ones on the web.

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