I adore mantels and take photos of them whenever I see them, in friend’s homes, in public spaces, private clubs, you name it I take a photo of them…here are a few of my favorites

My pride and joy, my “malachite” fireplace handcrafted for me by my dear friend, Mark Heister.  Isn’t it the most beautiful piece imaginable and it even has flickering “flames”!  I have majorly overloaded it, but that is my entire home, layer upon layer upon layer, upon…you get the idea.  Here I display my favorite photos, two magnificent Opaline lusters that seem to match my wall color exactly (a gift from the Heisters), a vintage clock found at an antique fair years ago and a truly special (bargain) mirror also found at another antique fair (both long before the Randolph Street Market came to be!) The art piece, pietra duro (I don’t think I spelled this correctly, sorry!) doves with a pearl necklace,  is one of my most favorite treasures given to me by my Mother, Ruth, ages ago as a surprise Christmas present, I had coveted it for a long time.  I won’t part with it for the world.  Also note the footstool in front of the fireplace, one of the few needlepoint pieces I didn’t do myself also fashioned by Mark, from a needlework piece he found antiquing, as a Birthday present. I will do posts on my footstools (yes, there is a collection of them!) as well as my needlepoint pieces. The tiny bit of chair you see is where I “live” and is covered in a paisley shawl (yes, I collect those as well!!) and upholstered in many different fabrics and trim, love it so much!  Of course, more stacks of books.  Just a peek at a corner of my tiny abode.  Photo was taken by the brilliant Christine Hawley (you will see more of her work going forward, and yes, she is the daughter of my recipe contributor, Elenor Hawley!)

A friend’s home in Indiana, elegant and simply adorned with silver candlesticks and vintage clock.

A mantel used to display some of the owner’s vintage porcelain collections with an oil painting, of a still life, hung above it…again pure lines and very English traditional objects and presentation. inlaid marble mantel and surround unadorned with important painting being the focus.  Traditional sconces on either side to emphasize the formality.  In a private club. love this Chinoiserie setting, perfection!  Also in a private club.

A modern approach, still balanced with some of the owner’s treasures.  A friend’s home in Indiana.

I hope you have enjoyed this snippet of some of my favorite mantels.  Do share some of yours. All photos were taken by me on my iPhone with the exception of the one of my home.

Time to get ready for the Holidays with some cookies….here you go…



2 1/4 cup flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter room temperature (2 sticks)

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

Yolks of two large eggs

White of one large egg, slightly beaten

1/2 cup sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Mix flour, cinnamon, and salt.  In mixer beat butter with 1 cup sugar nd vanilla until creamy, beat in yolks.  At low speed stir in flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Put in small container, cover tightly, and refrigerate at least one hour, until firm, or overnight.

Heat oven to 375º.

On a lightly floured surface roll out dough to a 13 1/2″ x 10 1/2″ rectangle.  Cut dough lengthwise 6 times to make 7 1/2″ wide strips, then cut diagonally to make diamonds. Brush top of each cookie with egg white & sprinkle with sugar-cinnamon mixture.  Transfer cookies to ungreased baking sheets, be sure to leave room between each cookie and bake 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer, gently, to wire rack to cool.

Store in airtight containers.  Nena’s note, from what I understand they won’t be stored for long, they will be will be stored in tummy’s!!!




A small sampling of my to read pile (some to reread)

I hate to start a posting with negativity, however, I was recently reading one of the many book blogs I get and found something that I found strange and bothered me.  I am of the firm belief that everyone is entitled to their opinion, I teach that to my students and try to live by that philosophy.  One can disagree with others and have an on going conversation/discussion and respect each other’s opinion…in this case, I totally disagree. Maybe I don’t understand what the description of a genre is….

A very dear friend of many years, Barbara Varro, adores mysteries and tried, for years, to get me read them.  I didn’t think I would like them at all.  I did and do love a good English mystery on BBC and PBS and now Acorn TV but really didn’t read them.  She has created a monster…they are basically all I want to read now other than my fashion books, of course!  I also really enjoy any story about real (historical) people told in fiction.  One such book I have been recommending to everyone is Oil and Marble, a marvelous read!

Here’s the problem, I have mentioned that I do love a good mystery and one of my favorite authors is Louise Penny, the reviewer said they had an issue with her work saying it was a “cozy mystery”, that there wasn’t any deep substance to her writing (I am paraphrasing here)!  What???? Tell that to all of Ms. Penny’s fans.  I have absolutely nothing against cozy mysteries, happen to read them myself, but would certainly not classify this brilliant series as “cozy”.  In my opinion, the character studies are fascinating and involve you with small town living, I happen to love that. Perhaps that is why the reviewer found them “cozy”, maybe too much warmth…but there is always undercurrent and tension.


Enough of that let’s look at this body of work, I have read them all and have enjoyed all of them.  Armand Gamache and the cast of characters in the village of Three Pines draw me to them with each chapter of their lives.  I always want to read my new treasure the minute I get my hands on it, but try to save it for awhile because I know there will be a year until the next book appears.  I discovered Armand and Three Pines while on a trip to Stratford, Canada, where I often go for the wonderful theater, fantastic dining and charm of the town (of course, there will be at least one or many posts of my trips there!).  There is a wonderful Independent bookstore in town and the owner always recommends books by Canadian authors for me, many of which aren’t available at the time of publication in the States.  At the time, Still Life, the first in the series, had just been published…well I was hooked.  If you haven’t read any of Ms. Penny’s books please get yourself to your local Independent bookstore and treat yourself to all of them.  I’m sure you agree that with a series it is best to start with the first book, then you can go from there. Her new book is A Great Reckoning.

Speaking of a mystery series another one I am partial to is by Charles Finch and his series with his protagonist, Charles Lenox. His newest The Inheritance doesn’t disappoint. This series begins with A Beautiful Blue Death which I found at The Lake Forest Bookstore (one of my favorite Independent bookstores) and yes, I must admit, I picked it up because of the cover art and then found it was set in late 19th century England, my favorite mystery periods. Again I was a devotee immediately and couldn’t wait for the next and the next.  Finch, by the way, is a Chicagoan.


I am holding on to both of these newest treasures from two of my favorite authors to read between Christmas and New Year’s so I can immerse myself in both Penny and Finch’s worlds.

A few other authors I follow are Tasha Alexander, love Lady Emily (perhaps a bit on the romantic mystery side of the coin, but I still enjoy the books).  Tasha lives in Chicago and the UK, lucky Tasha!. Cara Black, mysteries set in Paris, found her in an Independent bookstore outside of Kansas City…again the cover drew me to the book.  As for cozies….I have been enjoying Jeanne Dams and her American expat living in a small village in England, Jeanne lives in South Bend, Indiana!  I found her when trolling the Harold Washington Library in Chicago.  If you really want cozy go to Laura Childs, all her series are fun reads…sort of a palate cleanser.  I have shared my favorites with my Columbia College Chicago Library friend, Heidi Marshall, and she has in turn given me a verrrrrry long list of her favorites, many of the authors I am unfamiliar with…oh my, looks like many new series coming up!

visit Louise Penny on Facebook or

Charles Finch

Tasha Alexander

Cara Black

Jeanne Dams

My Independent Booksellers:  (Chicago, Illinois)  (this will be the store I will be using when I recommend books) (Lake Forest, Illinois) (Winnetka, Illinois)  (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)  (Fairway, Kansas, outside of Kansas City)

All, by the way, have wonderful newsletters, do subscribe.

I’ll post more as we go along, there is nothing like a wonderful Independent bookstore and their staff, love them…please share your favorites in the comments box.








Being in the theater is in Sam Samuelson’s DNA.  No need to ask the question when did you know you had “made it”. As a little boy, he sang the Apple Jack cereal jingle. From there he appeared in a high school production of Oliver, acting, particularly musical theater, had grabbed him. He was the first recipient of the Young Alumni Award for Excellence in the Entertainment Industry  from the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music. Obviously, he knew what he wanted to do in life. He has been an agent for 15 years and has never found it boring. He is now responsible, in his position at Stewart Talent, for casting many of Chicago’s, Los Angeles’, and New York’s theatrical productions.  He helped establish Stewart Talent New York and is co-owner of Stewart Talent LA.  Isn’t there a saying you can take the boy out of the business but you can’t take the business out of the boy…. (Another Nena note…while we were chatting last summer, we learned that both our Fathers were in advertising in Chicago and probably knew each other…once again a very small world we live in!)

Back in Chicago, Sam met his wife, Mary Beth, who was also an actor, now a personal trainer, (Nena’s aside, once an actor always an actor!) and they moved to New York to hit Broadway! Sam appeared in the Original Broadway Cast of Blood Brothers.  Then played The Boy in the Fantasticks Off-Broadway at the Sullivan Street Theatre and then, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change on Broadway.  In 1998, he appeared in a production of this musical at the Marriott Theater Lincolnshire. In addition, he has listed some of the highlights of his performing career, they include the National tour of Ragtime, as Younger Brother; and the recordings, The Fantasticks, Japan cast and 110 In The Shade with the National Symphony Orchestra:
Sam Samuelson with Kristin Chenoweth – Little Red Hat from 110 in the Shade (National Symphony Orchestra)

imageSam (hand to chest) in the Marriott Theater production of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change

A quote from a 1998 article written by Jodie Jacobs in the Chicago Tribune…

“Actor Sam Samuelson, a Deerfield native who has appeared in musicals across the United States and Japan, recently traded the Big Apple for the Windy City. Curious about moving this far from Broadway and what prompted his theater career, Tempo Lake caught up to Samuelson before curtain time at Marriott’s Lincolnshire Theater, where he is co-starring in the musical “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.

The article goes on to say that Sam felt it was necessary to go to New York for the vibes and experience, but also knew that you can live anywhere and make it.  He puts his words into practice at Roosevelt University where he is Showcase Director for Acting/Music Theater Majors. He believes in preparing students for the real world!

imageMidwest premiere of Into The Woods, he played Jack (with red hair and hat)

One of my questions to all my interviewees is “put, in order, your “art” preferences” Sam’s are: Legitimate theater (loves the feeling of the acting, connecting, finding truth); musical theater, ballet, opera, symphony.

imageSam owned a movie theater for seven years and brought in LIVE performances.  Produced over 200 productions.  I, in fact, did a couple of lectures there and a model reunion show to have live models illustrate today’s clothes with 1930’s and 1940’s film style.  That lecture was Hooray for Hollywood, one of my favorites to do, and being able to showcase today’s trends was super fun. When asked his favorite movie, he responded a genre more than one particular film and that would be action/adventure films.

imageSam pursuing one of his favorite pastimes, being in nature and  fishing in Nantucket, obviously a great fisherman!  When asked where he wanted to go on vacation, the answer Alaska to backpack, fish and explore.  Yet another adventure in store to feed his love of natural history.

imageHe entitled this “Sam in Nature”, it was taken last summer, one wonders if that tree is now decorated outside or in the house!!??  The Samuelson home is, in his words “warm, homey and eclectic, antiques would  be the most defining element”.  One of his loves is gardening he finds it relaxing along with the hard work.

imageSam with Mary Beth and, his pride and joy, their daughters, Abby and Emma, quite frankly they look like a group right out of central casting to me!

Goetta is a breakfast food that is known and loved in the greater Cincinnati area.

  • 5 cups water
  • 3 cups steel-cut oats
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 5 tablespoons beef bouillon cubes
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon each garlic powder, rubbed sage and pepper
  • 2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound each of ground beef and pork
  • 2 medium onions, chopped


  1. In a 5-qt. slow cooker, combine water, oats, and seasonings. Cook, covered, on high 2 hours. Remove bay leaves.
  2. In a large skillet, cook ground beef, ground pork, and onions over medium heat 8-10 minutes or until no longer pink. Drain, reserving 4 tablespoons drippings. Stir sausage mixture and reserved drippings into oats. Cook, covered, on low 2 hours.
  3. Transfer mixture to two plastic wrap-lined 9×5-in. loaf pans. Refrigerate, covered, overnight.
  4. To serve, slice each loaf into 16 slices. In a large skillet, cook goetta, in batches, over medium heat 3-4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned and heated through. Hint: fry in a bit of bacon grease until browned on both sides.
    Freeze option: After shaping goetta in loaf pans, cool and freeze, covered, until firm. Transfer goetta to resealable plastic freezer bags or wrap securely in foil; return to freezer. To use, partially thaw in refrigerator overnight; slice and cook as directed.
    Yield: 2

In addition to this unusual recipe, Sam’s other favorite is the Japanese Shbu-Shbu which he has loved since his days touring Japan in The Fantasticks.  He does make it and has found it in some local Japanese restaurants. The main ingredients are thinly sliced beef and vegetables.

Sam is one of the nicest most grounded people I know.  He has the knowledge, contacts, and experience to be what is considered one of the best in the business. I hope you have enjoyed getting to know him, I know I have!  When asked how he would like to be remembered he answered, “Someone who served others and helped other people live!”

Photo of Sam in his office by Nena all other photos from Sam’s photo album.


Anne Fogarty in her Studio 1950’s photo credit unknown

Anne Fogarty was one of the group of female creators who made American fashion important via their creative designs. The stars were Claire McCardell, Bonnie Cashin, and Anne Fogarty who appealed to a modern post-war clientele.  There were, of course, the higher priced designs of Norman Norell, Pauline Trigere, etc. that were almost Couture in look and cost.  These innovative women put the American look on the International map. I was fortunate, once again, to have worked with both Bonnie Cashin (I will write several posts on her, a profile on her Biographer, Stephanie Lake, and her book and my personal experiences with her in upcoming posts), and Anne Fogarty, who I am profiling here.  I did not, unfortunately, have the opportunity to work with Claire McCardell, but am a huge admirer of her creativity. Fifth Avenue 1958 Vogue Advertisement

In 1957 she signed a contract with Saks Fifth Avenue to design exclusively for our stores.  It was at that time, my first year in the Fashion Office, that I worked with her.  She was very quiet and very, very tiny.  Reputed to have an 18-inch waist, she emphasized it with her signature tiny top and full skirted dresses and separates.  The skirts were made even fuller with layers of petticoats (much like the skirts I wore in high school).  You see her wearing one of her creations on the cover of her book Wife Dressing first published in 1958 and reissued in 2007.  At the time, the title wasn’t politically incorrect and wasn’t meant to be. There weren’t too many “self-help” books at the time and it was rather tongue in cheek and a fun read..

First published 1959,204,203,200_.jpg?w=994&ssl=1

New edition 2007

I wanted to share one memory that has lingered in my mind.  In 1959 Anne Fogarty decided to do a collection of separates, rather unheard of at the time and included swimsuits, along with one piece rompers, overalls,  shorts, etc. She sold 800 white lace bikinis at Saks in 1959 at the amazing price of $30.00!  She loved gingham checks (influenced by Adrian perhaps?!)  and used them in all her collections. She had already won many awards including the Fashion Critics’ Award in 1951 and the Neiman Marcus Award in 1952.  In 1960 she received the Sports Illustrated Designer of the Year Award, yes, there was such an award.  Since the Time Magazine headquarters, at the time, were in Chicago the Award was to be presented in Chicago.  It was to be a huge press event with invited guests, I don’t remember if it was for a charity or not (almost every show/event we did was to benefit a charity), but do know it was HUGE! I had to work hard at finding young, shorter than average models…remember the models looked like the Norell models I have described previously and also recall Eleanor’s post and her elegant look!  Well, find them I did. I must admit a couple of miscues…one being a model who, for some unknown reason, I hadn’t looked at in shorts or swimsuit, who when in them had legs that were the same size from ankle to hip, much like a stork…unfortunately, she didn’t make it to the finals but did make it to the morning staff show at least to the dressing room area when I caught my error!  We did the final fittings and all was good.  The event was to be held at the Imperial House on Walton Street, a magnificent restaurant, very elegant, very upscale. ..truly not the look of the clothes, but THE place to be.  We were all set and I am waiting for the models to arrive.  In comes one of Chicago’s top models with her hair done a la the Avadon Sphinx photos, huge hair teased within an inch of its life…hardly a young sportswear look.  After I totally freaked out (not that any one could see, of course) and hoped no one had seen her arrive (by the way she thought she looked amazing!!!!)  I took her into the Ladies Room and by some miracle got her hair into a low ponytail.  All was saved!

Romper mid-1960’s

Ms. Fogarty was not the easier designer I worked with, very quiet, very reserved ( I was still too new to be able to anticipate a designer’s needs and thoughts, that would come in time) but in my opinion, she read her customers perfectly.  She dressed like them, had their lifestyle, therefore knew their needs and gave them what they didn’t know they wanted to wear…the mark of a  true creator and marketer. Anne Fogarty designs had their own distinctive style that you could immediately recognize. It was an honor to have worked with such an innovator.

A quote from her “I feel that the greatest contribution I have made to sportswear is that of femininity.”



Today we are all thinking about getting ready for Thanksgiving.  I don’t collect, nor do I have any friends who collect vintage turkey platters.  Love them but don’t have them, I might think about it if I could find a lovely transferware piece like the one pictured.  I will be spending Thanksgiving with my “family” and am so excited to be able to help with all the shopping, prepping and, of course, eating our birds.  I think I am invited to help prepare because I will put my hands inside the birds with the salt!  You do have to salt the interior of the critters, that is a given!  We do the traditional menu and usually add a new item each year, a couple of years ago I asked if I could add my hot carrot mold (I had the recipe on my blog a couple of weeks ago). It was a huge hit and is now part of the tradition. This year we are thinking of adding a jello mold, everything old is new again!

I have always loved Thanksgiving to me it is a wonderful family time. When I was working it was the only day off before the rush of the Holiday season and I insisted on having a big bird.  Usually, it was the just two of us Mom and me. I happen to love leftovers just as much or more than the actual dinner…Mom only wanted it the day of the feast….more for Nena!  Now that there is just me I am honored and thrilled to be included in a big family gathering with dear friends.

I thought I would post a recipe for a leftover that I have enjoyed for many years.  Hope you do as well.

From Nena’s Recipe Box

(Origin Unknown)

Turkey Slices with Curried Cream Sauce

6 slices turkey breast

2 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon curry powder (I usually add more)

1 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup milk

1/2 small banana diced (1/2 cup)

1/4 cup snipped pitted dates

1/4 cup chopped cashews

1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel

3 cups hot brown rice

Wrap turkey in foil and heat in a 300º oven until heated through.   Meanwhile in a small saucepan melt butter.  Blend in flour and curry powder. Add chicken broth and milk all at once.  Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly (don’t boil).  Cook and stir 1 minute more.  Stir in banana, dates, cashews, and lemon peel.  Arrange turkey over rice.  Pour sauce over turkey.  Makes 6 servings.  Serve with green salad with light dressing and French green beans or shredded Brussel sprouts.  Of course, a dry white wine of your choice.

Happy Thanksgiving!



I am very excited to do my first “official” book review!  I mentioned in last week’s Books, Books, Books posting how I came upon A Perfumer’s Secret and the author Adria J. Cimino, so we won’t review that, oops a pun!.  I have had email “conversations” with Adria and I am happy to say she has agreed to answer my questionnaire and be profiled in one of my Monday postings…I am truly honored and thrilled.  I hope she will still agree after she reads my review!

From the preface to the book: “Zoe’s Flore’s first creation was the scent of tears.  A hot, salty fragrance that she concocted the day her mother died.  A perfume built on oak moss, a touch of geranium and the real tears that tumbled into the mix.  It was her fifteenth birthday, and from that moment on, she wore the scent as a suit of armour.”

I happen to love reading stories that educate, enlighten and engage me if they happen to be located in France (or England) so much the better.  I found A Perfumer’s Secret to fill all those needs.  The heroine of the novel, Zoe Flore, at the beginning of our story is a rather unhappy, lost soul in the midst of creating a perfume formula, with her newly ex-boyfriend and business partner, to enter into a very important competition.  This competition can be a huge step forward in the very competitive world of perfume.  She receives a letter from Grasse, France, where most of the components of fragrance originate, telling her she has inherited a long lost fragrance formula from her Great Aunt. Without hesitation and much to the chagrin of her business partner, she immediately leaves for France.  She encounters many characters along her way all of whom seem to want the formula for their own devices. In some places, it became a bit too much of a romance novel for me, but who doesn’t like a touch of romance…that was short lived (of course, we are talking about fragrance so romance is very much a part of the entire story) and I found myself totally engaged with the journey and the explanation of how perfume is made, the huge costs involved not only dollars but in people’s lives and careers.  I am aware of what a “nose” is in the business and how few people have it but to have it detailed in such an interesting manner that it was a delight to read.  Zoe’s own fragrance is truly fantasy but how divine and how it drives the story!

I was truly enchanted with the book and look forward to reading all of Adria’s books in the near future. I hope you will enjoy it as well.



I was so pleased when I immediately heard back from Marcellas to say he would agree to answer my questionnaire, I knew it would be difficult to catch him when he visited Chicago.  I have known Marcellas for many years, he was one of my model “guys” and was always the consummate professional (actually, all my male models were fantastic and a joy to work with, more on them in future posts) and looked amazing, some things don’t change!  He has traveled many roads since but always has the joy of that fantastic smile and a true interest in everyone he meets.  It is with great pleasure that I feature him in today’s profile.  Here is the candid Marcellas in his own words.

When was the first impression of your talent?

“My love for fashion stretches back as far as I can remember.  Even as a child I always loved clothes and was VERY particular about what I wore.  Most kids let their mothers dress them.  Not me  If I didn’t like something I wouldn’t wear it.  Oh, the tantrums!  My mother tells the story about a particular vest/shirt combo that I refused to take off!

If by talent you mean personality, or maybe charisma, I realized I had something special very early on.  It’s odd to recognize within yourself.  I’ve always been very social and wanted to be the center of attention.  I’ve always received a great deal of attention, for better or worse.  I grew up on Chicago’s South Side.  We were lower middle class.  It was not easy being a gay kid.  I was bullied but that made me stronger.  I knew there was more for me and I was responsible for finding it.”

When did you know you had “made it”?

“I don’t think you make it once.  Life is a series of triumphs and failures.  Of great strides forward and steps backward.  I’ve made it several times: being discovered by Mary Boncher and Marie Anderson, the owners of Aria Models and Talent, in 1995. Closing the Nautica runway show.  Opening for Ralph Lauren.  Signing with Ford New York as a model.  Shooting with Norman Jean Roy.  I remember thinking I’d really made it when I wrapped CBS Big Brother in 2002 because I was famous in a national way.  Recently I thought I’d made it when I became a regular on The Meredith Vieira Show.  I think I have made it again because I just signed as a fashion stylist with Wilhelmina Models in Los Angeles, New York, and Miami.


The Meredith Vieira Show

What I’ve learned is “making it” really means something momentous has happened that causes a shift in your life in a positive way.

Now in a practical sense, I realized I made it when I knew my talent and hard work would support me.  Making it means there would always be a way for me to make money and take care of myself and my family.”

How did your original passion bring you to where you are today?

“I don’t know if I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I knew I wanted more.  I didn’t have a plan.  I fell into modeling while going to university and became successful.  I naturally progressed to fashion styling when modeling began to slow down.  I was offered Big Brother by a friend in casting I knew from my modeling days. From there I fell into TV hosting and acting. Let’s not say “fell”, let’s say “lucked into”.  But here’s the thing about luck; luck only works when you have talent and drive to back it up.  I’ve always been very good at seeing all sides of a situation and working them to my advantage.”

imageStyling a TV segment

 What would have been your alternate choice as a career?  Was there one?

I was working in retail when I switched gears and became a bartender and waiter.  I was working at Chicago’s Marché when Mary and Marie discovered me as a model.  I’d worked at some of the best and hottest restaurants in Chicago and Miami while modeling:  Vivo, Marché, Cafe Absinthé, MK, RL, and Nemo in Miami.  I really thought I’d open a restaurant or clothing store in Chicago.”

Your Favorites….

Book….The Little Prince

Movie…Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Musical…Into The Woods


Musician…Coldplay, Beyoncé

Designer…Tom Ford, Dries Van Noten

Favorite Store…IKRAM, Blake

Favorite Chicago Restaurant…So many! Sunda, Ceres Table, Mia Francesca, MK, Chicken and Farm Shop, Bottlefork, Tru


“I really don’t have hobbies.  I’m so passionate about my life that it’s all part of the same thing.  My passions are my friends, napping (I can’t sleep enough), shopping (which is odd since I shop for a living), reading magazines, social media (I love Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, they are a window into the world), and collecting books on art, film, fashion and photography.”

Home: Modern, traditional, eclectic, antiques?

I just sold a home in LA that I never thought of as home.  Now I live in a tiny studio that is basically a dressing room since I live out of a suitcase.  I’d call my apartment “minimalist hotel chic”.  LOL!  It really looks like a hotel room.  I like white walls and white high count sheets on a king size bed, stacks of art books and magazines, floor to ceiling mirrors in dark wood and tons of chotskies.  I love globes and little boxes in wood, marble, and even mirror.  I’m toying with moving back to Chicago and making it my base so I’m slowing looking at apartments there.”

Who would you have at your fantasy dinner (living or dead) and what would you serve?

“So my fantasy dinner party would take place at either Café Habana in New York, Sunda in Chicago, or be catered by Michael Kornick from MK.  I’m addicted to Rosé and Lambrusco.  We’d have to have fries with truffle sauce from MK, I love French fries! There must be Krispy Kreme donuts and Coolhaus ice cream sandwiches.  And In-and-Out burgers, double-double, animal style. Obviously, my inner fat boy is creating this menu!

I’m going to make my guest list Chicago-based: Owner of IKRAM, Ikram Goldman, investment banker, Melody Hobson, legendary June Blaker (who I worked for at a store called City ages ago), the divine Nena Ivon (who was so kind to me as a model), Jovanna Papadakis, who managed Victor Skrebeneski’s photography studio, photographer, Michael Voltattorni, restauranteur, Jerry Kleiner, Eva, my former runway booker from Elite, Chicago, models Eleanor Mercado, Cynthia Moore and Lia Cruzat, and owner of Ceres Table, Caryn Struit.”

Favorite vacation spot visited and/or on your list?

“I haven’t been on a proper vacation in decades.  The way I work as a fashion stylist and TV host doesn’t give me a lot of down time and also means I travel constantly all over the world.  Plus, I live in Los Angeles where it is perpetual summer.  I love Greece.  I shot a TV show there, Perfect Catch (E! Network), where we visited 8 islands.  Kos, Ios, and Paros were my favorites.  I was sequestered in Mexico while shooting Big Brother All-stars.  It was gorgeous.  In January I spent a week in Key West shooting Hunting Vintage (HGTV). That was so fun; great food, amazing bars, and the locals were so kind to us.  We got to tour Ernest Hemingway’s estate.  He’s one of my favorite writers so that was unreal.

If I were to vacation I’d go to New York and see my dear friends.  It would be a vacation not to have to work or take meetings.  I love cities.  I love the vibe of people coming and going.  I adore people watching and conversation.  I love shopping, dining, and museums.  So yeah…my vacation spot is New York, my favorite city in the World!”

How would you like to be remembered?

“So many things are said about me in the press and on the internet by fans and detractors alike.  It’s like the more notable you become the less people really know you.  I want to be remembered as I see myself; a nice guy with morals and conviction, who tried to make things a little better.  And who shared a smile.”

Nena….A million thanks, Marcellas, for joining me in my blogging adventure and be assured your smile always lights up the space you occupy! You are THE best!



All photos courtsey of Marcellas Reynolds



When I was retiring from Saks Fifth Avenue, seven years ago, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with all my paperwork, memorabilia, awards, etc.  Who would want them and how would they house them?  I did want them to be accessible for study.  I didn’t have to think long…Heidi Marshall, Head of Archives & Special Collections at Columbia College Chicago, contacted me to see if I would be interested in giving everything to the College.  Not only was I interested I was extremely honored.  Heidi came to my office and started her search through my things, and believe me when I tell you, my office was filled.  Every wall had either autographed photographs of many of the designers I had worked with but also photographs from events I had done, a wall dedicated to Victor Skebneski’s photographs, some of me, and various other materials.  Press clippings, invitations, programs from shows, events, as well as events I had chaired or worked on, lots of fashion show files and photographs, and, of course, some books (those I kept!) she wanted everything and indeed, took it all!  We photographed the office before dismantling it.  Hope to find those photos.

imageThe boxes on the table and on the cart are part of the Collection.  The caricature is from 1966, I have the original, which is in color.  I happen to love the whimsy of it.  I guess the artist thought I had very large teeth!  Everyone wore a hat in the fashion business at that time so here I am with my jaunty beret and, of course, my black and pearls!

imageMore boxes and photos that we are working on.  Some of these particular boxes hold awards. I am in the process of finding photos from past shows and events to share in future blogs.  A lot of years to go through and really a fun trip down memory lane.


A shadow box (the batting was placed behind the bottles by the archivists) filled with miniature perfume bottles from various fragrance launches.  The box was created by one of my assistants as a gift for me, I find it quite charming and almost naive.  The archives also contain full-size bottles of some of the launches, many signed. The College had some of this part of the Collection on display in the school’s library.

imageBob Mackie and Nena photographed at an American Cancer Society fashion show at the Hilton Hotel. I did many shows with Bob and he also was my date for a DIFFA gala I co-chaired also at the Hilton…more on that later.

I will be referring to the Nena Ivon Collection in the Columbia College Archives many times and I thought I would share a bit of insight of how the Collection came to be.



I am in an Asian frame of mine…this week I have been working with an amazing designer, Andrew Gn, and assisting in presenting his extraordinary Spring 2017 collection to the members of the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum and their guests.  There is so much to talk about I want to give the event the space it deserves and I have to digest all the excitement we have had this week, I will be going into great detail about this charming creator in upcoming weeks…so what, you may ask, does this have to do with Collections.  Well, we could stretch it and say a renowned French designer garments are collectibles, and believe me, Andrew Gn’s most certainly are, but Thursday’s posts aren’t about the fashion that we wear but rather what we surround ourselves with.

As I have previously mentioned, I am a very eclectic collector and Chinoiserie is a favorite.  I don’t collect blue and white porcelain, but many of my friends do (does that sound like another post!!!)  I think it all began with a screen that my Mother purchased at Marshall Field’s in their Fields Afar shop, what a wonderful place that was!

imageA section of the screen

My collection isn’t limited to small objects, I also have a chest with jade and stone inlay, it is used to store my fashion DVD’s, and I house a small part of my fashion designers research in two Asian inspired file cabinets.


The DVD cabinet

On top of the cabinet, I have amassed my small Asian collection which I add to when I find something that strikes my fancy (yes, that is a book nestled beside the cabinet, my books are everywhere!)


Speaking of striking fancies…the Randolph Street Market is not only this weekend…Saturday and Sunday, November 19 and 20 but next weekend as well, Saturday and Sunday, November 26 and 27 from 10 to 5 each day.  I will be gathering material for an upcoming blog as well as posting on Instagram from RSM!  Here is the address again, 1340 West Washington, do put it and the dates on your calendar.  And for the Holiday Markets the free trolley is back…catch it beginning at 11:00 at the Water Tower, there is, of course, plenty of parking on site.  You will need a break this weekend from your Thanksgiving planning and most certainly need to walk off the turkey and leftovers next week!  And if that isn’t enough there is yet a third market before the end of the year, Saturday and Sunday, December 10 and 11.  WOW!  A perfect way to spend a day and do all your Holiday shopping for yourself and for your gift giving. It is my favorite way to spend a day or weekend, hope you will join me you never know what treasure is waiting for you!