Everyone who reads my blog knows my book obsession, especially fashion and lifestyle books…Here are the ones I added to my library this year (I use Library Thing to catalog all my fashion books, it is brilliant!).  I have reviewed some of them in nenasnotes will do more in 2017.

imageReviewed, one of my favorites of the year..I did a week on Stephanie Lake and Bonnie Cashin.  It will continue to be on my TBR pile for research and pleasure. In addition, it will be the first book for my upcoming Fashion Book Club!                                                                        

imageReviewed, written by the creator Mike Hines, with amazing photography by Doug Human.  I also did a profile post on Mike.

imageReviewed immediately after the exhibition opened, which I also reviewed, superb monograph.

imageReviewed and did a post on Adria J. Cimino.


Reviewed, fantastic book, this will be an ongoing read and reference, it is brilliant!

imageMentioned in one of my early posts but didn’t do a review

imageReviewed, one of the best books I have read about Chanel

imageNot reviewed, on my to be read list

imageA new Christmas gift to be reviewed

imageNot read as yet, to be reviewed

imageOn my TBR pile


imageA birthday gift TBR and reviewed…visually stunning but then all the accompanying texts for the Met Costume Exhibitions are spectacular!  I can’t even imagine how fabulous the upcoming Comme des Garçons exhibition will be! We will have to wait for May.

imageTBR pile

imageA gift that I have been reading will review.  Great photos and story.

imageAnother birthday gift mostly pictures and purchased at the Randolph Street Market, a fun glimpse into the world of millinery!

imageA gift to myself also purchased at the Randolph Street Market, not read as yet

imageA new, actually a vintage book,  received as a gift for Christmas.  I love all of Fleur Cowles work including her Flair yearbook as well as her Flair magazines.  The cover of this book features Tiger Flower, I actually did a needlepoint pillow with this image.  I worked with her when she came to Saks on a book tour.

I think there are a couple more, rather a short grouping this year…I’ll have to make up for it in 2017!

My Independent Bookseller of choice:





imageA collage of images from the magnificent 3 Arts Club Cafe inside RH in Chicago.  It is one of my new favorite places to meet for lunch or a couple of glasses of wine with friends.  The chandeliers are exquisite, to say the least!

I happen to be mad for chandeliers whether in a public space or in someone’s home.  Today’s post will cover photos I have taken in public spaces to celebrate the coming New Year (they remind me of fireworks to honor a brand new beginning!) as well as Christmas, Hanukkah, (the Festival of Lights), and Kwanzaa all observed, at the same time this year. I hope you enjoy my pictorial of some of my favorites.

imageJust down the street from RH is the Public Hotel, here is what you see when you enter, how clever….amazing!!!!

imageIn the Portrait Gallery at the Chicago History Museum, glorious.

imageThe Grand Ballroom at the Hilton Chicago, always extraordinarily beautiful, here with red lighting for a Dance for Life benefit.  I have done more shows and events at the Hilton Chicago than any other venue in the City and it is always perfection!

imageA close up of one of the elaborate pieces in the Hilton Chicago Grand Ballroom.

imageOne of the dramatic fixtures in the Peninsula Chicago’s Lobby Restaurant.  Photo courtesy of Greg Hyder.

As you can see I like traditional pieces and aren’t we lucky that such beauty is available for everyone to share. Obviously, I have just scratched the surface so expect more posts on Chicago’s “public” chandeliers as well as those in my and my friend’s homes.

All photos were taken by me (with the exception of the Peninsula Chicago’s photo) with my iPhone.


I wanted to share a very special menu that I have served for many years first on Chrismas Eve (that year a repeat for New Year’s Eve!) and now for New Year’s Eve or very special occasions.  The original recipe appealed to me in a magnificent cookbook Glorious Food by Christopher Idone published by Stewart Tabori & Chang in 1982. If you can find a copy grab it immediately, the entire book, for it’s exquisite photography alone, is one you will want in your cookbook library.


Serves 2


6 to 8 ounces fresh fettuccine (be sure it is fresh not dried makes all the difference)

4 ounces clarified butter (must be clarified!)

Grated zest of one lemon

7 ounces of fresh Sevruga caviar

Cook the pasta in unsalted water until it reaches the desired doneness

Drain in a colander and return to pot.  Toss with butter and zest.


Turn the pasta out onto a warm plate, I am using some of my vintage green transferware in this photo along with vintage crystal and my best sterling flatware, and top with as much caviar as you like in the center. Each person will mix their caviar into their pasta.

imageServe with a vintage champagne, it is New Year’s Eve after all!

This is very rich, I don’t serve anything before and do a light salad after the entree using a mixture of greens tossed with drained mandarin oranges, slivered almonds and a light vinegarette.

imageThe salad waiting for its accoutrements.

I always do a lavish dessert, sometimes a pot au chocolate  (I’ll give you that recipe another time) or Strawberries Romanoff!  All, of course, with more champagne!


1 pint fresh ripe strawberries

Powdered Sugar

Orange Liquor

Fresh whipped cream

Wash, hull, and slice, in half, the strawberries place in a bowl with a lid or a bowl you can tightly cover, coat liberally (you aren’t sweetening the whipped cream) with powdered sugar, add as much orange liquor as you like (I like!), probably a couple tablespoons, but don’t over do, taste to see if you have enough you can always add more.  This mixture needs to be refrigerated for at least a couple of hours, more if you have the time, the more it marinates the better the flavor. Toss every so often. When you put the berry mixture into the refrigerator put your bowl and beaters in the freezer to chill.  Stiffly whip the cream just before serving, and fold into the strawberries. Serve immediately.  I like to serve in coupe glasses.

imageThe strawberries in their liquor bath!

Enjoy your New Year’s Eve celebration from the Ivon kitchen to yours!


imageSince everyone is doing their year-end wrapups I thought I would share, in no particular order, my reading for 2016!  I have placed an asterisk next to those that I enjoyed the most and a double asterisk next to those I have reviewed.  As you can see most are works of fiction…a couple of “cozies”, a few non-fiction and, of course, some mysteries! For this weeks Friday Fashion Flashback, I will list this year’s fashion/lifestyle books.

Historical fiction (fiction about real people, one of my favorite genres)

*Oil and Marble by Stephanie Storey (one of my most favorites of the year!  Loved it!!)

*Sisi by Allison Pataki

Georgia by Dawn Clifton Tripp

Adeline by Noah Vincent

The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

Marlene by C. W. Gortner

The Summer Guest by Alison Anderson


**Paris, Rue des Martyrs by Adria J. Cimino

**A Perfumer’s Secret by Adria J. Cimino

I’ll See You In Paris by Michelle Gable

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase

The Arrangement by Ashley Warlick

Maestra by L. S. Hilton

Gorsky by Vesna Goldsworthy

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift

*A Fine Imitation by Amber Brock

*My Mrs. Brown by William D. Norwich

Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss

*The Fifth Avenue Artists Society by Joy Callaway

The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan

*Belgravia by Julian Fellowes

*The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown

*A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams

The Muse by Jessie Burton

*A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James

The Paris Librarian by Mark Pryor

*The Song of Hartgrove Hall by Natasha Solomons

*The Forgotten Room by Karen White

*The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

Moonlight Over Paris by Jennifer Robson

*White Collar Girl by Renee Rosen

*What the Lady Wants by Renee Rosen

*The Improbability of Love by Hannah Mary Rothschild (another of my most favorites)


*The Inheritance by Charles Finch

*A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

The Other Side of Silence by Philip Kerr

The Darkness Knows by Cheryl Honigford

Cozy Mysteries (*all of them, refreshing between heavier fare!)

Blood Will Tell by Jeanne M. Dams

Smile and Be A Villian by Jeanne M. Dams

Devonshire Scream by Laura Childs

Design for Dying by Renee Patrick

Murder at Beechwood by Alyssa Maxwell

The Cold Light of Mourning by Elizabeth J. Duncan


*The Empress of Art by Susan Jaques

*The Six, the Lives of the Mitford Sisters by Laura Thompson

I am currently reading The Spy by Paulo Coelho. Not really Holiday material, dark, and depressing account of Mata Hari…I’ll do a review when I am finished.  (my independent bookseller of choice!)






A special Christmas greeting to you.  From my father, Ivon, an original image he did for one of our Christmas cards when I was very young.  It is done in India Ink on a pastel blue watercolor background.  I have it matted in gray-blue velvet and framed in silver.  It is, as you can imagine, one of my treasures!  Enjoy his interpretation of the Holy Family and the season along with me.




The year I started in the Fashion Office at Saks Fifth Avenue, I sold in the Holiday Boutique the next year I was managing it!  I managed the department for many years and we eventually moved, after we expanded, to the Fourth Floor.  We opened the day after Thanksgiving (it wasn’t called Black Friday in the late 50’s early ’60’s) and closed at the end of business on Christmas Eve. I wanted to share a brief story of the Shop with you this Holiday season.

I pulled merchandise from all over the Store to fill the Shop with the best of the best items I could gather.  The Shop was set up in the Millinery Salon on the Main Floor of the 669 North Michigan Avenue building (now Niketown!) Joe Kreis, our Display Direction (now would be Visual Merchandise Director) had special covers made for the millinery dressing tables and decorated it beautifully.  I changed the position of the merchandise almost daily to make everything seem fresh for returning clients and there were many who looked forward to this shopping experience.  We had a lot of gentlemen who regularly shopped for gifts for their wives (and others!). And I had a staff who knew the store’s merchandise well. I tried to use the same staff each year, some were regular sales associates and a couple I hired for the season,  I let them sell while I would get the needed items for the department.  We also had our house models wear garments from the Shop to bring clients to us. We had a cashier wrapper in the beginning years and behind the Shop was a large stock room where I could store duplicate items and packing materials. Much of the merchandise I chose was not new for the department but rather what caught my eye from all over the store and the sales associates always promoted each piece as if it was a crown jewel!

I did continue my regular duties in the Fashion Office, we had weekly and monthly shows, called tearoom shows at the time, placed the advertising, which, of course, was heavier during the Holiday season, etc.  We weren’t open on Sundays as yet so that gave me a bit of a break.  It was an extremely exciting time and all of us really enjoyed the festive atmosphere of the department.  We had excellent traffic from the beginning and our clients looked forward to the shop each year.

imageHere is what the department looked like for several years.  You can see the wonderful molding, almost floor to ceiling mirrors on the three walls and a magnificent chandelier.  I usually color coordinated each area or had a theme, such as less expensive, “pick-up” items together, more expensive one of a kind items up higher to prevent theft, etc.  To the right of this very blurry photo, you can just see a vitrine where I placed expensive pieces such as jewelry or precious items from the gift shop.  To the left on the floor at the base of the tree is a very pricey exquisite set of tapestry luggage.  I was very keen on selling that set but unfortunately, it sat there for the entire season until……closing on Christmas Eve! A gentleman walked into the department at 5 and wanted to purchase the entire set of six pieces and wanted it specially gift-wrapped (each piece separately), of course, he did!  I had to keep the cashier wrapper to help, I became the sales associate (I used one of the ladies sales number to ring the sale!) and more importantly, I, of course, had to keep the Store open while I searched for large enough boxes to fit these oversized items, so the shipping and receiving area had to remain open as well.  This took at least an hour but the transaction was completed to the joy of the customer.  The only problem with this is that I had Open House on Christmas Eve at home, a family tradition, and had a very large group coming around 8, it was now at least  6:30 (we closed at 5 on Christmas Eve) and I lived in Evanston, fortunately, there was very little traffic and I got home quickly.  I went up to my room to change into more festive cocktail attire and thought I would just rest for a few minutes….the next thing I knew it 8, not pm but am…I had slept straight through my own party and the Christmas Eve festivities…I didn’t even get a cup of our special eggnog….so much for that year!

Since Chicago has always been a hub for entertainers, the Holiday Boutique was on their radar. They would shop anonymously as we weren’t allowed to ask for autographs nor really treat them differently from our regular clients….can you imagine that today in the world of social media, selfies and reality shows!!!!  We even had a “floor walker” who greeted all the clients when then entered the Store (year round).  A totally different world.

Having run its course, according to whoever was the Store Manager at the time decided that the Holiday Boutique was no longer relevant.  When Saks moved to the present location at 700 North Michigan Avenue in 1990 it was like a legend lost in time, until a new Store Manager, saw the above photo on my office wall and asked what it was.  After I explained it to him and now much we produced in a short period of time each year, he wanted to reinstare it.  We did for a couple of years in a very small space in the Designer Salon which was then on the Fourth Floor.  In my opinion, this sort of shop should always be a main floor department.  I did the assortments a bit differently and bought some items expressively for the shop usually at antique shows and flea markets to add to the merchandise in the Store.  In addition, I had special holiday trees, done by our florist, that could be special ordered along with decorative special occasion cakes and specialty items from our caterer all created exclusively for the Shop.  My feeling was always to offer what you couldn’t get elsewhere.

imageA view of the Holiday Boutique in the late 1990’s

imageA close up of one of the shelving areas of the shop.  Obviously, this was a golden moment!

Those were the days my friends!!!!  Happy Holidays to all!!

Photos courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.


imageOne of the more recent of my Christman Angel collection that is dressed in rust and gold beading, gold lace wings and a porcelain head.

I have collected Christmas Angels since I can remember and add one each year.  Most of them had been carefully packed away in my storage locker.  A couple of years ago I decided to unpack them and look at them and realized they needed a home where they could be on display, admired and loved.  I found the perfect place for them at my dear friends home and they decided that “my” bedroom would house my precious angel collection.  I must tell you the first time I saw all of them displayed together in many, many years was very emotional and brought back the history of each of them.  I must also mention that my friends home is top to bottom, inside and out Christmas and that they were excited to adopt my treasures was very special to me! I have some that stay up all year in my kitchen as well as a collection of angels and cherubs that are scattered among my paintings and other object d’art. I wanted to share some of them with you today.

imageOne of my oldest (probably late 1940’s), and one I dearly love….don’t you love her bowed legs, which are pipe cleaners!  She is placed next to a display on the dressing table in the bedroom, the vintage display head is from my old office along with a delightful vintage clock the owners found antiquing.

imageA few more of the older angels.  All but one (she has a wooden head and a gold painted tube for her skirt, she is early 1950’s) have wax faces and hands and dressed in velvet gowns.  I love that they are standing on a bed of angel hair….brilliant!

imageA hand painted wax face and an elaborate gold pleated foil and braid gown. Probably late 1990’s. More of the vintage (late 1940’s or early 1950’s) velvet robed angels.

imageAnother with wax face and hands, fur muff and white velvet gown trimmed with gold and pearl braid detail.  Also, mid-1990’s

imageMy newest angel, from 2015, purchased at the Randolph Street Market at one of the Holiday markets.  She is gowned in vintage lace, ribbons and gold braid with a wonderful vintage paper face.  She lives with me. Love her!!!


A view of Tom Hawley and Tom Mantel’s Christmas in the City by Dept. 56 collection. My favorite piece is the Conservatory on the left bottom of the photo.  But you could spend hours gazing at the display and see something new each time.  Quite impressive wouldn’t you agree!!!

imageAnother view of Christmas in the City.

To me, there is nothing more precious that tradition and, of course, memories at any time of the year but especially during the Holidays…and that tradition is also true of dear friends who become family and love Christmas as much as I do and have taken my beloved angels into their home….lucky me!

All photos, with the exception of last year’s angel, which I took, are courtesy of Tom Mantel


While I have never been a huge fan of this traditional Christman plant, I do like them more now that we can have more color choices.  I do have a couple of amusing stories to share with you re my dealings with poinsettias over the years that I thought you might enjoy! uncredited photo of poinsettias growing in a dry hot climate similar to where I was in Texas.

As a child, I had very severe asthma and my doctor recommended that I spend my summers in a dry climate.  Well lucky for me my aunt, uncle, and cousins lived in just such a place, West Texas, where there was zero, or next to it, humidity. Mom, dad and I would board the Santa Fe Texas Chief or the Super Chief the day or two after school was out and take the several day adventurous journey to Midland!  We started going there just before they hit oil, I don’t remember the year but do recall I was very young…the difference in a year was amazing but still a very small town.  Daddy spent a few weeks with us then returned to Chicago, Mom and I stayed until just before school opened Labor Day week. We did this almost every year from the time I was quite young until Junior year in high school. My aunt had an amazing garden, everything grew magnificently.  Long stem roses, all manner of plants that we don’t have here and it is where I saw mistletoe hanging from trees.  I often wonder how things could be so lush growing in sand. And what do you think grew out of the ground, red poinsettias!!!!  And Aunt Marge had many plants.  I found it fascinating that not only were they growing out of the ground and not in a pot (I was very young!!!!) and in the summer no less.  I found them so appealing, I decided that I would pick them and make arrangments.  Well, not only was this not a great idea (my aunt had given me free reign to “pick” whatever I liked, she didn’t tell me not to pick the “Christmas flowers”).  Pick them I did and I cut them just under the flower, no stem at all.  I have no idea what I was thinking, so they were useless.  Mom was horrified, but my aunt just found it charming!!!  I think she floated them in shallow bowls of water. Seriously!!!! in a huge greenhouse.  Uncredited photograph.

Yes, my real first job was at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago when I was still in high school.  But I did have a “job” before that.  My parents were friends with the owners of a wonderful florist shop near our home and the owner asked Mom if she would help during the busy holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day and, of course, Christmas.  I was probably 12 or 13 when I started going with her to help out.  My job at Christmas was to wrap the pots in foil and stick a bow in the pot (I did. over the years, graduate to taking the cash from the clients and putting it into the cash register, a really big deal!).  The image above is what, in retrospect, I think the amount looked like that I wrapped each year!  I know, I know, an exaggeration but close none the less.  I couldn’t look at the plant for years.  Actually, not until they started coming in a creamy white and salmon.

imageThe way poinsettias, in my opinion, should look…isn’t this magnificent!  Photo by its creator, Mike Hines.


It couldn’t be Wednesday without a recipe and I, once again, have turned to Elenor Hawley for one of her favorites.  I thought these would be a perfect treat during the Holidays but I will serve them on New Year’s Eve with a glass of bubbly!

Elenor’s Bourbon Walnut Balls
Makes 3 1/2 dozen
2 1/2 cups finely crushed packaged vanilla wafers
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup coconut
3 Tablespoons corn syrup
1/4 cup bourbon…or a tad more
Additional powdered sugar to roll the balls in
Mix first 5 ingredients well.  Add syrup and bourbon and mix well.  Roll into 1″ balls,  then roll in powdered sugar.
I store the balls in a ziplock bag sealed in a cookie tin. For two or three days I add a bit more powdered sugar each day and toss gently.  They will get to the point where the powdered sugar stays on the outside of the balls and they are white on the outside.  They taste best if they ‘age’ a bit before enjoying.
(A Nena note….I think a glass of bourbon or a White Russian would be a perfect accompaniment, don’t you agree!)





I don’t know about you but I like a work of fiction, to be set in a big city.  I am particularly fond of having London, New York, or Paris as part of the story.  I don’t much care what the time period is, in fact, I like to see how the authors interpret these exciting cities in different times.  Adria J. Cimino (I hope you read her “profile” yesterday in my posting) lives in Paris and obviously from her writing, “lives and loves” it in her imagination as well. I did a review on her newest endeavor A Perfumer’s Secret in an earlier Books Books Books posting.  Having read that I wanted to read all of Adria’s books, starting with Paris, Rue des Martyrs.

Copy from the publisher:

“Some encounters make a difference… Four strangers in Paris. Each one is on a quest: to uncover a family secret, to grasp a new chance at love, to repair mistakes of the past. Four stories entwine, four quests become one, as their paths cross amid the beauty, squalor, animation and desolation of a street in Paris, the rue des Martyrs.

Rafael’s search for his birth mother leads him to love and grim family secrets. Cecile’s view of herself as an unsatisfied housewife is radically changed by the promise of a passionate liaison. Andre, an aging actor, troubled by the arrival of the son he abandoned years ago, must make a choice, to either lose his son forever or put aside pride and seek redemption. Mira travels to Paris to begin a new life and forget about love… or so she intends.”

If you are expecting a love story to Paris and an actual street, Rue des Martyrs (which is, of course, central to the story), you may well be disappointed, although you will love the City (as much as it’s author does) and the role it plays in the four central characters journeys in the book.  The book is about its four protagonists.  There is, however, a lot of what you expect from a book set in Paris, the cafes, the romance (in lives and with the City) and art.

The story revolves around four total strangers in Paris and you learn each is trying to unravel a family secret, locate new love, undo past mistakes.  How the author intertwines these characters is what makes this story “a can’t put down narrative”. I wanted to see what would bring them all together.  As the characters search for their individual solutions they mingle with many supporting characters, all of whom bring depth to the story.

I found the reality of each easy to relate to, everyone has their own issues in life and those issues are important to them.  All the stories were amazingly believable and you become involved in how these fascinating individuals will end their quests.

I really enjoyed the book and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.  I give it 4 stars.



Twitter: @Adria_in_Paris