I have mentioned in previous posts how much I love Louise Penny’s books and that I can’t wait to read them but hold back because a year is a very long time between publications.  Well, I just finished Penny’s new novel A Great Reckoning, and I can tell you that it didn’t disappoint.  Our protagonist, Armand Gamache, one of my most favorite characters, returns with his cast of characters, the residents of the small village of Three Pines.  This time we find Armand assuming his role as head of the Sûreté Academy and see how he guides his trainees in a complicated mystery.  It involves a mysterious map, many characters, some old some new and, of course, murder!

I think what I like most about Penny’s writing is her intelligence, her sense of the true meaning of close family and dear friends and the warmth of relationships in the village of Three Pines.  If I have one complaint, it would be that this particular storyline doesn’t involve the villagers enough, they are, of course, involved and talked about but I would have liked them to be more intricate to the story, but that is just me, probably because I have gotten to know them through her other books, all of which I adore. Her development of characters is superb.

The plot has many twists and turns and you will consider Armand a suspect (well at least, for a bit!!!). Penny takes us on an emotional journey, as she always does, and keeps us guessing at each turn.  Her research is flawless and she presumes her readers are on the same intellectual level that both she and Armand are…she gradually peels back the layers to reveal the emotional climax to the many “mysteries” she has laid before us.

I highly recommend picking up a copy quickly you won’t be disappointed.  If you haven’t read any Louise Penny, I would suggest, as with any series, you start with the first book, in this case Still Life, (I was introduced to Penny by one of my favorite booksellers in Stratford, Canada many years ago while at the Shakespeare Festival) so you can become familiar with Armand Gamache and the vast cast of characters that you will grow to love (after that you can read them in whatever order you like)…A Great Reckoning is book 12 so you can enjoy each as much as I have….can’t wait for #13!!!,69,432,498/Louise-Penny-2.jpg?w=994Louise Penny from the jacket of A Great Reckoning.  Photo by Jean-François Bérubé  My Independent bookseller of choice


marc-hauser_selfAmy Meadows Portrait by Marc Hauser for SELF Magazine (date unknown but clock those shoulder pads. . .Amy’s comment!)

I have known Amy Meadows professionally for many years. I greatly admired her creativity and talent while she was at Marshall Field’s where she gave us extraordinary interiors and windows and then sharing her talents as an amazing teacher and colleague at Columbia College Chicago. Here are her insights into the beginnings of her career in visual merchandise along with her teaching career and her answers to the nenasnotes questionnaire.

“A 5 year old in Franklin, Tennessee  wins an art contest and  is later put on display—literally– at a desk with art supplies inside the window of a downtown bank. Hmm.  Creativity + working behind glass + attention-getting product.  Is it any wonder I ended up in Window Display?

Actually, it took a few more decades and a Theatre degree from Northwestern University, working in regional theatre and moving to Chicago before I officially began working in windows.


A childhood spent sewing, painting, drawing and decorating provided opportunities for “craft entrepreneurship” (i.e., selling fruit crate dollhouses in Louisville, Ky art fairs)

Once at college , I quickly discovered that I preferred working backstage to onstage


and that I was much better suited to creating props, painting backdrops and designing sets. I enjoyed the work that I did at school and with the Lost Colony Theatre and the Virginia Museum Theatre, even squeezing in a props gig on “My Dinner with Andre”.  “Do you like this lampshade, Mr. Malle? No? How about this one?”

We were all young, artsy and broke.  I wanted to be young, artsy with a steady gig.  I loved “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (a Nena note, another successful woman who was inspired by the incredible Mary Tyler Moore) and figured that Rhoda Morgenstern’s job would be just the ticket.  With the naiveté of youth and the dubious honor of having chosen a fictional character as a career model, I landed a position as a trimmer in 1983 at Marshall Field’s flagship store and remained there, climbing the ranks, until 2008 when Chicago’s regional offices were dismantled.

When people ask what my dream job would be, well, quite frankly. . .this WAS my dream job.  Countless Great Trees, Christmas windows, Flower Shows, Flea Markets and more.  While the job entailed some not very glamorous tasks like “scattering” bags of Kosher salt for holiday snow, crawling backwards out of windows, cutting scenery in half to fit past the jewelry vault (oh, I could go on) there was also international travel and the chance to work directly with acclaimed authors, florists, artists and designers.

But when you’ve worked for the best, then what? Fortunately, I had maintained a partnership with Columbia College Chicago since 1991 and I have continued to teach Visual Merchandising in the Fashion Studies Department.

img_0096Amy with her Columbia College Chicago students.On Field’s rooftop, Christmas/flower show/flea market, etc: photo by Susan Kezon

I can officially state that, with the exception of one instructor, every Part-Time faculty member currently teaching visual merchandising and/or window display was either an employee or a student (or in one case, both!)  While I derive no particular pleasure from climbing ladders these days, I find the creative and academic efforts of teaching to be consistently invigorating.

160211_visualmerchandising_618windows_pdembinski-2395Working with a student on the front windows, 618 South Michigan Avenue, displaying Columbia College Chicago Fashion Studies design students projects. Photo: Philip Dembinski

I began my consulting firm, Windows Matter,, later in 2008.  I speak nationally to business and civic organizations, retailer consortiums as well as working with individual clients on branding, displays and storefront assessments. I hate to see a window go to waste!


There have also been fab gigs with exhibition design (see above) and boutique boot camps.  After 25 years on State St., I look for ways to leverage those tips and tradesmanship for assisting “main street” . And, because I am a lifelong learner and hopelessly curious, I recently completed my Museum Studies Certificate at Northwestern in order to better understand the distinctions—and duplication—of skillsets for visual merchandising vs exhibition design..

An occupational hazard has been the desire to collect and to showcase treasures from travel and artists around one’s home.


Fortunately, I have a supportive family who enjoys the whimsy and eclectic nature of our house.

amymeadows_photo_chicagoreader_collectors_articleBoth above photos from Chicago Reader: photos by Leslie Schwartz

Well, except for the clown portrait that I thought looked just swell in the living room with other related images.  My daughter promptly veto’d that piece. Sigh.

I’m frequently asked what it’s like to be “creative”.  I think that we’re ALL creative.  Whether one is handy with a paintbrush or printing press is not the sole identifier—for me, creativity is solving problems.  I think that’s one reason I enjoy my daily crosswords. .   I’m solving riddles, looking for commonalities and clues, establishing order and generally trying to make sense of a muddle. It’s much the same way that I approach a design challenge—what’s the budget? The timetable? The merchandise, the customer, the brand?  I suppose if I think of it in those terms, it’s not a surprise that I devour murder mysteries and espionage novels.  Anyone looking for clues to my identity via my Kindle might question my love of country or untoward thoughts toward enemies but I can assure you that it’s for entertainment value only.


I think that it is my affection for puzzles and stories that would shape my fantasy dinner.  Or should I say “not exactly a dinner” but more of a salon with humorists, singers with access to small plates (dibs on bacon-wrapped dates or maybe those semolina gnocchi from Bread and Wine?) and good wine. Lots of good wine. My guest list would include John LeCarre (so that I could quiz him on spy craft), David Sedaris (in order to howl over stories about Christmas in department stores), Mark Twain, Pete Seeger, Bill Bryson, Carl Hiassen, Anne Lamott (for her wisdom and grace) and Annie Proulx.  Maybe a visual artist or two to capture the evening in pen and ink or photographs for posterity. Above all, the evening would be filled with laughter—lung-cleansing, rib-aching laughter. Everyone returns home renewed and reinvigorated.


As such, Calder’s “Flamingo” at Federal Plaza never fails to make me smile. I have long enjoyed his work, esp. his tiny wire figures.  Although enormous, this work loses none of the whimsy and grace with which his smaller, quirkier pieces are imbued.


As far as the perfect vacation my needs are simple: a porch or veranda, a view of the water or woods and access to lobster—Virgin Bar Harbor, Hilton Head and Bermuda.


Not that other trips haven’t been spectacular but let’s stick with the basics, shall we?


I don’t cook lobster for myself at home but I do enjoy a good shrimp dish, especially if it has a hint of my Southern heritage.  I make this Shrimp and Grits Casserole in individual ramekins (vs. a single casserole dish) when entertaining:

Shrimp and Grits Casserole (Cooking Light, March 2008)

2 cups 2% reduced fat milk

¾ cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

1 cup uncooked quick-cooking (not instant!) grits

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup (2 oz) shredded Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons butter

1 (3 oz) package 1/3 less fat cream cheese

3 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 large egg whites

1 lb peeled and deveined shrimp, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 375

Combine milk and broth in a medium heavy saucepan; bring to a boil.  Gradually add grits and salt to pan, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Cook 5 minute or until thick, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Stir in Parmesan, butter and cream cheese.  Stir in parsley and next 4 ingredients (through shrimp)  Spoon mixture into an 11” x 17” dish coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 375 for 25 min or until set.  Serve with hot pepper sauce if desired.  Yield: 6 servings

One of my favorite Christmas gifts is a membership to Spudnik Press Cooperative,, here in Chicago.  This will hopefully provide the incentive to get my printmaking chops up to speed—I have a special affection for interpreting children’s artwork into more “grown up” pieces of art without losing the confidence of line and disregard for rules shown in so many drawings and paintings.  While I often work on my own children’s art, I frequently receive requests and commissions so, start the presses—literally!



Before/after of Fridge to Frame artwork: Amy’s

It would be fair to say that I spend more time with print publications than online sources. Facebook provides an opportunity for me to connect with arts organizations, etc. and participate in upcoming events.  Today, I’ll be attending a lunch lecture at De Paul’s Cultural Heritage Law center (I’m intrigued by the legal and ethical dilemmas presented by art theft, looting and repatriation)  and then, a few days later, a Pantone workshop @ Chicago Design Museum.  Never stop learning!”

Nena: Amy,  I couldn’t agree more!  Thank you for your contribution and for letting us get to know you more in depth.


I started the week with a profile on the amazing Gloria Groom and followed that with a review on the catalog that accompanied one of her incredible exhibitions Impressionism, Fashion & Modernity. I wanted to highlight some of the art in the exhibition and book in today’s Fashion Flashback. I know I have been featuring experiences with the designers I have worked with over the years but wanted to take this opportunity to talk about fashion in art.

I often wonder when we look at art what we are looking at…is it a period in time, is it the artist’s vision of that place in time, is it what we are actually seeing ourselves…in my opinion, it is all of these things and much more.  I find this especially true with the Impressionists. They were not only radically changing the way we look at art but incorporating the way people lived and, our subject, the way they dressed in the fashions of the day.

The women of high society could dress in THE couturier of the time, Charles Frederick Worth, wonderous creations.  If they couldn’t afford his pieces, those in society being captured by these new exciting artists could most certainly afford the garments, they would either follow the fashions and make their gowns themselves or have their dressmakers copy them. Then as now, we are captivated by Haute Couture (do follow all the incredibly beautiful garments in the current Spring Couture Collections. I think it is one of the best in recent years!  All very exciting!).

There were so many paintings in the exhibition and more in the catalog that I really didn’t know where to start so I will do so with my favorite artist, James Tissot.  I am horrified that I wasn’t familiar with him prior to the exhibition and that we don’t have a Tissot in our Art Institute’s extensive Impressionist collection is a major void.  While I can’t document that any of the garments are from the House of Worth, they most certainly could be. Here are a couple of my favorites. can relate to this painting of the shopgirl, naturally dressed in black and, of course, not Worth, selling her wares of fabrics and trims, it could be me in another time and location, Paris, where else! Tissot’s The Shop Girl, Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada. is my most favorite of all, look at the detail in the ruffles, the lace, the fan…amazing to say the least! Evening by James Tissot, Musée d’Orsay. Tissot rich in detail, he used this gown in several of his paintings, I can see why it is extraordinary, love the silk ribbons and the sofa covering and pillows, all very much of the Victorian period. July: Specimen of a Portrait, The Cleveland Museum of Art.

In the Conservatory, by Albert Bartholomé, 1881, Musée d’Orsay. The actual dress Madame Bartholomé wore in the painting, 1880. These items were featured side-by-side in the exhibition. This is the only actual garment featured all others were the “look” or “feeling” of the composition.

Auguste Renoir, Madame Georges Charpentier and Her Children, 1878, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. A typical painting of the time, Madame with her children in their sitting room complete with family dog.  Madame Charpentier is reputed to be wearing a Worth gown. Monet’s Madame Louis Joachim Gaudibert, Musée d’Orsay. The garment shown with is was breathtaking and showed the paisley cashmere shawl from India and Persia which was a major accessory of the time. I collect paisley shawls and will, of course, do a feature on them in a future post. Again note the staging of the room, floral carpet, roses in a vase on the table all to create an atmosphere.

Of course, I could not leave out two of the most famous paintings of all and both are in our own Art Insitute of Chicago collection and both are depicting everyday people.  The Seurat depicts a variety of people strolling and enjoying a Sunday in the park.  One could stare at this incredible work forever and still see something new.  The other is the massive masterpiece by Caillebotte, again showing us everyday people strolling down a Paris boulevard in a typical modern day (of the time) scene.  At the time it was painted it was considered quite controversial, we think of it today as a glimpse of the distant past. Seurat, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, The Art Institute of Chicago. Caillebotte, Paris Street, Rainy Day, the Art Institute of Chicago.

imageGloria Groom in a “modern” hoopskirt cage in the Costume Collection at the Chicago History Museum.



I did a post at the New Year with chandeliers in public places…now I wanted to share some in homes and clubs.  Not a lot of copy, aren’t you happy about that!!!mostly photos, all mine.

imageOpaque glass beaded French “waterfall” fixture in a private club.  Stunning!!

imageA formal crystal piece in an entrance hall.

imageA French “beaded” glass and crystal drop shaded piece in a dining room.

imageAnother piece with silk shades in a friends dining room.

imageA truly grand piece in the solarium of the same home.

imageA French crystal fixture in Margaret Buckman’s dining room, a stunner!

imageA totally different direction with an original contemporary piece in my friends Mid-Century Modern Goldberg home.

imageWhy not hang your elaborate chandelier in the barn…how perfect!!! Love it against the peeling paint the contrast is super!

imageA glorious vintage French crystal beaded piece almost looks like draped fabric.

imageTruly a showstopper in the dining room of the same apartment as the piece above.

imageA peek into my all white bathroom complete with mirrors on top on mirrors on top of mirrors…and, of course, a vintage French gilt and crystal small chandelier!

Which one is your favorite?


I was asked to write a piece for the fabulous weekly on line magazine, Classic Chicago, regarding what piece of clothing defines me…I didn’t hesitate to say a black turtleneck sweater.  I have no idea when it started but it has become my signature piece.  Below is the full article, in quotes, that I presented to them, they used a condensed version…this is just a random Wednesday post. I don’t do selfies but am doing two photos of me today to illustrate how I wear my “identity”!

imageThe jacket in this photo is from Oscar de la Renta and is a bright royal purple, one of my favorites.  The jewelry is from my Victorian collection.

“I definitely identify with and am identified by a black turtleneck sweater!! 

How did this begin, I would say when I first began in retail. I was still in high school (working Saturdays at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago in Debutante Sportswear, it would now be called Contemporary Sportswear, until graduation) and there was a dress code, black, brown, navy, and gray. You could wear a white blouse. I choose black, a color (or noncolor) and have worn it ever since. It made me feel sophisticated and “grown up”, I was the youngest employee in the company at the time. To me, nothing looks more retail savvy that black and pearls. It forms the background to the merchandise you present to your clients. Eventually, my choice evolved into the black turtleneck sweater. Nothing wrong with my neck, it just works for me. I can add colorful jackets, all manner of jewelry to change it up. Having a season less wardrobe, it might be cashmere, usually is, silk, cotton (I’m partial to the Gap for this choice) basically any fabrication, I find works for me. I have so many that the staff at the store wouldn’t sell me any more basics, I was allowed novelty ones! I often wear my turtleneck to black tie events and glam it up with some sort of glitzy jewelry, bag and/or shoe.
 Without question, the black turtleneck sweater is the Ivon signature!”

imageAt the opening night party of the Mainbocher exhibit at the Chicago History Museum. I’m wearing one of my necklace treasures done especially for me by my friend the talented June Blaker.  The easy black silk vintage jacket by Mark Heister.

I find it very easy to reach into my closet and pull my outfit together for the day with my basic underpinnings, a black turtleneck, black pant, or black skirt with a black Chanel flat, black Puma sneaker or black boot.  Sometimes I do an animal print Oxford or a colored shoe if I’m not doing a bright jacket.  For evening it can become a long black skirt, black full silk pant by Mark Heister or short skirt, glamour jewelry and probably a rhinestone trimmed Blahnik black silk pump and black silk quilted Chanel bag. For New Year’s Eve this year I did a vintage Adolfo black jacket, with pearl and rhinestone Lasage beading, one of my treasured evening pieces, with black jeans, the Blahnik silk shoes and of course, as always, that black cashmere turtleneck sweater.

I would suggest everyone find their own style and become one with it.  The most important part of dressing is to be comfortable in your clothes and wear them not have them wear you!!

This week’s recipe is a coffee cake that I have made since I was a little girl, it is my Mother’s recipe…it is really yummy and I think I will make it for myself this week…hope you will try it as well, enjoy!

Ruth’s Rub Cake

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 cup butter, room temperature

2 eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup milk

Rub together, as for pie crust, flour, baking powder, sugar, and butter (use a pastry cutter, two knives or your clean hands).  Measure one cup and set aside for topping of the cake. Beat eggs well, and combine with milk and mix well, add the dry ingredients mix until combined don’t over mix (I use a hand mixer for this part).  Pour into a shallow, greased pan and spread the top with the crumb mixture.  Bake in a moderate oven 350º for about 35 minutes.  Done when toothpick comes out clean.  Can be served for breakfast, tea, dessert or just out of the pan when you need a snack. Do let it cool a bit…it is best when it sets awhile and keeps very well.



I wanted to discuss the catalog (more a fantastic art book that everyone MUST have in their art library whether they are interested in “fashion” or not!) that accompanied the spectacular exhibition that Gloria Groom, yesterday’s profile subject, (as you may recall “fashion” was a first love for her and she had worked on this exhibition for many years before it came to fruition), brought to the Art Insitute of Chicago in 2013 after it’s run at the Musee D’Orsey in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Gloria edited the book and coordinated all three exhibitions, working with each Museum’s teams, each had it’s own setup and flavor but none losing their commonality of the subject. But, of course, the Chicago version was, in my opinion, the best of all!!  The exhibition and the book are breathtaking.  Thank heaven we still have something to recall this exceptional moment in art and fashion history.

Inline image 1Gloria Groom with Mary Green (Gloria’s position bears her title, David and Mary Winton Green Chair at the Art Insitute of Chicago) at the opening of Impressionism, Fashion & Modernity. Photo courtesy of  Gloria Groom.

I saw the exhibition at least 10 times, probably more, and each time I saw something different. It was an exquisite exhibition in all ways.  The way it was mounted, the color of paint on the walls, the collection of paintings, many of which were being seen for the first time in Chicago, along with our own amazing collection, the fashions (both garments and accessories such as shoes, hats, gloves and fans), displayed along side the paintings. I have mentioned that I am obsessed with exhibitions just about as much as I am obsessed with books so this book ties both together so you can enjoy the exhibition, and the reasons behind it, whenever you like. Gloria’s contacts, her innate eye for detail and scholarly information, done in such an informative, not preachy manner, make this an encyclopedia for the subject matter it contains. A reference work that I have referred to on many occasions as well as just enjoying the wonderful reproductions of the paintings. I will do another post on the exhibition itself later in the week and highlight the influential couture designers the Impressionists used on their subjects as well. by Claude Monet.

A close-up of the green and black stripe fabric forms the end papers of the book.  Many close-up details of fabric, trim, etc. can be explored in the book’s pages.

Be sure, if you don’t already have this catalog in your collection, that you add it as quickly as possible, you will be all the richer for it!

PS Gloria has added to her favorite blog list!!!!  I am extremely pleased with the honor!


Gloria with French Ambassador to the US Gerard Araud being awarded the Medal of Chevalier in the Legion d’Honneur.
Gloria at a recent trip to Bordeaux for the Redon conference – a new center featuring a library of wines from around the world. Photo courtesy of Gloria Groom.
As I continue my personality profiles I find out so many fascinating things about people I think I know.  While Gloria Groom is a friend (love our luncheon get togethers), I know her best from attending events with her and, of course, her amazing exhibitions as Chair of European Painting and Sculpture, David and Mary Winton Green Chair at the Art Institute of Chicago.  These are always done with wit, they bring new knowledge to her audience, (that she, and the staff, gives the audience an insight into many famailiar objects) and great joie de vie.  I always go away happy, informed, bemused, and challenged to learn more.
The last exhibition of the three versions of the Van Gogh bedroom was unbelievable.  I went with a friend and both of us thought we were going to see three different versions of the bedroom, period…silly Nena!  Not only were they hung side by side but totally investigated and actually recreated, not only at the Museum but also at an apartment where you could stay the night.  Amazing…this is the mind of this incrediblely talented creator.  Can’t wait for the next exhibition.  Bravo Gloria!
A close up of the three versions, each just slightly different…every detail was explained in great depth.  An extraordinary look at what we all thought was a very familiar painting. A great lesson in art appreciation!
Here Gloria answers my questionnaire…
As an art historian?  Probably my junior year in college which I spent in Valencia.  I gravitated towards the art of museums, churches and when I returned wrote a thesis for what was then a “Letters” degree (classical and modern languages and literature ) on Odilon Redon that was well considered by my professors.
As an art historian?  Probably my junior year in college which I spent in Valencia.  I gravitated towards the art of museums, churches and when I returned wrote a thesis for what was then a “Letters” degree (classical and modern languages and literature ) on Odilon Redon that was well considered by my professors.


Oh, I still am not sure I’ve made it but I have felt ever since leaving for Paris in 1979 on a Rotary Scholarship that doors keep opening and challenge me to move forward.  I’m not sure I understand “made it,” but a high point was the first time I conceived and realized an exhibition that no one else had a role in — this was BEYOND THE EASEL in 2001, and although it went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art it was the visualization of my doctoral thesis — How many PhD’s can say that the work they spent years researching and writing could be presented to a general public?  it was thrilling and I am still hearing from university professors who use the catalogue for their classes.  So yes made it in terms of hitting all the right notes!
My passion began with a love of and proclivity for language and literature.  Art history was a by – product since I realized I didn’t want to teach and museums offered an opportunity to draw upon all of my passions in a public forum.  By the time I was working on a masters in Art History (although the first two years I thought I would pursue an MA in Pre-Columbian art) I was volunteering at the museum as a docent and ended up with a minor in Museum Studies and at that point I knew the end game was to be a curator at a museum that would specialize in European Art.
Oh yes, my first love in High School and the first year of undergraduate studies was fashion and I thought I would be a fashion illustrator and designer.  I sewed from age 12, crocheted, knitted and had a cottage industry in High School making patch work purses, quilts, crocheted vests, and dresses on which I painted designs so that each one was personalized to the person who bought it. I thought I was hot stuff!   Then when I went to university I showed some of my garments at the annual fashion show which was wonderful but the classes themselves were in the Home Economics Department!  That’s when I switched majors to Letters.

Performance-wise too many to name — I am a groupie for talent and though a traditionalist seeped in the 19th century I am happy to be surprised, shocked, provoked by a new twist on an old story or a completely new approach to all of the above One of my fondest memories is attending a performance of Stravinsky’s Le Petit Soldat on a peniche at the Canal St Martin.  I have also been fortunate to be friends with musicians from the Symphony and Opera to Punk Rock.

The Joffrey is a jewel and I go whenever I can –this year’s Romeo and Juliet — sublime!

The Lyric continues to amaze me and I love that they have added musicals to their spring repertoire.


Art museums, galleries, walking

Duke our Italian greyhound mix, piano, vintage shopping


I live in Oak Park which means tradition.  Our house is 1904 not quite yet

devoid of the Victorian (gables, wrap around porch) but with a decided arts and crafts aesthetic, especially seen in the doors and woodwork.   To say our furniture and collecting interests are eclectic is a litote (an understatement) since my husband, Joe Berton, is an avid collector of militaria (uniforms, swords, medals, paintings, photographs, shields) from the late 19th and early 20th largely British (with a special passion for T.E. Lawrence).  We both enjoy acquiring paintings from artist friends whose works are a nice break with the otherwise Victorian aesthetic which reigns.



First off, it would be catered and someone else would make the dinner since I would never take that on unless I served the same Chicken Marbella with which I regale my family every Christmas Eve.

For the list, I would have to say in chronological order and limiting myself (and my table to 10)
Edouard Manet — who by all accounts was not only a fantastic painter but a master of the bons mots
Marcel Proust – to counterbalance Manet
Misia Godebeska- Natanson-Sert — a muse for all of the artists I admire
Sarah Bernhardt -amazing actress — who lived her passions
T. E. Lawrence for the reasons stated above
Will Rogers – (or Mark Twain) to bring the conversation back to real people
Audrey Hepburn – to see grace personified
Ron Howard -Opie and then master filmmaker whose imagery remains
Gary Trudeau –who makes me laugh no matter what
Adam Gopnik – one of my generation’s greatest flaneur/philosopher
Jesus — to see if he’d be a no-show (and if he did come, to ask him to referee)
Stresa – deliciously small, friendly and lovely.  I want to spend more time in Italy!
As an enthusiastic and compassionate supporter and sometimes inspirer (nenas note, always an inspirer!!!)
Uncle.  I’m so not a cook.
Picasso’s untitled monumental sculpture described as Horse or a woman
imageYou can see the profile of The Woman here.

LINKS GLORIA RECOMMENDS in general and more specifically (The Art Institute’s on-line catalogues with in-depth analyses, multi-images and interactive documentation both visual and written for paintings and drawings for many of our 19th-century favorites Monet, Renoir, Caillebotte, Pissarro, Gauguin…) transitional housing — but really any organization that helps end homelessness



Hats have been a part of fashion history forever….I have personally worked with several of the icons in this field.  But first a brief history lesson…

Rose Bertin, Marie Antoinette’s milliner, and dressmaker, was a true fashion diva, since that time milliners have tended to be arrogant and egocentric.  I did not find this so with the designers I worked with, talented…absolutely, major egos…perhaps. but not at all arrogant. Many milliners became dress designers.  They include Lucile, Jeanne Lanvin, Chanel,  Schiaparelli, Jacques Fath, Halston, Adolfo and Mr. John to name a few.

Rose Bertin opened a dressmaking and millinery establishment on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore in Paris in 1772.  In 1774 she was introduced to her best-known client, Marie Antoinette.  All of France came to her for their elaborate caps and headdresses.  she survived the French Revolution, her business, however never recovered.

Charles Worth considered the father of Haute Couture, he was responsible for creating the first hat worn instead of bonnet.  Charles Dickens was quoted saying a male milliner (there wasn’t a name for couturier) with thick fingers dressed and undressed the women of France (including the Empress Eugenie)

Gabrielle Chanel opened her millinery business in 1908 from the Paris apartment of her lover Etienne Balsan.  With the backing, of the love of her life, Boy Chapel, she moved to 21 Rue Cambon.  She designed millinery exclusively until 1913 when she designed her first garments.

Elsa Schiaparelli opened her fashion house in 1928 and her outrageous garments, equally important were her ingenious hats including the surrealist shoe hat in 1937.

Obviously, I didn’t work with any of the aforementioned creators.  But did work with several who were considered creative icons.

Bes-Ben in 1920 Benjamin Green-Field opened his first Bes-Ben hat shop in Chicago.  In 1941 he created his first silly hat and earned the name of Chicago’s mad hatter.  Ben Green-Field was a Chicago institution.  His Salon, filled with treasurers from his world travels, was located on Michigan Avenue.  All of Chicago society women wore Bes-Ben creations, many of which are housed in the Costume Collection of the Chicago History Museum and some are on permanent display at the Museum,  Each year he famously had a “sale” of hats priced at $5.00 this began at midnight at 2:00 AM he would “throw” out hats to the assembled crowd…it was complete madness and great publicity before we knew what the word marketing was all about! Bes-Ben creation.

Mme. Paulette, Paulette Modes opened in 1939 on Avenue Franklin D. Rooseveltt in Paris.  She became known for her draped turbans and made hats for Robert Piguet, the couturier, up until her death she designed hats for many fashion houses including Chanel, Cardin and Mugler.  Paulette was the Philip Tracey of her time.  Creating timeless, beautiful millinery at a time when everyone wore hats…even in the evening.  She was very French, very charming and, of course, very talented.  She loved to share her expertise with the staff as well as work one on one with the clients at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago. Paulette in her Paris Atelier. of the iconic hats by Mme. Paulette

A superb monograph on Mme. Paulette.

Tatiana was born in St. Petersburg, Russia she went to Paris after the Revolution  She studied painting and sculpture but also learned millinery to make a living.  She fled to New York with her daughter in 1941 and began designing hats for Henri Bendel within a year she joined Saks Fifth Avenue and became head of it’s custom millinery salon, working along side Sophie Gimbel, until the Salon Moderne closed in 1963.  She was considered a perfectionist in choosing both materials and colors.  She married Alexander Liberman, an artist and editorial director of Conde Nast Publications.  She came to the Chicago Saks Fifth Avenue store on several occasions to work with the clientele.  Everyone at the time, late ’50’s early ’60’s wore hats, you just weren’t complete without one….in came the bouffant hairdo, out went hats!  I found her very austere, extremely talented and an authority everyone admired, especially the ladies lucky enough to have her personalized attention and specially created chapeaux. in her workrooms.

I love this photo…long before I met her.

A memoir written by Tatiana’s daughter, Francine du Plessix Gray, a very good read.

Adolfo having served an apprenticeship in Balenciaga’s workshop in Paris he emigrated to New York in 1948.  In 1953 he became chief designer for Emmé in the same year he won the Coty Fashion Award.  In 1962, with a loan from Bill Blass (which he quickly repaid) he opened his own custom millinery salon and later began making clothes to compliment his hats and then as his primary business.  He was a star with Saks Fifth Avenue for many years and a dear friend.  I will do a separate post on Adolfo in the future.  I wanted to tell you the story of our first encounter, rather amusing now, then not so much!!!!

imageAdolfo in his millinery salon.

Each time we had a guest designer at the Store we did a press reception, could be a breakfast, luncheon, tea, cocktail reception and always with an accompanying fashion presentation.  Adolfo’s first visit with us was no exception.  We planned a formal sit-down luncheon in the Bagatelle Room at Maxim’s restaurant in the Astor Towers (more on that restaurant in a future post).  At the time we had 4 daily newspapers, each with a fashion editor and an assistant fashion editor, several local weekly and monthly publications and lots of daily TV shows.  All were invited to this special event. I always liked to “personalize” the events in some way, and thought it would be amusing to do individual place cards in the form of hats.  Going a bit further, I went to our local “party store” Dennison’s (think Michaels or Hobby Lobby), they had all materials to use for showers, parties of all kind…just lots of good stuff…at least I thought so!  I found charming miniatures floral hat boxes, probably 3″to 4″ in size, matching tissue paper and materials to form miniature hats (look at the Bes Ben hat above for the look I was going for) for each guest.  I thought of each guest’s personality and created a one of a kind hat for each, placed them in their hatboxes tied them with a silk ribbon and attached their name card.  Having Adolfo with us was HUGE and everyone was extremely excited to meet him for the first time and hear his story and enjoy his creations.  As I was placing my miniature hatboxes at each place I had a major wave of horror….what was I thinking, I a non-creator making hats for a major designer….I was, of course, doing it to honor him but what would he think.  Well as I was just finishing the placement, in came my store manager with Adolfo, much too late for me to retreat!!!  I don’t get upset nor nervous very often but in this case I was terrified.  He looked at the table (oh, by the way, I had done one for him as well!!!) opened his hat box and said it was one of the most charming things he had seen and he found them delightful!  Everyone shared their own miniature millinery and placed them on top of their boxes to be admired. We were friends from that time onward!




imageThe Ivon footstool collection.

I do love my collections…some are very large, think my books…some are very small such as my footstools.  I have no idea why I have 6 footstools in my minuscule apartment but I do!  Three are needlepointed with beads, one is all over beadwork, probably my favorite.  One is a leopard print and two are wool needlepoint, one of which I did and one was given to me.

imageMy favorite all over beaded in mint condition purchased years ago at the Randolph Street Market. The next market is Saturday and Sunday, January 28 and 29 from 10 to 5.  See what you can find to add to your collections or start a new one.

imageA close up of the beadwork…I am obsessed with it!

While doing research for nenasnotes I found an interesting piece on the history of footstools, is there anything you can’t GOOGLE???!!!  I think not, at least I have found that to be so!  They actually began in Egyptian times (what didn’t!) and were some of the first pieces of furniture manufactured by the Egyptians. While I found that interesting I collect vintage Victorian objects, not Egyptian.

A quote from the piece from

“Regency and Victorian:  Antique footstools from the early 1800s Regency period consist of feet and frames with brass inlays.  Later, in the Victorian era, drawing rooms, where guests gathered after dinner, boasted fancy braided and tasseled-styled footstools. Footstool covers adorned with embroidery were introduced at this time and are valued today by collectors.”

imageThe top of one of the footstools which is mounted on a raised brass base and it is the one my feet rest upon while I’m sitting in my cozy chair reading, listening to music or watching television.  A gift from friends, not my work.

imageA close up of one of the bead and wool needlepoint tops, what I love about this piece is the areas of uncovered mesh.  the base is trimmed in a tapestry tape.

imageAnother beaded, a bit more heavily than the one above, and wool piece…do you think I favor roses on my footstools…yes, yes, I do!

imageMy newest acquisition is an oval leopard fabric stool on wooden pillow feet also purchased at the Randolph Street Market a major find at $25.00!  Needless to say, I immediately grabbed it!  It resides by the legs of my dining table.

imageI collect, as you now know from previous posts, lily of the valley.  Mom collected violet memorabilia.  I did this piece for her many years ago as a pillow and it now tops a footstool next to my bed.  I designed the piece and did it from a chart my preferred way to needlepoint (rather than painted or tramé).  I also have a needlepoint violet bellpull, one never knows when one might require “staff” to bring the tea into the drawing room! Much more on my needlework in future posts.


I grew up with Mid-Century Modern furniture, my parents wanted a change from their traditional homes, they grew up surrounded by antiques, and my Father, being an artist, wanted something new, something “sexy” something cutting edge!  Their choice of a furniture creator was Paul McCobb, the wood, maple, most of which Daddy painted with flat black paint and the upholstery, which was often changed, (Mom was a superb seamstress as well as an interior decorator) was Ben Rose fabric.  Daddy’s studio, with his drawing board and tabaret, which held his paints, brushes, pastels and all the various mediums he liked to use,  (which is the only piece of furniture I still have…I have decoupaged it with vintage lily of the valley postcards), was always dark walls, either charcoal gray or chocolate brown again using Ben Rose fabrics for the drapery and day bed upholstery, the room was also our guest room. Mom loved to change all the furniture and objects on an almost weekly basis.  She was tiny, but mighty, a truly wonderful, and talented in her own way, woman with an incredible personality….I was truly blessed with amazing parents!  I can’t even imagine the strength she had to move all the furniture by herself but move it she did. to our chairs but the arms were rounded. example of a Ben Rose fabric.

Why am I telling you this…actually for two reasons, first, I didn’t relate to Mid-Century  Modern at all, probably from birth!  I was raised to be my own person and was always allowed to do my room in my own style…that style was and is, eclectic!  I chose all my furniture for my room, I remember the first bed I chose was a “hide-a-bed” covered in dove grey.  I set up my room like a sitting room where I could play, create and “entertain” my friends. We always went antiquing and I collected what I was drawn to. My parents were always supportive of whatever I wanted to do so they were completely on board with my rather unique choices. Long after that decorating choice, actually in high school, I decided to start with antique and vintage items.  My first choices were a hand-painted French daybed, an antiqued green secretary and chair and a rococo set of drawers.  All these items are still in my apartment.

The second reason is that I wanted to mention my dear friends (family!), Tom Mantel and Tom Hawley, you have seen some of their pieces in my post on Erté in Fashion Flashback a couple of weeks ago.  They live in a totally restored (which they undertook themselves!) Mid-Century Modern home by the renowned architect, Bertrand Goldberg (think Marina City).  I will be doing a profile (probably a couple of weeks of photos) on this incredible home in upcoming posts  It is like reliving my childhood when I visit them taking me back to an era that was so important to my parents.

imageThe staircase at the Tom’s Mid-Century Modern Bertrand Goldberg home circa 1939-1940.

Our breakfast dishes were Fiesta Ware in all the colors of the day, we had it all, it was purchased at the local hardware store….seriously.  Our dinner dishes were Russel Wright’s American Modern dinnerware in granite grey (introduced in 1939), again we owned every piece in the “set”.  We entertained regularly so we had lots of it.

imageFiesta Ware bowls.

imageRussel Wright’s American Modern dinnerware in granite grey.

Both my parents were excellent cooks.  Mom was a super baker and an superb cook but her baking skills are what set her apart. I can still taste her perfect pies (which I can’t duplicate!!!) and coming home from school to the smell of loaves of freshly baked bread. We won’t even touch upon all the cookies and cakes…amazing! From a very young age I stood on a chair by Daddy’s side at the stove to assist with his cooking…while extraordinary memories, not many recipes were written down and unfortunately, he passed away at a young age, so I don’t have very many of them.  I do have a couple that he gave me when he might be late so I could get started with the prep.  One I do have, from memory, is his Borscht recipe which I am sharing with you today.  He cooked, like most chefs, with a bit of this and a drop of that.  I have tweaked the recipe as I think he would have done in 2017.

Daddy’s Borscht Recipe


2 Dinner servings or 4 first course servings

12 meatballs (I use Rosina Angus Beef Frozen meatballs they are superb, the only change from using homemade meatballs, why make them when you can get excellent ones frozen!)

4 11.5 oz. cans Original V8 (do not use spicy!!!)

2 15 oz. cans julianne beets including all the juice (not easy to find, this time I combined one can of julianne beets and one can of sliced beets, it worked well.  I went on line and found julianne beets available at Target, just saying!)

1/4 cup red wine (whatever you will be serving with your borscht)

5 dashes Angostura bitters

1 small bay leaf (be sure to remove before serving)

Place the frozen meatballs on a foil lined sheet pan in a 350º oven for 30-35 minutes until brown.

While the meatballs are baking combine other ingredients in a sauce pan bring to a boil, immediately reduce and simmer until you add the meatballs.  I cook them together to meld the favors for another 5-10 minutes at a simmer.  Serve piping hot.  Laddle into bowls and top with a generous dollop of sour cream (the fully loaded kind, please!) Serve with crusty artisan bread and, of course, loads of red wine.  A nice poached pear would be a perfect dessert, nothing heavy.  The soup is very rich. ENJOY!!!