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!!!


    • nenasnotes January 18, 2017 / 2:21 pm

      Thank you so much dear friend!!!! It was a fun one to write.

  1. Tom Mantel January 18, 2017 / 5:31 pm

    Thanks for the mention in your blog. That is a great photo of the staircase.
    Love the Russell Wright dinnerware, wish you still had it all.

    • nenasnotes January 18, 2017 / 6:01 pm

      I Ike that photo as well. We have to coordinate the next “Toms” posts. Sorry I don’t have the Russel Wright dishes so you could have them. Oh well!!!

  2. Rachel Hanna January 19, 2017 / 12:10 am

    Thank you, Nena.
    I enjoy reading all your blogs.
    This one is extra special.

    • nenasnotes January 19, 2017 / 12:12 am

      Thanks so much Rachel. I really appreciate your support. I need more followers and comments. Please spread the word!!!

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