imageRock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, designed by I. M. Pei, opened in 1995.

Continuing on this week’s musical theme I wanted to share the two fashion shows I did with the Saks Fifth Avenue store in Beachwood, Ohio.

I was asked by SFA Corporate to coordinate the fashion shows to benefit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the first, to my recollection, was in 2004 and we were presenting the St. John Collection, a huge resource for the store.  My head of production, Deb Gohr, and I flew to Cleveland to meet with the institution’s President and CEO, Terry Stewart and his wife, Sally to see the hotel that we were to present in as well as have a tour of the Hall itself.  I must admit to being totally ignorant about the Hall…I guess I thought it wouldn’t be an upscale place, how wrong I was…it is amazing!!!!  The building, designed by I. M. Pei, sits on the shore of Lake Erie and is in the form of a record player turntable, with a huge outdoor plaza.  Truly a glorious structure. The Stewarts graciously hosted a dinner party for us at their home and shared their own extraordinary memorabilia with us…oh my!

We only had a limited amount of time to spend and they had an exhibition of Mary Wilson’s (The Supremes!) costume and memorabilia that I really wanted to visit. Again, not a disappointment….the exhibit was on a separate floor from the main exhibits and was set up like a backstage dressing room.  Having worked with Bob Mackie (a post on him later….) it was super fun to see sets of three of his stage creations up close and personal.  They were exquisite.  Thank heaven she kept them so we could enjoy the glamour of The Supremes in their glory days. It was well worth the trip.

imageThe Bob Mackie gowns from the Mary Wilson Collection at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.  Photo credit unknown.

For the actual show a few weeks later, as usual, I booked the models but in this instance (all of them were coming from Chicago) I had to book their rooms at the Hotel, their flights to and from Chicago and Cleveland, transportation from the airport and back, arrange food for them for the two days they were there (yes, models do eat!!), etc.  All was fine with a few glitches…some of the models had to cancel and new ones put into place…this meant booking new tickets, even then you had to show ID and your ticket to airport security and to board..fortunately, there weren’t many changes.  The fittings were held at the Hotel the day before the show. All went well with both the fittings and show with Kelly Gray from St. John, in attendance for the luncheon and show and an in-store meet and greet….the store sold the St. John garments in great quantities that was pretty much a given with their wearability.  Yay…


image Similar looks from another St. John show, this one in the Chicago store. The two photos courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

In 2006, the Beachwood store was once again asked to work with the RRHF and I was invited back to coordinate it.  This time we were doing a Chanel Fall 2006 ready-to-wear collection in September.  I was thrilled to be working with the Chanel merchandise since we didn’t carry the brand in the Chicago store.  What made it even more special was I had seen the samples being worked on when I was in Paris for the Couture Collections in July 2006…what a pleasure to be in the Chanel workrooms realizing that the seamstresses were fashioning the exact garments, most of which were in black and white, I would be fitting and showing later that season…wow!  I made the trip back to Cleveland to work with the RRHF staff to prepare the event.  We really wanted to do the show in the outside plaza but decided it was cost prohibited and opted to once again show in the Renaissance Plaza Hotel Ballroom.  The same logistics were put in place, booking the 22 models, flying them to Cleveland, hotel accommodations made, fittings planned. In addition, Chanel had their special representative there to do the fittings and supervise the production and we also had a Saks Fifth Avenue Corporate representative to help oversee the event. The fittings took a very long time but since the models were booked for a two and a half day gig they weren’t on the “clock”.  I usually do an hour fitting….this wasn’t an hour! When doing an all one brand/house show I always want to have the models look like the original show, hair, make-up, attitude and this is what happened with this show, just, perhaps, with a little more effort.  The event was a cocktail reception, fashion show, performance by James Hunter and dessert reception. It was a sold out festive evening.  Again, sales were brisk, the point of doing a charity fashion show is, obviously, to raise money for the cause and, of course, drive sales of what you are featuring…both goals were beautifully accomplished.

imageThe front of the evening’s program.

imageimageimageThree images from the Chanel Paris Fall 2006 Runway Show.  Photo credits unknown.

I know one of the questions that I had on my first visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum was why in the world is it in Cleveland….well I got my answer (which by the way was explained in detail in the book I reviewed this week, Windy City Blues).  The term “Rock and Roll” is attributed to a DJ who started in Akron, Ohio and moved to Cleveland, Alan Freed…”he liked “race music and jazz” and had an audience of white kids who defied their parents and listened in and he started calling this music “rock n’ roll”, (a quote from the book).  Well, there you have it!  I must say if you are into music, collections of every major recording artist you can think of,  get yourself to Cleveland and visit this one of a kind museum, you won’t be disappointed.

In the meantime, you can visit the current exhibition at Navy Pier, Exhibitionism, The Rolling Stones,  if it is anything like the David Bowie exhibition that was at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago a couple of years ago, we are all in for a major treat.



imageNo, not mine, only in my dreams….an Imperial Faberge Easter egg.

It’s Spring, it’s Easter so we must have an egg post….yes, I collect them, not as many as in the past, I have given some away.  When I was a little girl my Father did the most beautiful eggs, hand-painted, wax transfers, all manner of artistic beauties.  Mom and I, of course, dyed dozens of them in solids and watercolors, the Easter Bunny then hid them for my Easter morning egg hunt…it wasn’t unusual to not find one or two until months later…luckily most were blown so didn’t become a smelly problem.  It was always great fun. And then there was the Easter basket filled with treats and little presents (we were always a present giving family…no Faberge eggs, I sorry to say!) In addition, we celebrated both Easters, which I thought very special (this year both are on the same day.)  For Russian Orthodox Easter, Daddy did only red eggs and we had baskets of them.  My Aunt Rose (who was like my grandmother, all my grandparents had died before I was born or when I was too young to remember them) would drive up from her bungalow on the Southwest side for Easter dinner and would always bring a lambie cake.  We alternated between a baked ham or leg of lamb, both of which I adored, still do.

Now for some of my egg collection along with some others…

imageTwo handpainted eggs, a lily of the valley etched Stuben, a malachite and a blue opaline all grouped together on top of an Asian chest.

imageA hand painted lily of the valley Limoges box in an egg shape.

imagePearl and brass lily of the valley encased in a glass egg-shaped dome.

imageGreen enamel with brass detail, it is actually a ring musical box.

imageFrom my friend, Virginia Heaven’s egg collection, she has been collecting for over 40 years…hand painted eggs from Poland from a local grocery store (I want to go to that store!!!)


Stone eggs that Virginia has acquired from her world travels.


Virginia’s wooden eggs that her Father made. All three photos from Virgina Heaven.

imageNow here is a collection….how could I not include it….photo credit not known.

imageA Faberge egg covered with precious stones in a micro mosaic pattern (totally different from the micro mosaics I discussed last week that I saw at Somerset House in London), of course, one of the Imperial eggs.

 Happy Easter to all my friends celebrating the holiday, Happy Passover to those celebrating their special time and happy spring to all of us.

Since I didn’t post my usual recipe of the week yesterday, I am doing so today with a recipe that will be perfect for your Sunday dinner no matter what you are celebrating.  Enjoy…..



2 racks of spring lamb (you can do this year round) about 3 pounds each, have your butcher trim them

Salt and pepper

1/2 cup melted butter

2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

2 cloves garlic very finely chopped (I use a scant Tablespoon jarred garlic paste, lamb loves garlic)

2 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 cups white bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 325º.  Season the lamb with salt and pepper to taste and sear the racks, fat side up, under a hot broiler for 5 minutes (or on top of the stove). Transfer the racks to a roasting pan and cook them in the preheated oven for 35 minutes.

In a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon work to a paste the butter, parsley, garlic, mustard and bread crumbs.  Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.  Take the racks of lamb from the oven at the end of the indicated time and coat thickly with the crumb mixture.  Return them to the oven and continue cooking for 15-20 minutes longer (depends on how you like your lamb, don’t over cook) or until crumb mixture is browned. Let them rest for 10 minutes before carving into portions 2 chops thick for each of 6 servings.

Serve with smashed potatoes, fresh spring peas, asparagus, vodka carrots, fresh mint sauce (and/or mint jelly) and, of course, lambie cake or a favorite lemon dessert or both.  A full bodied red wine, champagne or a lovely rosé.  Yum, Yum, Yum!!!

By the way, it was exactly, to the day, six months ago today that I began my blogging journey.  I hope you are enjoying my adventure as much as I am enjoying sharing my bits and bobs with you…who knows how long I will continue (hopefully a long time!) and what topics I will explore…do stay with me and bring along your friends, I do have some special treats in store!

I want to take a special moment and dedicate this post to Tom Mantel and the rest of my “adopted family”…they know why…love you! 



I have always needed music in the background of my life…I couldn’t study without it, or read, or cook or work or… blog!!!!  Both my Mother and Father, while not musical (Daddy did play the violin!) would sing to me as a child and to each other. I can’t remember not having “sound” around me. While I love classical music (mostly the Chicago Symphony, the Lyric Opera and an everyday dose of WFMT!) my favorites would be standards, show tunes, and Jazz! While reading Windy City Blues for my book review this week, I started thinking about my early days of collecting LP’s as well as my lack of a knowledge of the Blues.  Mom, after Daddy died, went to work for a friend who had a gift/record store in the Old Orchard Shopping Mall.  By now, dear readers, you know of my book obsession…I had the same thing for record albums, I had hundreds. While Mom was working at that store, I collected more of my favorites, including, of course, Frank Sinatra who was at the top of the list (still is, but now on my tech devices!!!) No one will ever have his sound.  One of my favorite Sinatra’s is Only The Lonely if you want to have a good cry just play it, it is amazing.  I decided not long ago that I would just play Sinatra and see how much I had…after over 15 hours and no repeats, I had to stop…and I don’t have his entire body of work!

imageOnly The Lonely 1958

In the early 60’s I decided I wanted to build my own record player and enlisted a friend to help me.  We would work a couple evenings a week, after work, in my home in Evanston.  A couple of weeks into this, soldering, figuring out the plans, putting everything together (in my mind I think we got the equipment at Lyon & Healy in Evanston), I said, “why are we doing everything twice”?  Silly us, we were doing a stereo (a new thing!!!) and I wanted a mono system.  We went back to the store and told them our problem and they graciously exchanged it for me…probably shaking their heads not understanding why I didn’t want stereo sound!!! It was great fun and I loved tinkering with it.  I learned so much, how to solder, how to read plans that looked like you were building an airplane and so much more.  My friend was a record geek and you weren’t allowed to have one record drop onto the next…I must admit that when he wasn’t around I piled them on, bad Nena!

When I moved into the City I brought all my LPs with me.  Many years later when cassettes and then CD’s came to be I decided, wrongly, to get rid of all of them and gave them to Chicago House, hoping they would enjoy them.  After putting all my CD’s on my tech devices and several of my friend’s devices as well, I gave them to another friend who doesn’t like technology. Of course, the craze at the moment is collecting vinyl (check out the next Randolph Street Market, April 22 and 23, www., to fill holes in your collection or start building a new one!)

imageThese were my favorite covers, Ella Fitzgerald Sings Gershwin, 1959, with covers by Berard Buffet…I wish I had kept those, they were amazing and matched her renditions of Gershwin’s songs.

My love for music hasn’t waned if anything it has grown…my taste is very eclectic just like my reading and the decor of my home.  I like so many genres of music and artists and how lucky we are to be able to have our music in so many ways today.

I have found a Facebook page that is devoted to “lost” Chicago iconic places such as Mister Kelly’s and The London House, it talks about many of the artists who have performed at these wonderful venues.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many evenings I spent in both these places, more at The London House (now the London House Hotel) where I would sit for hours listening to George Shearling and his quintet, loved him.

imageGeorge Shearling and his Quintet playing at The London House late 1950’s-1960’s

imageThe London House in the late 1950’s

First heard Ella Fitzgerald at Mister Kelly’s and of course, would go to The Blue Note for the Blues, Gate of Horn for Folk and on and on.  Now we can still go to Buddy Guy’s Legends on Wabash Avenue for more Blues.  I did a photo shoot in “old” space, down the street from the current location, several years ago.  A place filled with nostalgia, love it! And, of course, The House of Blues, stunning.

imageThe Blue Note in the late 50’s

imageBuddy Guy’s today

Once again I bemoan the fact that so many places are gone and nothing has replaced them.  Where can we hear good Jazz, great piano and where oh where can we go dancing!!!!

imageView from the rooftop bar at The London House Hotel, photo taken by Nena Ivon last summer looking North at some of our fantastic, iconic architecture.

All other photo credits unknown.



I’ve been a fan of Renee Rosen since I read What the Lady Wants, about Marshall Field’s, followed by White Collar Girl, taking place at a Chicago newspaper, both well written and fascinating combining fact and fiction in historical 20th Century Chicago (she happens to live in Chicago, as many of my favorite authors do!).  Loved both of them.  I was, therefore, quite excited when I learned that Ms. Rosen had a new book this year, Windy City Blues, I immediately put it at the top of my TBR list (where another of her books, Dollface, resides).  I was not disappointed, it is equally well written, actually I would say the best written of the three I have read, although not quite as interesting to me at the beginning…I got over that quickly when I became involved in the lives of the many characters, some real others fiction.

Since we were discussing music in Chicago with Denise McGowan Tracy’s profile yesterday and her wonderful singing career, what better time than to review the book today.

It is the story of the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s and how the Blues came to Chicago through Chess Records and how its many stars such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry and Etta James (one of my favorites!) came to be and the struggles the artists and promoters had through those years. The ups and downs…lots of downs, the one night gigs, the constant traveling, the successes dependent upon who would play their records both in the North and South.  How it was mostly a man’s world and certainly one of Black artists. How Rock and Roll began (in Cleveland, if you didn’t know that!) and the main story of a mixed marriage and how it survived through the years and through the early stages of the civil rights movement.  The struggles are all bound together by music, deep in the characters souls.

I have to admit I am more of a Jazz fan than Blues but when you hear any music done perfectly how can you not make it a part of you…as the musicians pour their hearts and souls into the lyrics and the rhythms that come from their instruments.  All this has to come together under the watchful and insightful ears of the promoters and the Chess brothers were the perfect team to know when they had found a rising star and when they were no longer viable. All this, of course, takes place over several decades, nothing happens overnight.  I am a huge admirer of Ms. Rosen’s skill to use authentic historical details (in all her books) to weave this complex story which boils down to love…the deep endearing love of a man and woman, and the many obstacles they face, and love of the music inside them that must be heard.  Having said that I truly believe a musician doesn’t need anything, other than their instrument (and that instrument can be their voice) and a song, an audience is a bonus, and money a necessity.  How privileged we are to be able to share the wonderful legacy these pioneers of a very special music genre that thrives to this day have given us.

I would suggest you read all of Renee Rosen’s body of work, let me know your thoughts by leaving your comments.


imageDenise McGowan Tracy

Of the many things I have learned while writing this post is how many friends and acquaintances I have that have such wonderful and fascinating lives.  I think of more each day to ask to answer my questionnaire.  In addition, NenasNotes has given me the opportunity to renew memories for me and my profile subjects…it is a blast, to say the least.  I hope you, my readers, are enjoying this journey as much as I am.

One such person is Denise McGowan Tracy.  We hadn’t seen each other in ages and bumped into each other a couple of times over the past few months, an omen that I needed to get her to answer the questionnaire.  I mentioned my blog and asked Denise if she would be interested in joining me, her immediate response, of course (which, by the way, has been everyone’s response, yay!!!)  I asked her when we first met and neither of us could remember, it has been that long.  I do know she was at Navy Pier at the time.  Denise is an extraordinarily talented singer and an amazing event planner…she knows everyone!  Do catch her at Petterino’s Monday Night Live, you won’t be disappointed and you may well hear many other talented performers who are in Chicago for a couple of days or a cast member or two from one of the many Chicago’s stage productions…you will have a fantastic evening of entertainment along with your always yummy food and drink selections at the popular Petterino’s, yet another of the wonderful Lettuce Entertain You enterprises.

Please enjoy Denise and her fascinating story…..


Hmm, which talent?  I feel like I always dreamed of being a singer/actress which I first discovered when our parents would have Saturday singalongs at our home at our cottage on Paw Paw Lake.  Dad played piano, Mom tambourine.  They both sang.  And I joined in.  I knew I loved it from probably 6 or 7 years old.
As for my event planning – I remember distinctly putting streamers up in the dining room for all the family birthdays and I even (some would find this hard to believe) made many of the birthday cakes.  All from a box, of course, it was the 1960’s and Duncan Hines ruled!
When I had more than two pairs of pantyhose in my sock drawer.  When I first started out, I was 19 and working as a receptionist for the Ice Follies/Holiday on Ice when they were owned by the Wirtz organization ad the office was in the old Furniture Mart (now 680 N. Lake Shore Drive). (Nena’s note, as a child, long before Denise was with the Ice Follies, I took figure skating at the Arena (across the street from the old Furniture Mart), and we skated on the Ice Follies ice when they were in town performing…we thought we were quite special!! Then we would sit in the audience and watch the matinee, it was magical!!!)
Denise with Cookie Monster while touring with Holiday on Ice – late 1970’s
I remember thinking that I knew I’d have made it when I didn’t have to wash out the pantyhose every day to have one drying while I was wearing one.  I laugh a little about that now.  And, when the sock drawer is overflowing it’s a good reminder of how lucky I really am.
Oh, and the time I was recognized as “that singer from Petterino’s” while on my honeymoon in Hawaii.  That was good, too.
imageDenise on stage at Petterino’s Monday Night Live.
It has certainly been a long and definitely winding road.  I really didn’t know what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to have fun while I was doing it.  I wanted music to be involved.  I wanted to laugh.  Finding jobs with Lettuce Entertain You at Byfield’s, then touring (I got a promotion!) with the Ice Follies/Holiday on Ice and saw that creative side of the business … all of it led to Navy Pier and then my own event production company which is where I am now.  Oh, and that little hobby of mine hosting Petterino’s Monday Night Live (celebrating our TENTH ANNIVERSARY in September) where I get to sing a song or two, tell a few stories and have fun with other talented friends both on and off the stage.  It’s the perfect balance of both of my loves.
Beckie Menzie and Denise celebrate 9 years of Petterino’s Monday Night Live.
Honestly, I can’t think of anything I’d be better at that I’d rather be doing.  Oh, well maybe “Julie from the Love Boat”.  That looked like a blast.


I read a lot, lot, lot of books and my favorites vary based on where I am in my world.  Right now I am recommending both A Gentlemen in Moscow and The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper.  Oh, and I did love Lilac Girls.  But favorite book is, of course, the one I wrote, Eleanor’s Very Merry Christmas Wish!  (Shameless plug!)  Favorite movie – again, depends.  But I could watch Moonstruck once a week.  And Casablanca.  Oh, and I loved My Man Godfrey so much I named my late dog Godfrey.  Singing in The Rain – of course! Anything Katherine Hepburn/Spencer Tracey.  I threaten to rent a theater and throw “The Denise McGowan Tracy Film Festival” one of these days to introduce the classics to people who aren’t familiar with them.  Now, THAT is an event I should produce.  Even if I’m the only one in the theater.

HOBBIES….  Watching theater.  Going to cabaret shows.  Going to jazz rooms to hear friends.  Great restaurants.  Great conversations with friends.   Reading.  Oh, and I’m addicted to the Scrabble game on my Kindle.  


We are an eclectic mix of merging two 50+ year-olds who happen to value sentiment over style, I’m afraid.  Our “great art” collection is a mix of street art bought from our travels, great photos of us with friends, colorful drawings of me done by artist friends over the years and my treasured original, signed drawings my Charles Schultz who I had the privilege of meeting and spending time with several years ago.
Denise with husband Ed Tracy at Congressional Medal of Honor Convention Black Tie Gala October 2009
Pasta, wine, and salad with recipes taught to me by my friend John’s late mother, Lena.  At the table – my closest friends who make me laugh.  John McLaughlin. Rachel Maddow, Katherine Hepburn.  Noel Coward.  Oh, gosh, I don’t know, this is really, really hard.  Could it be a weekly series with a theme??? (Nena’s note, we will look forward to your thoughts, Denise, on a weekly dinner series!)


Ireland.  I could go back tomorrow. And, I’ve never been to Greece so that’s high on the list.

I like Agora.  Although, I had to look up the name.  I just kind of wonder where everyone is going and if they’ll get there when I see it. (Nena’s note, also Michael Anderson’s, my first profile, favorite)
“She was kind.  She was funny.  She made a difference.”  Oh, and pretty, I wouldn’t mind pretty being included.

Denise’s Best Cranberry Relish Ever


1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1 bag cranberries (12 oz)

1 box (3 oz) raspberry Jell-O

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup chopped celery

8 oz. canned mandarin oranges (drained)

11 oz. canned CRUSHED pineapple (drained)


Dissolve sugar in water and bring to a boil.  Add cranberries.  Return to a boil.  Simmer on low/medium for about 10 minutes until cranberries burst.

Remove from heat.  Add Jell-O.  Stir thoroughly.  Let cool completely.

When cool, transfer to a large bowl and add all other ingredients.  Refrigerate for 24 hours.  Enjoy!

Note:  It will not be completely firm.

Denise McGowan Tracy Recipe “stolen” from Chicago Tribune archives


BLOGS I FOLLOW:  My husband Ed Tracy:

My niece: Mermaid Waves – http://mermaidwavess.




imageThe Pump Room when I first began presenting “tearoom” fashion shows there.

In my Monday Profile on Terri D’Ancona, she was extremely kind in her reminiscences about the shows we did at The Pump Room at the old Ambassador East Hotel (now the Public) and I wanted to expand on those thoughts with more details on those shows.


I was asked to do a weekly show in the 1960’s (they continued through the early 1990’s).  The Pump Room was THE place to see and be seen. Chicago, being the Railroad Capital of the World, was where every celebrity stopped over between trains coming or going from California to New York and Booth One at The Pump Room was the table everyone coveted.   It was a success from the day it opened in 1938. Restaurant shows were all the rage.  The models would walk through the tables showing the newest trends of the season.  Since we had so many “house” models (they were on weekly store payroll and I didn’t have to pay them extra) I would use them and supplement with freelance models, usually the same ones each week, four in total.  Our sales were always excellent.  We always had live music and a young man from New York arrived in Chicago for an engagement and stayed based in Chicago until today…that person and his orchestra was Stanley Paul! Part of that engagement included doing our shows. Not only did Stanley play for our shows but he also performed nightly with his orchestra, you see the room became a nightclub where one could, and did, go dancing…why do even the good things go away, I do love to go dancing.  I just have to content myself with watching Dancing With The Stars!  I would order lunch for all us (yes, models do eat!!!) call Stanley in his room (he lived at the Hotel at that time), wake him up and get him down to work the show.  Since The Pump Room was a celebrity hangout, Stanley often hung out with them, after his gigs were over which could be quite late.  We all had a blast and Stanley and I have stayed friends to this day.  We often talk about the “good old Pump Room days”. As Terri mentioned, Stanley, for the fashion shows and for all the events he played, would personalize a song to whoever was walking into the room or onto the dance floor.  The song was (is) often only known to Stanley and the person(s) involved, but its great fun. I am fortunate to have several CD’s of Stanley playing, I could and do listen to him all day, no one does standards like Stanley Paul, no one!!!

imagePhoto courtesy of Stanley Paul, in my scrapbook.

imageNena introducing and/or commentating a show in the center of The Pump Room.  An area we also used to do celebrity interviews.  I’m wearing one of my first Adolfo suits which is now in the Fashion Studies Collection at Columbia College Chicago.

imageYears later, Stanley and Nena at a pre-party for an event I was chairing and Stanley and his Orchestra were playing (not at the Pump Room.)

At some point in time The Pump Room was sold to Rich Melman of Lettuce Entertain You and he asked me to continue doing the shows, which we did and they became extremely successful for the restaurant and for the store so much so Rich asked me to do two shows a week, suggesting Fridays and I said you don’t need to fill the room on Fridays it is already filled, let’s do Tuesdays, and two shows we did, each Tuesday and Thursday.  After several years, Stanley decided not to do the shows any more and another pianist took over, Jackie O’Shea. The shows continued for many, many years and we did other shows in the room to benefit charities, entertain convention groups, men’s shows for the Holidays and on and on….

imageKaren Ryan, for many years one of my regular models, in a show (not a Pump Room show but you get the idea).

At the beginning of the shows I worked very closely with one of the most important public relations women in the City, Lucia Perrigo.  What a character and whirlwind she was and she knew absolutely everyone.  When she was doing her travelogues out of town with her husband, Howdie Meyer, (they themed dressed in costumes of the country they were discussing, quite amusing and great fun!) I would do the interviews, which I loved (and I still enjoy doing one on one interviews…do I see a podcast in my future, I think I might).  We would sit with our guests, who might be appearing in a play, doing a movie or just passing through Chicago, have lunch then do the interview in the middle of the room, these interviews were then followed by the fashion show.  In retrospect, not having any form of technology I can’t imagine how I got any other work done.

imageNena and Lucia waiting for our guest.  Could my hair be any closer to my head… seriously!!!!

One of my favorite events we did was working with the original costumes from the 1967 movie Camelot, (we also did one with the costumes by Donald Brooks for the movie Star, based on the life of Gertrude Lawrence, the clothes were glorious!)  The Camelot costumes were all in earth tones and extremely well constructed and in some cases very heavy. I suggest you watch both of these films you will enjoy them.

imagePoster from the film.

Lucia decided that she wanted me to wear the garment Guinevere, Vanessa Redgrave, wears upon her arrival to Camelot it weighed a ton…unbeknownst to Lucia I had cut all my hair off, she was horrified, “What happened to my Guinevere?” I thought she would burst into tears, after putting on several falls (remember those!) I was more in character.  I walked the entire room with my “Knights of the Round Table” and then stood and commentated the show with script prepared by the film company and Lucia.  I don’t love reading script, I am much better, if I may say so, impromptu.  The professional models wore the costumes from the film and members of the charity wore contemporary garments that I tied in with the feeling and color of the costumes.  A huge success.  The only problem, readers, is that I can’t find the photos of me in the costume, when I do, I will re-post, sorry!

imageWasn’t Vanessa Redgrave lovely.  The coat was extraordinary and great fun to pretend I was in a film. Photo credit unknown.

imageThe garment without me in it!!!  Photo credit unknown.

Well that is just a very brief overview of my years working with The Pump Room.  I am so glad they didn’t rename the restaurant, it is, of course, totally different in feeling, very contemporary, very now…just like the original version in its day!!!

imagePump Room today. Photo credit unknown.



  1. In a large saucepan, bring the wine and chicken broth to a boil.
  2. Rub the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and add to the liquid.
  3. Add the bay leaf.
  4. Lower the heat to a simmer and poach the chicken at just below a simmer for 10-12 minutes, depending on the size of the breasts.
  5. Remove the breasts to a plate and allow to cool, reserving the liquid.
  6. In a saucepan, melt butter.
  7. Add flour and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, 3 to 5 minutes.
  8. Return the wine and broth mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Pour it into the roux in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Place the pot over medium-high heat and, while whisking, return the sauce to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and allow the sauce to cook an additional 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  9. Add the sherry and remove the sauce from the heat. Cool at room temperature for 3 minutes.
  10. Whisk the egg yolks into the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Mix one half of the whipped cream into the sauce to lighten it. Fold in remaining cream gently but thoroughly.
  11. Cut the chicken into 1/2-inch cubes and add to the sauce. Mix well gently.
  12. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  13. Transfer the hash to a large, ovenproof casserole dish or 4 individual casseroles, sprinkling Parmigiano cheese over the top and bake, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes.
  14. Place the casserole under the broiler for 1-2 minutes to brown the top.
  15. Garnish as desired and serve.

All photos unless otherwise noted from the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago




I must share a giggle with all of you…I took yesterday off and got as many hits as when I post…seriously…should I just leave the space empty!!!!  I don’t think I will… let’s talk about Pietra Dura (Dure).

imageMy most treasured piece.  It is framed in gold wood with a green velvet mat and is housed on the front of my faux malachite fireplace. The ground is black marble and the love birds have mother of pearl wings and tails and white onyx bodies with red stone eyes, the mother of pearl pearls are tied with green malachite ribbons.  It is supposedly a reproduction (although it is an authentic piece) of a plaque that resided at the bedside of Marie Antoinette.  The story behind it is…there was a fabulous shop of objects, definitely a shop of curiosities, on Michigan Avenue many, many years ago, named Pique, which was owned by a Mother and Daughter that I knew quite well.  It was not on the ground floor but they had an always charming set of windows that changed often and that is where I first saw this little gem.  I would pass it daily on my way to the subway (if I wasn’t taking the Outer Drive Express bus) to Evanston.  To say I coveted it would be an understatement!  But it was quite pricey and my $37.50 take home pay didn’t allow for its purchase, it didn’t dawn on me to do payments…silly Nena! One day it was gone…I thought it might be in the shop, but no it was sold!!!  I don’t remember if it was the very year that I fell in love with it or not but for either my Birthday or for Christmas, Mom had it beautifully wrapped and surprised me with it.  It would be one of the first things I would grab in an emergency.

It wasn’t, however, my first piece of Pietra Dura, that was a small remembrance from my first boss and mentor, Kay Walsh Dobson and her husband Larry.  We were all very close.  They married later in life and I became the child (a grown child at that) they didn’t have.  Larry had always been a world traveler, (he was a Lieutenant Coronal with the Army), and Kay, after their marriage, which happened to be the day I started at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago, traveled with him, extensively.  They always brought back something special for me, and the piece below was from their trip to Florence and actually came from the workshops where it was created.

imageI can’t identify the stones, probably marble, for you but the background is again black marble, which many of the Pietra Dura pieces are.  The photo is a bit larger than lifesize again framed in gold without a mat. The year, probably 1958.

imageA pair of earrings that I purchased many years ago at the Randolph Street Market  Love the daintiness of them (hardly me!) they fit into my Victorian jewelry collection perfectly, I think they are quite stunning and were probably as costly as the lovebirds!!!

imageAnother piece from the Randolph Street Market.  I have mentioned before that I collect all things lily of the valley, but don’t wear it…this brooch is now framed. Again I would think Victorian.

imageI love this piece it was given to me many years ago as a Christmas gift from a friend.  It is approximately 15″ in length and 6″ wide the 3″ medallions are mounted on an antiqued painted back ground and a mahogany frame.  I find it charming.








A close up of two of the medallions.

Obviously, my pieces are small but the craft can be seen in museums as tables, major plaques, pictures, details, etc.  If you are lucky you can find a treasure or two while scouting antique shows (I don’t need to tell you which one is my favorite…do I!) or antique malls or flea markets if you can find them anymore!

Here are a couple of rare books on the subject as well, check out eBay.

imageimageThe process is extremely intricate and time-consuming, much like putting a very detailed zig saw puzzle together.  It takes skilled craftsmen to do the pieces, which are still done today.  The craft started in Ancient Rome and China (where you can find  pieces (very, very expensive) but it is Italy and particularly Florence where the art flourishes in vintage pieces as well as modern day objects. For more information go to

Pietra Dura should not be confused with Micro-Mosaics which uses much smaller pieces of glass, stone, etc.  On a trip to the UK while in London, I went to Somerset House and they had a totally incredible exhibition of Micro-Mosaics, some so delicate that there were magnifying glasses to view them…an exquisite, educational exhibition.  The range was from jewelry to huge works of art.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any personal documentation (this was before the time when we all had our handy dandy phones to be able to immediately capture anything we want!!!)  I do somewhere is my vast book collection have a catalog from that exhibition.  There are, of course, many books on the subject.

imageThis gives you an idea of the intricacy of the workmanship (the workman seems to be in need of a manicure, but who cares the creativity is unbelievable!)

imageA stunning example of a micro mosaic. Photo credit on both the above photos unknown, all other photos by Nena Ivon.



I had read reviews of Judith Flanders other books, particularly her stories of Victorian life, but hadn’t read any of them, I can’t tell you why since I am obsessed with anything Victorian.  Obviously a major lapse in my reading that I need to correct quickly.   As you know I love to read advance reviews of books and A Cast of Vultures had rave reviews so I thought now would be the time to begin with her mysteries.  This is the third in the series with Samantha Clair as the protagonist.  It is written in the first person and the characters are very believable and draw you into the narrative. A quote from one of my most favorite authors, Louise Penny, in praise of the series on the book jacket: “Hilarious, big-hearted, clever, whip-smart and devious.” That alone would make me pick up the book.

imageJudith Flanders from the book jacket, photo by Clive Barda.

Sam is an editor at a London publishing house, (Judith Flanders spent two decades in publishing!) and we meet her boyfriend, Jake, who is with Scotland Yard (does every English mystery have someone from the “Yard” somehow involved in the story….I think so!) along with other neighbors and co-workers along with squatters, neighbors, garden enthusiasts, et al, (all the characters are well written), who are involved in the plot.  It begins with Sam waking up nursing a horrible hangover to end all hangovers (can we all relate!!!) when people go missing, fires break out, a man is found in the ashes, is it arson or not, (I found Flanders explanation of a fire, the smell, the feel, the closeness, the pull to run to it, really informative and a bit frightening, I hope never to be that close to one!) and goes from there. I enjoyed a journey into the world of publishing, in particular, Sam’s mentoring of Miranda, her Goth assistant, and that the story takes place in London, not my preferred location for English mysteries which would be the English countryside, but I adore London so why not enjoy the read!  The timeframe is contemporary so we can relate to the modern details.

The writing is very intelligent, keeps you guessing, funny at times, deep and poignant at others, a cozy, I don’t think so…it’s a bit too edgy…I really need to review a cozy mystery in the near future, because I do enjoy them, on occasion, as a brain cleanser. This book isn’t filled with blood and gore, it is rather a thoughtful look at how one deals with life, and in this case having a murder thrown into your day.  I hope I have wetted your appetite for a new mystery series, (want more read the book!!!) or perhaps you have already read Judith Flanders other works…if so do share your comments with me and the other followers. Your opinion means a lot to me.  My independent bookstore of choice




imageAlfie and Terri D’Acona, I would date this 80’s, they look the same!!!  From Terri D’s scrapbook.
I know my readers enjoy my Monday Profile’s, they get many hits, thank you for your support.  And I know you love the stories my models are telling and today’s is not an exception.  Terri D’Ancona and I have known each other for more years that either of us cares to remember, but the memories are good ones to be sure. Terri was one of the small group of models who basically did all my Saks Fifth Avenue shows for years and has been in my Model Reunion shows ever since she reluctantly hung up her modeling pumps!  We often kid about her shoes are always ready to hit the runways whenever I need her and you know what…she isn’t wrong! She is as chic as ever and  (as have all of my “girls”) has kept her figure just in case she gets the call to walk the catwalk!
She has been extremely active in Chicago’s philanthropic scene for many years and not only does she support many organizations in the City but has chaired many galas throughout the years.  She has superb taste in styling her clients, staging interiors, and playing her beloved tennis.
imageTerri and her tennis buddies, in the ’80’s…a lot of familiar faces (Lawrie Weed, I challenge you to name all of them, I know you can!)  Photo from Terri’s scrapbook
imageA newspaper clipping from a Mannequin Ball, for many years one of THE events of the Chicago social season.  Terri and Alfie with Susanne and Ken Johnson. From Terri’s scrapbook.
imageAlfie and Terri today…some things never change.
Terri and Alfie, are beloved by all who know them….here then is a brief story from Terri D’…..
“I started modeling in the year of 1967. The same year I got married. As a teenager, I worked in the summer at a modeling and talent agency. I was 15 when I did my first TV commercial for Ohio Bell Telephone. It’s when direct distance dialing started, DDD. It was the beginning of direct long distance dialing, which meant you did not have to call the operator to have her connect you long distance call.  It was a long time ago!
I had studied Drama from the time I was a little girl and I majored in it in college. I had always wanted a career in the theatre. That is until I married. I found modeling to be the best of both worlds. Runway shows were a wonderful way to connect with an audience and wear and show beautiful clothes. I worked for 25 years and it was the most fun with the most wonderful talented people.
imageWith some of the models after a show.  Photo courtesy Terri’s scrapbook!
I had so many favorite Saks Fifth Avenue shows. But my most favorite has to be the Pump Room luncheon show with Stanley Paul at the Piano.  I had done many of these shows, but the one that sticks out is the most special of them all. Wonderful Nena Ivon, had been nice enough to keep me modeling even though I was pregnant with my first child. You see, Saks at that time, 1971, had a maternity department. I got to show maternity clothes and use my Saks discount ( which is very important) to buy my clothes. I was 6 months pregnant and this was to be my last show. Unbeknownst to me, Nena had planned a surprise baby shower. Not only that, the newspaper photographer was there to chronicle this special moment with a reporter who did an article. My mother was in the audience with a dear friend of the family, Don Loper, a very well known Hollywood designer. This was so much fun Stanley Paul on the piano played songs like, ” I’ve got you under my skin “.  Every song he played had an underlying meaning to my pregnancy. It was hysterical.
After the show was over, Nena had planned a wonderful lunch. All the models brought gifts, but the best gift of them all was the Raggedy Ann needlepoint pillow, backed in red gingham. Nena had made this pillow for me, knowing that I had planned the baby’s room in red and white gingham. I still have that special pillow. It is in my granddaughter, Sedona’s room.
imageSedona with the needlepoint pillow.  Terri said that she knows the story of the pillow and she wants to make sure to have it for her children!
I had so many favorite designers at Saks. Adolfo was so special. He made us girls feel so good and we loved showing his clothes. Also, Galanos. Being in the Galanos show was very special. He had picked his girls for each and every one of his shows.
We girls would diet for a week, cause you really had to be thin to fit his clothes and you had to have small hips. He would audition each model individually. He had you get on a coffee table and pivot so he could see every angle to make sure his clothes would work on you. It was very special when you were chosen and devastating if you weren’t.
imageAnother newspaper clip from Terri’s scrapbook…don’t we all remember the crochet hot pants, maxi coat era!!!!  Seriously, crochet garments are back in fashion!!!!
I remember one of my first shows at Saks was in the store. I think we were showing Nina Ricci, but I’m  not sure. I was very nervous, being the new girl on the block.
We would show the coats and suits and always opened our jacket to show the blouse underneath. Well, I will never forget, this one, very seasoned model, who I  looked up to, went out and opened her jacket, but she had no blouse on and did not realize it.
It was a very funny backstage moment. She laughed and we all laughed with her.
Right now, I  am selling and designing and making jewelry. It’s sort of a hobby. I have a very nice clientele. Alfie and I love vacationing in Capri in the summer. I fell in love with this jewelry designers work in Capri. I bring pieces back to sell. I also consult at Saks, by appointment only.  I used to have my own boutique, Terri D’, on Oak Street, after I retired from modeling. I love retail and helping women with their wardrobe. This all stems from my fashion career. I also do interior design on a very small scale. I love beautiful clothes, furniture, accessories, etc.
My modeling career taught me to always be on time or early. I always allow more than enough time for appointments. I can’t stand to be late. There was no worse feeling in the world, being late for a show. I still, to this day, have nightmares about being late to a show.”
image  A photo for a newspaper editorial, from Terri D’s scrapbook.
I asked Terri what the story is behind the Chicken Terri D’ at Lettuce Entertain You’s Mity Nice Bar and Grill in Water Tower Place here is her answer….
“Funny story about Chicken Terri D’….
Nena’s note…not the best photo, that I took, but you can get the idea of the presentation, it is truly delicious!
“Might Nice Bar and Grill had just opened. I was still modeling and had my store. I was trying to eat healthy with mostly protein. I asked them to make the Parmesan-coated thin scallops of chicken and put them over steamed spinach. Also a side of chopped tomatoes and kalamata olives with capers mixed together. Lots of lemon wedges. (I love lemon and many times I use lemon instead of salt).  The tomato and olive mixture is put over the chicken and spinach with lemon to taste.
When Mighty Nice opened, we would go at least twice a week. We always took friends there. I always ordered, what is known as Chicken Terri D’. All my friends would come in and ask for the chicken that Terri D’ always ordered. It became so popular, that they added it to the menu. It’s been on for years. A few years ago, they decided to remove the dish from the menu. The received so many complaints,  that they had to put it back on. Anton (the one and only) Maitre D told me the story. It’s a Melman Lettuce Entertain You restaurant Rich and Martha Melman are good friends and we always enjoy their restaurants. Having a dish named for me is my claim to fame.”
(Nena’s note, I almost live at Mity Nice, FoodLife and FoodEase love them and order Chicken Terri D’ more often than not…two of my all time favorite Chicago restaurants are Everest, my #1 favorite, I have had many special evenings there, including my Saks 50th Anniversary dinner, and an extraordinary special birthday celebration with dear friends and Ambria, now no longer with us! Cheers to Rich Melman and his incredible teams and his vision for restaurants in Chicago and around the country, he is truly a restaurant icon!)

“One of my favorite recipes.
This works great with the frozen sea bass from Costco, I promise.
If I’m in a hurry, I use teriyaki sauce and leave out the curry.
The fresh ginger and green beans are a must.
Can be prepared ahead and baked when guests arrive for an easy,no-fail dinner party entree.”
1 1/2 pound plum tomatoes each cut into 8 wedges
1 large onion halved through root end, each half cut into thin wedges
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
8 oz. green beans, trimmed, and cut diagonally into 2″ pieces
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
4-5  6 oz. sea bass fillets, each about 1 1/2″ thick
Preheat oven to 400º.  Spray large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray.  Combine tomatoes, onion, and garlic on prepared sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil to coat. Spread in an even layer.  Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Roast until onion begins to brown, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.
Remove baking sheet from oven and increase temperature to 450º,  Mix beans, curry, and ginger into tomato mixture, top with fish.  Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper.  Spoon some of the tomato mixture over the fish.  Roast until fish is just opaque in the center, about 18 minutes.  Transfer fish to plates spooning tomato mixture over them.