A FASHIONABLE CHRISTMAS

imageWhen these two gentlemen greet you at the door of Casa Hyder/Smith you know you are in for a great time, their annual Christmas Tree Trimming Party was not an exception.  I have been after Greg Hyder since I began nenasnotes to join me with his stories, all of a sudden he became shy and kept putting me off.  I finally said, “you are off the hook”!  A sigh of relief from him and then he thought better of it and said: “how about coming to our Tree Trimming Party and documenting it!”  Why not indeed! I have known Greg for years and Jim for just about as long.  I worked with Greg when I was still at Saks and he was always very generous with chefs from The Peninsula Chicago, where he is Director of Style and Community Relations, when I had events that featured the top chefs in Chicago, in addition he never said no to door prizes for special shows and events.  We have had many too many glasses of wine together, obviously both our sign of a good friendship!  Silly us!!!

Well, all I can say is when someone tells you they are obsessed with something believe them!  There isn’t a square inch of their exquisite home that isn’t decorated to the nines.  It is extraordinary, to say the least.  Let me take you through it, at least a little bit of it.  The scale is something else.  The tree is gigantic, I have no idea how they got it up three flights of stairs.

imagePicking out the perfect tree at Gethsemane Garden Center

imageLights on and the ornament placement begins….each area of the tree has its own themed ornaments, let’s look at some of them, there are hundreds!  Many collected on their trips and many are family traditions.

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imageimageimageimageAnd, of course, a Cubs section!!!!  Our hosts are avid Cubs fans!

imageSome baubles were held aside for the party guests, remember the theme of the day was a tree trimming party!!!!  We were told if their placement didn’t meet with Mr. Hyder’s approval off they would come (after the party!)  Pictured are Tim Emond, Becca Smith (Jim’s daughter), Julie Machmon and Jean Antoniou.

On to the Santas….

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The custom-made Cubs Santa next to the fireplace….glorious!!!!

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imageimageimageimageimageThe crystal chandelier is festooned with red ribbon and the bobeche are filled with cranberries rather than drippings of candle wax, finished with a huge ornament.

imageAnother chandelier looking from the hall into the living room.

imageThe hall from the living room into the rest of the home.

imageSanta has forgotten his hat on the bed…

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Jim’s painting over the chest in the bedroom, it is only displayed during the Christmas season, another takes its place the rest of the year.  I was quite taken with this painting.  Obviously a talented artist.

imageAnother wall in the bedroom, I love icons and have done a post on them.

imageOne of the bathrooms, of course, in its festive attire!

How about a couple of wreaths…..

imageIn the dining room..

imageAnd inside the backdoor in the kitchen….

imageThe back bedroom with its African theme gets in the holiday spirit!

imageimageimageThe drinks tables…special Christmas Mimosas, yummy!

imageThe tree in the corner of the dining room with more treasured memories

imageimageOh, and did I mention food……my oh my what a spread. Top photo the sweets table (I suggested a cookie exchange next year they were so good!!!!!) Bottom the baked ham, cheeses., paté, relishes and on and on and on……(I got a goodie bag, yay!!!!)

imageJim, Nena, and Greg in front of the tree (still wasn’t finished the tinsel had yet to be placed piece by piece by piece!) that rivals the one in The Walnut Room and this one is alive!!!!!  Thank you so much, my friends, for allowing me to share your Christmas story with my readers, I am most grateful!

The soup served was worthy of my having two cups, here is the recipe beyond fabulous but then so was the entire afternoon…

FROM NENA’S RECIPE BOX

GREG AND JIM’S CREAM OF PUMPKIN SOUP WITH CURRY

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 1/2 quarts chicken stock

32 ounces (4 cups) canned pumpkin

2/3 cup brown sugar

Salt to taste

White pepper to taste

Nutmeg to taste

2 cups heavy cream

Chopped chives or parsley for garnish

Serves 12

Melt butter in 6 or 8-quart saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onion and saute for 5 minutes until translucent.  Add curry powder and cook for 2 more minutes.  Add chicken stock, pumpkin, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and nutmeg; blend in cream.  Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.

Adjust to desired consistency with a roux (equal parts melted butter and flour) or a whitewash (flour and water).  If too thin, cook an additional 10 minutes to cook out the starch.  If too thick, add more cream.  Adjust flavor with seasonings.

Blend in a blender until smooth and creamy.  Ladle into bowls or mugs and garnish with chives or parsley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COLLECTIONS: CHRISTMAS COLLECTIBLES

imageThis week I have been featuring Christmas traditions, today I am highlighting the extraordinary collections of an extremely talented friend of mine, Virginia Heaven.  We have known each other for years, and years, and years!  We first met at the Chicago History Museum where she was the Assistant Curator of Costumes, we have continued our friendship through our association with the Costume Society of America Symposium and for the past many years with the Fashion Studies Department at Columbia College Chicago and spend many an evening over a glass or two of wine and a cheese tray at the Chicago Hilton talking about the way of the world.  Virginia is never at a loss for words, ideas and her passion for collecting so many different things.  I have used some of her photos in past posts and am still waiting (are you reading this Ms. Virginia….) for her to complete my profile questionnaire…..someday!  Today I am sharing some of her Christmas favorites.  Please forgive me for starting with my photo of the wonderful winter house she made and gave me several years ago.  I should keep it out all year, but there are some things that one needs to keep for special occasions…don’t you agree!  All photos are Virginia’s and I will give you brief information as we look at them.

A quote from Virginia “I have been collecting Christmas decorations in earnest since 1979 on my December honeymoon in Moscow (starter husband) where I purchased holiday ornaments made in Eastern Europe at the GUM Department Store (before it was fancy) still the Soviet Union.  I have always loved Christmas and it was a huge thing when I was a child (only child like you Nena).”  Virginia is English so we continue that theme as well, what can I say!

Her two most favorite things are her birds and her Snow Babies (which are getting much more collectible and more expensive, what isn’t!)  Here a couple of photos of these two collections…..might I pause here and remind you that the last Randolph Street Market of 2017 is this Saturday and Sunday, December 16 and 17 from 10 to 5 each day.  Do come for the festivities and see what you can find for last minute gifts and for yourself while enjoying yummy treats and delicious drink.  And, by the way, there will be Christmas Trees in the parking lot (parking is free!!!!!!).

imageA beautiful German glass bird (I had these when I was a little girl) perched in her red tree.  imageSome of her treasured Snow Babies, charm personified!

imageYou knew I would find a book on the subject…….here you go.

imageNot one of Virginia’s but a charmer I found on Pinterest no photo credit available.

Yes, a real “snow baby” started a collecting trend. Find out more about the tot born at the North Pole and how it led to snowbabies figurines. Read More: https://www.thespruce.com/real-snow-baby-collecting-trend-148565?utm_source=emailshare&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=shareurlbuttons
image“The green church is homemade from early 20th century, the base and fence were purchased separately and all the tinsel and brush trees were accumulated over the years.”
image“This church is home-made probably in the 1940’s it was made for a real tree but I use it with a fake tree that I cover with my blown glass birds.”
Let’s go on to the Santas…..”I also collect Harold Gale Santa’s and make a Santa tree in an old wire Victorian plant stand.  I also collect minature German and Japanaese animal bands!”
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And now some of the vignettes…..
imageimageimageimageimageimageThese pieces are clock cases that Virginia has discarded the nonfunctioning clocks and made them into display cases, they stay out all year and their contents often change.
imageThis is my favorite, I might need a bigger bag when I visit, if you get my meaning!!!!
imageLet’s pull up a chair by the fire and enjoy some of the treats Virginia has put out for us.
A true wonder of a multitude of collections each special in its own right but all work together, in my opinion, perfectly and reflect the wonderful aesthetic of their owner.  Bravo Virginia….keep on collecting, I know it is in your DNA!!  Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: CHRISTMAS CRACKERS

imageBy now you are well aware that I am a major Anglophile and I become totally English at Christmas (it is in my DNA, my Mom was English and German), I adore all the tradition of an English Christmas and had the opportunity, several years, ago to spend Christmas with a family in the English countryside.  It was a glorious week….roasts every day and major celebrations with presents and extraordinary meals for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

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I remember sitting in the parlor one evening and said out loud that the perfect end for that day would be a glass of port and Stilton….out of nowhere in came my hostess with a whole wheel of Stilton, the proper silver scoop server, crystal port glasses, and a decanter of vintage port…..talk about hospitality!!!!!   My hostess adored Christmas Crackers and we had them for all three days.  They were quite elaborate and, of course, we all sat around with our paper crowns and read aloud our silly messages housed inside. I don’t remember all the tokens inside but they were very special.  I know she got at least one set from Harrod’s. Years later back home in the States I was entertaining for Christmas Day with the traditional standing rib roast, Yorkshire pudding, etc. and wanted to do Crackers for my guests (and me!) and thought I would order them from Harrod’s, you can’t get much more authentic than that….well they started around £200 at the time and went up from there….needless to say I found some locally!

imageI found these last year, obviously for the ladies in attendance got others for the gentlemen.

In past years I spent time with friends for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day and I always brought the Crackers and have found many locally, ones that I adored were from Burberry with super gifts inside, I got a beautiful red leather tape measure in mine one year.  I have also found stunning ones at Costco (they are actually Tom Smith’s Crackers!!!)…yes, you heard correctly as well as by mailorder from  Olde English Crackers where you can even create your own.  Probably too late this year but you might try the Costco route, who knows.  You might even get lucky at Randolph Street Market Holiday Event this Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 5 and find some vintage ones, wouldn’t that be perfection.  You know you will find things for yourself and for gifts as well as some vintage Victorian ephemera.

imageChristmas Crackers covered in Liberty of London prints, charming.

You knew, of course, that I would give you a bit of background on when and where this tradition began, it is an interesting story.  In  mid-19th Century Victorian England,  Tom Smith, who was a candy maker and baker, discovered while in Paris a version of an early Cracker, a sugared almond wrapped in decorated paper twisted at each end.  He decided to wrap his sweets at home in the same way.  The trend didn’t catch on.  Being an entrepreneur he decided to include a trinket.  The idea of the snap came from fireworks and in 1961 Smith presented this version to the public and shall we say the company has never looked back.  The legacy of “Bangs of Expectations” was carried on by Tom’s sons, Thomas, Henry, and Walter.  In 1906, Tom Smith’s company was granted the Royal Warrant by the Prince of Wales, which entitled the company to become a member of the Royal Warrant Holders Association.

imageI found this advertisement quite delightful.

imageStart now and you will be all set for Christmas 2018!image

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imageCovers of the boxes

imageOf course, a book recommendation for further research and enjoyment!

imageAnd another one for fun!

imageI know there isn’t time to make your own plum pudding (I do have a super recipe that I will share next year in plenty of time!) you can get really good ones from Crosse and Blackwell or you can make a mincemeat pie (my most favorite, I can eat an entire one myself, not all at one sitting….well maybe!) and serve the following hard sauce (which, by the way goes beautifully with poached pears or just by the spoonful!!! Bad Nena!) It is by far the best hard sauce ever, it was given to me by one of my Saks Store Managers, Bob Pike, along with the Plum Pudding recipe.  Enjoy!!!!

FROM NENA’S RECIPE BOX

BOB PIKE’S HARD SAUCE

2/3 cup soften butter

3 cups confectioners sugar

1/4 cup Calvados (or a bit more like I add)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

Place butter (in pieces) with sugar in a food processor add Calvados and vanilla.  Process until creamy.  Chill.  (I use a hand mixer, I no longer have a food processor and you can lick the blades!)

 

All photos are from Pinterest no photo credit available

 

 

 

 

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: HOLIDAY READING

imageIf you are this far along with your Holiday plans it’s time to sit by the fire with a glass of “real” eggnog, a slice of the fruitcake, I gave you the recipe for last week, or some of the cookies that I am featuring at the end of this post, and a Christmas Story or two….here are some thoughts for you and, of course, for gifts.

A couple of new ones this year by two of my favorite authors who by the way, have new books coming out early 2018…can’t wait!!

imageThis is a charming mystery with one of my most favorite detectives, Charles Lenox.  He is almost my favorite but I’m afraid Armand Gamache still has the biggest part of my heart!!!  But I must say Charles Lenox is very close….You can get this on your Kindle for a major bargain.  An easy read and one I know you will enjoy….the mystery had me guessing until the end but not so Lenox, the smartie!!

imageI am crazy for all of Rhys Bowen’s stories and have followed Molly Murphy since the series began.  Yet another mystery but set in the US, you know I am a bit partial to an English mystery as you shall see.  Read for your pleasure and give as a party gift or a perfect grab bag present.

imageA charming bit of fluff and why not.  If you are addicted to all the Christmas films on The Hallmark Channels…this is for you.  I’m more a White Christmas (I cry every year!), kind of gal!

imageimageOf course, a couple of Christie’s in the mix…definitely in the English spirit of the Holidays and a bit of murder thrown in, oh my!

imageA beautiful vintage A Christmas Carol, nothing more classic and again a perfect gift…I’m mad for this hand tooled leather volume.

imageNew this year and the basis for the film in theaters now…looks fabulous and both are on my to-do list before the end of the year.  And, of course, an annual must-see is the Goodman Theater’s production of A Christmas Carol, I never miss it. It runs through December 31st.

imageAnd speaking of a must-see have you gotten yourself and everyone you know to The Joffrey Ballet’s exquisite version, you have until December 30….hurry, you don’t want to miss it, if you have gone I suggest you go again the details are so intricate you need to see it more than once, that is a given!  How about a doubleheader with both The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol, treat yourself to a couple of days in our beautiful City with a stay at one of my favorite hotels, The Peninsula,  The Ritz Carlton or any one of our fabulous boutique hotels with a special dinner….it is the holidays after all!  So much to do and it is already the middle of December, oh dear!

imageA charmingly nostalgic short story made into a vintage 1966 TV piece, you can watch on YouTube, with Geraldine Page. Capote narrates it.  Talk about a tearjerker!!!!  It is my chum Tom Mantel’s favorite and The Toms and I watch it every year while doing our holiday marathon baking weekend.  The strangest thing happened last week, I was going to bed and turned on WFMT-FM, my favorite station, and heard a familiar voice, no it wasn’t one of the hosts, it was Truman Capote reading A Christmas Memory, karma, I think so!

imageA beautifully written book and one I read every Christmas Eve when I was commuting from Evanston to work, I still read it every Christmas Eve day.

imageA lovely book on the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah which begins on December 13th.

These are just a few of the Holiday books that are available, each of your Independent Booksellers have tables full of more suggestions, not to mention all the cookbooks, children’s books and on and on and………..As you are well aware nothing pleases me more than a book at any time of the year.  Enjoy!

imageThis charming scene is actually a pop-up book, well not really it is a record album cover in The Tom’s magnificently decorated home.  I took this photo all others are from Pinterest photo credits unknown.

Remember the last Randolph Street Market is Saturday and Sunday, December 16 and 17.  You will be able to complete your Christmas list, enjoy a glass or two of spirits along with some goodies.  A perfect place to fill those holes in your list or grab last minute items for stocking stuffing (Mom and I always got special goodies in the toes of our stockings, no coal for us…thanks, Daddy!), grab bags or to take to those many holiday parties on your horizon.

I’m leaving you with one of my most favorite cookie recipes that I have made since I could stand on a chair and help with the baking (and cooking), so for a verrrrrry long time.  I don’t remember if I shared it with you last year, I think not, but in any case, worth having in your recipe box.  The cookies just get better with age in their cookie tin.  You won’t be able to eat only one!

From Nena’s Recipe Box

Russian Teacakes

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup finely chopped nuts

Heat oven to 400º. Mix thoroughly butter, sugar, and vanilla.  Work in flour, salt, and nuts until dough holds together.  Shape dough into 1-inch balls.  Place on ungreased baking sheet.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes until set but not brown.  Watch carefully so as not to burn.  While warm, roll in addition confectioners’ sugar.  Cool and roll in sugar again.  I use quite a bit of sugar.  Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies.  (I can eat all 4 dozen in one seating, don’t but can!!!)

 

FASHION NOW: ANATOMY OF A FASHION SHOW

imageWho says you can’t go home again…….I’m back…..yes, you heard correctly, I have been asked to work on fashion shows for Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago and I am thrilled to do so.  My first return show was for a private client at a luncheon at the newely redone Ritz Carlton Chicago (I’ll post about the hotel another time!)  I thought it might be amusing to walk you through the steps in fashion show prep or Fashion Show 101, the way I do it!

First of all this was a pull from stock not an all one designer show so I could have a bit of fun with it.  The first thing you must think about is who you are showing to, fashion shows, after all, are presented to sell.  That might not be an immediate reaction of the audience but you want to intice your guests into the store to see what else is on offer.

I really can’t give you my thoughts on exactly what I pull or my thoughts behind why I select one look over another I guess it is gut reaction.  I most often go with a color theme and, of course, feature the trends of the season we are in, not an easy thing this time of the year since so much is on sale (lucky consumers….you get major deals!) but I found wonderful late fall and cruise looks.

My first step was working with Bridget Halanski, Director of Runway at FactorChosen, Chicago to select the ten models and make arrangemenets for the 5 dressers.  Having done that and gotten their comps I was off and running.  I met with catering at the hotel to see where we would be dressing and the room where the show would be held.

Next step was to pull the show, I made arrangements with my assistant for the week, the delightful Executive Office Manager, Bryant Woodson, Jr., who served as my right hand for prep and the show and who, by the way, had been one of my students at Columbia College Chicago in my Fashion Show Production class….a very small world! We met at 8:00 the Monday before the show…I got to the staff entrance and stood at the door in disbelief….there is a security keypad and guess what I didn’t have the code!  I also didn’t have the phone number for the AP office so I stood there for a couple of minutes and finally got to my senses and knocked and called out “Hello”….I was, obviously, let in by TaJ’ae Robinson and proceeded to the Designer Collections on the Second Floor to begin the fun part…The Pull!!!!  I do pull quickly and did so this time as well.  The garments were placed on rolling racks and taken to my office (don’t you love it I have an office!!!!)  I decided on four exits (don’t ask me why they are called exits but that is “fashionese”) forty outfits in all.

imageHere is some of the pull.  I wanted to do day into evening in color groupings and start and end with black, white and red.  Several trends I included were trench coats, moto jacket, shearing, some pink (see above), blue, glitz, etc.  All themes we saw in the extensive posts I did on the four major fashion markets a few weeks ago.  At the moment clothes are easy to understand not too much gimmick but very wearable, elegant looks. After the pull I met with the Beauty Collections Manager, Kristina Gutierrez to discuss the look I wanted for the models….bold red lip and smoky eye.  She arranged for several artists to do the models at the Store (they did their own low bun) and I must say they did a perfect job, exactly as I had envisioned!

imageI do the run of show (which is tranlated into a list for the attendees of the show and was printed in house) and then break it down by model to make it easy when the clothes are bagged and taken to the site.  I then went to 10022 Shoes to choose from the unbelievable selection, my oh my oh my, what a collection of shoes at SFA Chicago!  My new thing (and by the way I have been doing shows since I “retired” 8 years ago) is having the models carry one shoe that I have selected for that particular outfit.  It is much easier for the audience to see the shoe and easy to do, works well, in my opinion. The models wear their own shoes.

I was done…I left the next morning for my Thanksgiving feast marathon and returned the night before the show….loved that I didn’t have to scan (list the merchandise) change the hangers, remove the sensors, put everything in garment bags nor accompany the truck to the Ritz…I felt like a princess…..The truck came on time to the hotel and the garments were brought to the dressing room area where I had prepped the racks.  All that was left to do was unpack and place the exits on each models rack (two to a rack), easy.  My long time assistant, Alberta Dean, arrived and started steaming the garments…I really can’t do a show without her she has been with me for a zillion years (35!) and I don’t have to tell her what to do she just does it!  Yay, Alberta!

The show was flat on the floor with a white runner and I had at least 2 models out at a time worked well.  The music had already been selected.

imageI place the comps at the top of the racks so the models can easily find their spaces.  I line up left to right and let the dresses undo the clothes so they are familiar with them. shoes go underneath the garments and handbags were placed on the hangersimageThe item you see on the top right of the rack is a model hood, which I always have in my bag of tricks, it is a huge necessity when pulling clothes over your head (get one for yourself at Sally’s or on line!)  I put the moto jacket over the gold sequin dress, funky fun!

The models arrived show ready and early, I reviewed the garments with each model and we decided on shoes from their model bags. They had plenty of time to relax, text, chat, whatever, before showtime.  Of course, all goes in reverse after the show…clothes are zipped, buttoned, rebagged, picked up, and returned to the store.

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imageThe Crew….Nena, Alberta, Katie Stickles, Stylist Manager, Megan Henry, Assistant Stylist Manager, Bryant and TaJ’ae they were all amazing, I don’t know when I have had so much support doing a show…kudos to all!

imageFirst exits in show order I have already posted this on Instagram and Facebook and the finale photo as well, but didn’t take any more shots of the show, difficult with you are in the middle of senidng models.  Bryant sent them to me, he has the run of show in his hand in the photo.

imageThe finale.

imageI thought it would be amusing to show you a photo from a show’s finale, probably early 1960’s, at the Hilton (I have done more shows at the Hilton than any other venue, I also did the first show at the Ritz Carlton when it first opened!)  You will notice the politically incorrect item the models are holding in their hands….packages of cigarettes!  The show was for a tobacco convention!  Wow have times changed but we still want to see wonderful clothes on lovely models and Saks Fifth Avenue continues to be on the cutting edge of style….fun to be back doing what I love to do!  Stay tuned……..there maybe more…….