WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: HALLOWEEN STORIES

F2CD6998-FFAF-4173-B2F7-41F8C33A07F6I have mentioned that I am asking my friends to be guest contributors to nenasnotes    so on this special day, Halloween,  I am featuring several stories from Virginia Heaven, a historian, teacher, author, curator, raconteur and very good friend, which she has entitled “Halloween: Culture Is Everything”.  You are in for a treat.

6DBC8FC5-499C-4B87-A986-51C3751BF989 This vitrine is up all year in Virginia’s home.  She likes to use her huge collections differently each year and, of course, constantly adds new items…that is what a collector does!  Speaking of collections be sure to check out the Halloween blog post I did for the  Randolph Street Market.

Story #1

Now, I love Halloween (well, the sweet kind). It’s magical because it’s really fun and kind of scary for me all at the same time. I’m from London and in my day (and neighborhood) Halloween was not celebrated. Although there is ample evidence that it was celebrated all over the UK as All Hallows Eve.

When I first came to America, Halloween fascinated me and I gradually began to gather a few decorations, and I loved pumpkin carving. But most of all I loved the children coming around to get their candy. All those kids dressed as their heroes or some fantastic creature, how fun is that? And the tiny ones are so funny!

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When my cousin (who is like my sister) had her first three kids, they lived in a small English town where there was no Halloween celebrations either. So, I would pack up a box in September of all the fun Halloween things I could find and post it off (all big boxes were sent by ship then, remember?) and her kids were the only ones in the town to have a Halloween party which made them very popular! They are all in their 30s now but still remember the box arriving each year and the excitement of opening it to find what was inside! By the time her last two babies were born (now in their 20s) Halloween was popular in Britain too, but I still sent boxes of American Halloween tchotchkes for the parties!

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Story #2

I was dating a guy (who later became my husband, but after this stunt it was by the skin of his teeth!) who loves haunted houses at Halloween. He insisted that I would find it really fun, it was part of his Halloween “tradition” that he wanted to share with me. We found one in Milwaukee that looked pretty good and off we went.

I began to have misgivings when I realized it was a derelict building entirely made over into a pretty spooky looking house. We entered. The actors were excellent, the scenes superb, the lighting magnificent and after the first “scare” I didn’t stop screaming! At first my date, and presumably the actors, thought it was all in good fun, until it was evident I was actually traumatized. I’d never seen anything like this; I put my coat over my head (sobbing) and was led outside. The people in line were very excited when they saw the state I was in—“wow! It must be great!” I heard someone say…

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Needless to say I have never entered another Haunted House, and after about five years I forgave the man I married, but I still shudder at the memory.

Story #3

I have been to Mexico twice to celebrate The Day of the Dead. The first time was after the loss of my Father and a beloved Aunt. I went to Mexico City by chance was still grieving but, I had a wonderful time. It was colorful with alters everywhere and in the Zócalo there were orange marigolds and magenta cockscomb flowers laid out in patterns: beautiful. It was a wonderful and strangely healing experience because there was an acceptance of the inevitability of death rather than a resistance to loss.

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Some years later I was in Oaxaca at the same time. That time was very different, just as moving but more visceral. I was taken to a graveyard where families sat around graves sitting with and laying out offerings of food to the dead. It was very dark and the graves were mounds of earth with simple crosses. Death felt present rather than removed under heavy stone monuments. As the night progressed more and more people arrived and they brought candles and flowers and eventually it was as light as day in the candlelight and the atmosphere was quietly celebratory. It was a very beautiful and soulful experience.

1C1E9001-D7CF-49CF-8B83-D36DD3A46AC7989C7D1E-40FF-4599-B860-1BF26425BD000E22D125-1FFC-46F7-9F96-DD2D77FEB59A37AF4589-C754-4D30-AF64-205E86D503F7All above photos courtesy of Virginia Heaven….a million thanks for the wondeful Halloween memories and the awesome decorations….what a way to begin my guest posts!!!!!

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Above photos from Pinterest photo credits unknown.

Love these charming plates from Williams-Sonoma.

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Hope I get these in my treat bag……

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PROFILE: SWAN LAKE JOFFREY BALLET STYLE

 

68FAED15-9001-4ACF-883F-EA75CFAAC1D5       Swans in a peaceful country setting on an exquisite fall day.  Photo credit, Nena’s iPhone.

i have always been enamored with the beauty of swans as well as adoring ballet since I was held on my Father’s lap to see the majesty of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake, created in 1875-76, the first of his classic trio of ballets that include Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker.  Swan Lake, an initial failure, has become one of the most popular of all ballets.  I have seen dozens of performances of this well known piece and until now my all time favorite interpretation was with Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev….now tied for first place is the current production of Christopher Wheeldon’s reimagining of the story of a swan brought to life and love by her prince.

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There are so many elements that I adore about this version, I must say Wheeldon’s imagination, in all he creates, is at the top of my list.  From the Joffrey’s reimagined Nutcracker, to the critically acclaimed  musical An American In Paris, his vision takes us to places not seen in dance productions before and quite frankly isn’t that what a choreographer should do…in my opinion, yes, they should. Wheeldon along with Joffrey’s dynamic The Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director, Ashley Wheater and forward thinking, President and CEO, Greg Cameron have succeeded in making my favorite ballet company world class. The Company can, most certainly, make us proud on the world stage.  When Robert Joffrey and Robert Arpino brought the Joffrey to Chicago, as a visiting company, I fell under their spell….fortunately that spell has not dissipated over the years it has just gotten stronger and as a native Chicagoan and lover of ballet I am so proud they are ours!!!

Using the background of the Paris Opera Ballet and Impressionists Edgar Degas and Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec to set the scene, we are transported into a beautiful world of sets and costumes (watch for an upcoming posts on the costuming for the Joffrey’s Spring World Premiere of Anna Karinina).  The principles, and there are several couples in the two week run which ends on Sunday, October 28th, are breathtakingly brilliant, the dual role of Odette and Odile, one of the most intricate in any ballet, is matched to perfection by the Corps de Ballet….gorgeous!  Let’s not forget the male dancers…beyond perfection. The following photos were taken at our unparalleled, The Art Institute of Chicago, in front of some the iconic Impressionists paintings.

Ballerinas Dara Holmes, Yumi Kanazawa and Brooke Linford photograph by Cheryl Mann.

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The painting in the background of the photos that hangs, along with other superb Degas works at The Art Institute of Chicago.

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Another of our Degas paintings that inspired the production. Both above images found on Pinterest no photo credit available

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Jeraldine Mendoza and Grieg Matthews photograph by Cheryl Mann.

My thanks to The Art Institute of Chicago’s Gloria Groom and Nora Gainer and Joffrey’s Vicki Crain for giving me permission to share these images with you, I am forever grateful!

I have to admit I had tears of pure joy at the end of the opening night performance and to read the glowing reviews, by all media, was gratifying to say the least….I would have lost all respect from the critics if they been anything less. The long standing ovation and shouts of bravo were beyond perfection.  Run don’t walk to get your tickets for a not to be missed cultural experience, it ends Sunday, October 28th.

 I had to share the following photos with you of the daughter, of my dear friends Stephanie and Cory Lake, Odette (you read that correctly and yes, she is named for our heroine).  I did a week of posts on Stephanie in 2016, check the nenasnotes archives they are fascinating insights into a creative mind. That mind has translated to the Lake’s precious, about to be 5 year old, child. Don’t tell her but I am doing a special Birthday post for her.  Here a taste of our budding ballerina, prepare yourself Joffrey Ballet!!!!!

Looks more Odile than a Odette….versatile our little Diva at ballet class and in her swan print skirt at Pre-School….the theme continues….photos courtesy of Stephanie Lake.

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Could there be a book any more perfect, I think not!!!!!

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Both swan photos found on Pinterest photo credits unknown. 

 

BEGINNING YEAR THREE…….

 

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October 13, 2018

Another year has flown by and I am now starting year three of NENASNOTES.  I must admit I haven’t been consistent of late, computer issues, other obligations, etc.  I plan to continue my same schedule with more tweaks.  I am asking the people I have profiled over the last two years to do a guest post on whatever subject they like.  I think their thoughts will be of interest to all of us.  I do like my Tuesdays posts, BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS, and will continue them and probably expand to an additional day.  This has led to the formation of NENASNOTES The Fashion Book Club a monthly gathering to discuss all manner of fashion books, featuring fascinating authors and a throughly engaged audience, I will do monthly posts on these books as well.  More recipes, more decor, more fashion….yes, all of those along with interesting personality profiles.  If you have something you would like me to discuss please let me know.  By now, if you follow me, you know I have a wide range of interests that I like to share with my readers.  I now also do two monthly posts for the Randolph Street Market blog, one on collection trends and one on fashion trends these are totally different from my NENASNOTES posts.  Do follow me there, on Instagram, (I’m having a blast there!) and Pinterest.  I am in the process of launching a sponsorship program with unique incentives based on level of funding.  So lots to look forward to…I do hope you will continue to join me in my ventures and do recommend NENASNOTES to your friends and please make comments, they are invaluable.  Here we go….welcome Year Three!

 

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October 13, 2017

Here is what I wrote one year ago today when I launched NENASNOTES, as I begin my second year, my goals remain the same.  I have tweaked the daily themes a bit but the concept hasn’t changed. I will be adding new features and ask that you watch for an upcoming announcement of how you can supoort me and what incentives you can expect.  I hope you are enjoying my thoughts on the variety of lifestyle things that interest me…so I say, Happy Birthday NENASNOTES and I hope you, my followers, will continue to join me on a regular basis and invite your friends to have their morning coffee with us as well.

October 13, 2016

Well, here we go….I have been waiting to start my blog NENASNOTES for what seems like ages, actually, it has been ages!

I, therefore, feel it is necessary to give you my thoughts on what you can expect on what will become daily postings.

It began with the current trend of focusing on people reinventing themselves, through career and/or lifestyle changes.  I realized that there are so many of my friends and acquaintances whose diverse lives now are totally different from how they started.  First up were my many former models who were superstars in the myriad shows I produced during my lengthy career as Fashion and Special Director at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago.  Most, if not all, have totally changed careers and become successful with their new life choices.  You will learn their stories, reminiscences and photos from then and now.

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I thought why not carry this further to my other friends and people I know who had fascinating stories to tell and was I correct in that assumption!  I began this process with a handful of people, which soon became many more, by doing an in person hour long taped conversational interview and Proust-like questionnaire.  Again, I asked for photos and this time a favorite recipe. I hope you will enjoy these posts as much as I am enjoying gathering them.  They are riveting.

These two groups of conversations will be my Monday posts, here is what I have planned for Tuesday through Friday:

Tuesday….Books, books, books.  I’m afraid I have a book fetish, especially fashion books. It seems to be my goal in life to own every fashion book printed!!! So we will start there.  I do read a lot, particularly historical fiction, I love fiction about “real” people, we will go that route as well.  Nothing like a good English mystery but don’t mind a “Cozy” once in awhile and can never miss Louis Penny’s newest (who doesn’t love Armand!).  So much to read so little time.29100F02-D395-45F5-8790-EB78839B8F4E

A SAMPLING OF MY CHANEL LIBRARY

 

Wednesday….Miscellany day could be a great recipe, restaurant, movie, play….whatever strikes my fancy that week.

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CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM TIFFANY STAINED GLASS

Thursday….Homes and Gardens, again tapping my friends and their eclectic styles, mostly self-decorated homes and brilliant gardens.  A glimpse at my tiny space as well.

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A FRIEND’S EXQUISITE SOLARIUM

Friday….Fashion Flashback.  I’ve worked with over 150 designers and fashion personalities through the years and want to share some of these experiences with you.  I’m sure those of you who know me thought the blog would be all about the “glamorous” fashion shows I produced, yes, there is that but the nitty gritty as well and only one day a week.

Nena, Pauline Trigere, Bill Blass
Nena, Pauline Trigere, Bill Blass

Here we go….I hope you will join me on my on reinvention.