By now you know I am obsessed with historical fiction especially when the book concerns “real” people.  When this exceptionally written book came into my consciousness I knew it would be one I would not only enjoy but would devour and, of course, would want to share with you. I was correct in that assumption.  (As usual, I recommend The Book Stall my Independent Bookseller, as your source when purchasing your books.)

The protagonist is none other than Alva Vanderbilt who married into one of the wealthiest, if not THE wealthiest at the time, American dynasties.  Wealth was new to Alva and the story tells us of a world known to very few.  The Astor’s ruled New York Society, especially their Matriarch, Caroline.  Snubbed by Mrs. Astor, Alva was determined to make her place, along with her husband, William, and the rest of the Vanderbilt family to reach the top of the Gilded Age social scene.  And not only did she do exactly that but did it with grace and class  Fowler takes us into this rarified world via, their exquisite homes, think Marble House (The Biltmore is briefly mentioned), the many homes in New York City.  I particularly enjoyed Alva’s forays into every detail of her many homes and her participation with the noted architect, Richard Hunt, in planning the architecture and each and every phase of the construction of the mansions and the interiors from paint colors, fabrics, to furniture….everything!  Having literally millions to spend she thought out every possible item in her homes and became the personification of elegance of her era.


Alva Vanderbilt


William Vanderbilt

Marble House in Newport, Rhode Island


A couple of the interiors …



Living in a strained marriage, (I’m not doing spoilers here, if you know the background of the era you know of the scandals) Alva made herself a pilar of New York, Newport, Paris and London society in lifestyle including her Charles Frederick Worth wardrobe (you know I enjoyed those descriptions!), the exquisite entertaining….balls, formal dinners…highlighting the developing of the Arts in New York City, making sure her children were exposed to the best of educations, associating with the “right” people (including Oliver Belmont) while respecting everyone no matter their social status…which I greatly admired.  She was always a philanthropist and became very involved in women’s suffrage.  In many ways she reminds me of our own Bertha Palmer as well as others of her time. It gives us details of the women (or The woman, Alva) behind the wealth which was always in the hands of their husbands, fathers, guardians. Fowler’s eye for detail parallels that of Alva’s…her research is impeccable.  Read it you will be transfixed!


A couple of books to give you thoughts on the food of the time…



I’m including a recipe for Beef Wellington, which happens to a favorite of mine to serve at special dinner parties.  This recipe is from





    • a 3 1/2-pound fillet of beef tied with thin sheets of larding fat at room temperature
    • 3/4 pound mushrooms, chopped fine
    • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1/2 pound pâté de foie gras (available at specialty foods shops) at room temperature
    • 1 pound puff paste or thawed frozen puff pastry plus additional for garnish if desired
    • N/A frozen puff pastry
    • 1 large egg white beaten
    • an egg wash made by beating 1 large egg yolk with 1 teaspoon of water
    • 1/2 cup Sercial Madeira
    • 2 teaspoons arrowroot dissolved in 1 teaspoon cold water
    • 1 teaspoon water
    • 1/2 cup beef broth
    • 2 tablespoons finely chopped black truffles (available at specialty food shops) if desired
    • watercress for garnish if desired


    1. In a roasting pan roast the beef in the middle of a preheated 400°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the thermometer registers 120°F. Let the fillet cool completely and discard the larding fat and the strings. Skim the fat from the pan juices and reserve the pan juices.
    2. In a heavy skillet cook the mushrooms in the butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until all the liquid they give off is evaporated and the mixture is dry, season them with salt and pepper, and let them cool completely. Spread the fillet evenly with the pâté de foie gras, covering the top and sides, and spread the mushrooms evenly over the pâté de foie gras. On a floured surface roll 1 pound of the puff paste into a rectangle about 20- by 12- inches, or large enough to enclose the fillet completely, invert the coated fillet carefully under the middle of the dough, and fold up the long sides of the dough to enclose the fillet brushing the edges of the dough with some of the egg white to seal them. Fold ends of the dough over the fillet and seal them with the remaining egg white. Transfer the fillet, seam side down to a jelly-roll pan or shallow roasting pan and brush the dough with some of the egg wash. Roll out the additional dough and cut the shapes with decorative cutters. Arrange the cutouts on the dough decoratively, brush them with the remaining egg wash, and chill the fillet for at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours. Bake the fillet in the middle of a preheated 400°F oven for 30 minutes, reduce the heat to 350°, and bake the fillet for 5 to 10 minutes more, or until the meat thermometer registers 130°F. for medium-rare meat and the pastry is cooked through. Let the fillet stand for 15 minutes.
    3. In a saucepan boil the reserved pan juices and the Madeira until the mixture is reduced by one fourth. Add the arrowroot mixture, the broth, the truffles, and salt and pepper to taste and cook the sauce over moderate heat, stirring, being careful not to let it boil, for 5 minutes, or until it is thickened. Loosen the fillet from the jelly-roll pan, transfer it with two spatulas to a heated platter, and garnish it with watercress. Serve the fillet, cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices, with the sauce.

Serves 8.


Photos are from Pinterest credits unknown. 


Oscar de la Renta                          Carolina Herrera                   Oscar de la Renta

In reviewiing New York Fashion Week Fall 2019 Collections I found many print looks to varify my theory that prints are seasonless.  Here are a few from selected collections.

More Wes Gordon’s Carolina Herrera…

And more from Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia for Oscar de la Renta…

Oscar de la Renta RTW Fall 2019

Oscar de la Renta RTW Fall 2019


And Michael Kors….

From Marc Jacobs…

0BAD92E4-F46E-45B1-8144-EB3F893AB694And from Spring Haute Couture….John Galliano for Maison Margiela Artisian Collection…


The article below was first published exclusively for The Randolph Market blog, I am reprinting it with permission from RSM Market founder, guru and guiding force, Sally Schwartz.  To update the post I inserted looks from the current NYFW Fall 2019 Collections.

                                           ALWAYS CLASSIC…ALWAYS NEW


Flower Prints for Fall…..Absolutely!

Collecting Trend Impressions from Nena Ivon

Gone are the days that floral prints are only worn in the spring or summer they are shown for all seasons (or for that matter, any print, think leopard, but that is another post!!!!). The photos above are just a few looks from the Fall 2019 ready-to-wear collections. So why do I feel this is a trend…for exactly this reason….fashion is no longer seasonal. Wardrobes are refreshed by adding a new piece, and yes, that can be a vintage item that you find at the Randolph Street Market. I find it exciting to pair a floral print skirt or pant with a sweater….looks new, fun, fresh. That, to me, is the key to modernity in styling.

Let’s look back a year at a few more pieces that were featured in the Fall 2018 Fashion Week Collections.

Randolph Street Market

Randolph Street Market

And from Oscar de la Renta

Randolph Street Market

Randolph Street Market

Randolph Street Market

Randolph Street Market

And more looks from Fall 2018 Fashion Week Collections….

Randolph Street Market

Randolph Street Market

Randolph Street Market

I adore all of Carolyne Roehm’s books and this is an exquisite one….and made even more special, one of the extraordinary Randolph Street Market vendors gave it to me as a gift at the last Market…..can you imagine anything nicer!!!!  Look to books, magazines and Pinterest for print inspiration.

Randolph Street Market

Now let’s look at a few vintage pieces….feminine, for sure, whether floaty, sheaths, nipped waists and full skirts, all can be adapted to work today. If it’s a vintage “sundress” to wear in cooler seasons style with a cardigan, a blazer, even a leather jacket to give an edgy twist or perhaps drape a contrasting print shawl around your shoulders…..

Randolph Street Market

Randolph Street Market

Randolph Street Market

Randolph Street Market

Randolph Street Market

Randolph Street Market

Randolph Street Market

Lily Pulitzer and her iconic print pieces….

Randolph Street Market

As you can see, by the endless variety, you will definitely find a floral print to incorporate into your year round wardrobe….do it, you won’t be sorry on a gloomy cold day to brighten yourself with a print dress, blouse, jacket, scarf, shoe or bag. Don’t be afraid to mix your prints although I suggest working with the same color palette….have fun, that is what fashion is all about!!!!

Randolph Street Market

2018 Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda

All photos from Pinterest credits unknown.



27B61BF9-78AE-47D4-B880-950F868AB1E6Just in time for Valentine’s Day, in my opinion any day, I wanted to share the story, and unique beauty, of my friend, Shelley Rosen’s Luxe Bloom. I took a photo of this glorious bouquet to show you the vast variety of colors….beyond one’s imagination.  Here is the exciting news…..go to  or follow them on Instagram @luxebloomroses. Upon check out you, my readers, can use LOVEKISSES15 for a 15% off coupon. Local Chicago clients can pick up your custom rose arrangements in the Luxe Bloom West Loop Office in time for Valentines Day. Act quickly….you want to take advantage of this special offer.

And Luxe Bloom will be on ABC’s WINDY CITY LIVE February 14 at 1pm for their Valentine’s Day Special, Mark your calendars.  You will want to keep Luxe Bloom in your contacts for special occasions or for no reason st all just as a perk to yourself or others, to me the best gift of all!

My photo of this glorious piece done as a present to Shelley that holds a place of honor in her office….Happy  Valentine’s Day!!!!


 I want you to know this isn’t a sponsored post…by now, I hope you know, I only post about things that appeal to me….books, people, collections, and in some cases businesses, this is one such example.  I love the uniqueness of the product and the dedication of Shelley and her staff.  And, bonus, you, dear readers, get a lovely 15% off coupon as a treat for yourself or a special someone!!  Enjoy! (An aside…..I’m thrilled to accept sponsorships, you can email me, or pass the thought along, at for a media kit and price list)

Shelley and I first met many years ago when she was on the Columbia College Chicago’s Board of Trustees. We have kept in touch over the years with her interest (and obtaining the rights to and) in ERTE, one of my favorite artists/designers ever!  Her current passion and “life work” is roses….in every color imaginable, and yes, they are real.

2039454E-2D3C-44E3-8ACA-184A040DDF29 I am thrilled to share this woman-owned Chicago based, Internationally recognized company Luxe Bloom that is changing the way people buy flowers and therefore is making a new market for your home and gifts but also for corporations to rethink design and visuals.  Luxe Bloom has over 100 subscription based luxury operators such as Langham, St. Regis, Waldorf Astoria,  Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, Loews, Hilton, Hyatt, Red Door Spas nationwide.



Iconic installations like Saks Fifth Avenue New York city with 100,000 roses May, 2015.

5AF7C03D-D2F6-486F-96C7-8591FF6EF023Official Flower to Walt Disney Company “Beauty and the Beast” Premier, March, 2017. (The four above photos for nenasnotes courtesy of Shelley Rosen.)

I was invited to visit her showroom/workroom/distribution center and I must tell you it was fantasyland….absolutely gorgeous and quite the production! Each hand assembled arrangement must go through several steps each step handled by an expert straight through the packing and shipping process.  The arrangement I chose for myself was a blush rose piece in an antique silvered pedestal vase.  I watched it go through it’s assemblage, fascinating to say the least.  I’ve had it for 8 months and it is as fresh today as the day I got it….talk about “everlasting”!

Some examples of arrangements photos courtesy of Luxe Bloom…



536BBA16-D9BF-4BC7-9F4A-13FFE9873438Shelley in front of boxes and boxes full of roses for a QVC appearance….

And now some photos I took on site at the West Loop Luxe Bloom offices to show you some of the process and some finished pieces that appealed to me  I think my next bouquet will be a nosegay of multi-color roses….love them so much.  Looks like another visit is in order!





Refrigeration….all by color…

4C03BBE7-2B89-496F-AF07-1D1C54DD40C6Prepping the base…413F9650-29E9-4C97-B67D-FC0D92A353E6

Beginning the assembly…

D7698291-4993-47DA-9265-38E1FA82E353Finished bouquet….

Several of my favorites….many one of a kind…possibilities are limitless….04FE5F36-BC5D-4292-9880-72326530F501





And my most favorites…..





Mad for the framed pieces….


“Luxe Bloom Hospitality

Luxe Bloom provides long lasting luxury rose arrangements to luxury businesses (nenasnotes…and, of course, to individuals) on a recurring basis.  Our roses do not require water or refrigeration to keep their natural beauty and can last up to 60 dayS.

  • Subscription contract for every day floral
  • No water, ever
  • Saves Money-up to 30-50%% over fresh-cut contracts
  • Saves Time – with labor associated with floral care
  • Lasts up to 60 days in a hospitality setting and longer in your home
  • BESPOKE design to suit the hotel or other businesses
  • Over 20+colors and rose sizes
  • Allergy free-no aroma
  • Ships direct to business throughout the USA
  • Perfect for Private Suites, in room dining, concierge check in and more
  • Forbes Travel Guide approved as the “Official Flower” of the firm that verifies luxury”         A18D8050-65CD-4920-9FDF-FA8CD81C7760







Happy Chinese New Year…the year of the pig.  I did a post featuring the incredible creativity of GUO PEI and her Haute Couture Collection for Fall 2018. Here are some looks from her Spring 2019 collection. Dramatic, stunningly beautiful, totally innovative and incredibly inspiring. Amazingly creative!!!  Let’s look at a few more pieces from the collection.


Guo Pei Couture Spring 2019




I have always been fascinated with Chinese culture.  One of my Father and Mother’s dear friends was a gentleman by the name of Charlie Lum who owned a Chinese restaurant on Rush Street in Chicago, The Cantonese Cafe.  I adored it from birth until it closed.  Daddy severely cut his hand during the Depression (I wasn’t around as yet), that would be an issue for anyone but, as I have told you, he was an artist so it was a double whammy.  Charlie made sure that my parents had food either at the restaurant or he personally brought dinner to their apartment on Astor Street on a daily basis.  In addition, when Mom was pregnant with me she was quite ill for the entire 9 months and basically the only food she could tolerate was Chinese…Charlie to the rescue yet again.


As a little girl I was totally fascinated with the color and glamour of the restaurant, the food, of course, and adored being allowed to visit the kitchen and visit my friend the cook…he looked like a Genie, was huge (think Sumo wrestler huge!) toothless, didn’t speak English but every time he saw me he would break into a huge grin and carry me around on his immense shoulders. I adored him, I don’t think I ever knew his name. Once in awhile, on special occasions, we would be invited to Charlie’s apartment, upstairs of the restaurant, for an evening of an extravagant dinner.  And on special Chinese Holidays, such as today’s, we would go to Chinatown with Charlie to celebrate where he was honored as a major celebrity, which he was.  They are very, very fond memories.


Happy Chinese New Year…perhaps something Chinese for dinner…sounds perfect to me!!!!

All photos found on Pinterest credits unknown