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…….

 

 

 

 

COLLECTIONS: BOTTLE BRUSH TREES AND OTHER CHRISTMAS TREES

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This display of bottle brush trees and small houses was found at the last Randolph Street Market www.randolphstreetmarket.com you will find similar trees at the last RSM of 2017 on Saturday and Sunday, December 16 and 17 from 10 to 5 along with many, many other treasures for yourself and for gifts.

We all know that Queen Victoria’s beloved husband, Albert, brought the Christmas Tree to England from his native Germany…you know I love to research my posts but unfortunately, there isn’t a book on bottle brush trees so I will regale you with photos today some with a brief note or two….enjoy.

I do have a couple of very small trees in my very small apartmenet but I am a collector of angels at Christmas.  However, we always had a magnificent tree each year.  My mother, Ruth, created miniature trees, for years, using friends and clients (we sold them in the Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago Holiday Boutique that I managed for many years, I posted about it last year, check the archives) costume jewelry to create these tiny gems….I only have a couple left, I have, over the years, given mine to her friends who wanted a token from her.

imageHere are two of Mom’s tiny jeweled trees I keep them out all year under domes, each is around 6″ tall.

imageHere is one of my collection of vintage Christmas angels holding a teenie tree.

imageA village with bottle brush trees in one of the bedrooms at Tom Hawley and Tom Mantel’s home (every room in the house as well as outside decor is in the festive Holiday spirit).

The above photos were taken by me with my iPhone 7.

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The above photos were taken just before the Council Oak Antiques, in South Bend, Indiana, Holiday Open House a few weeks ago (you may not find exactly what is pictured) by Patricia McMahon Smith’s son, Jack, especially for nenanotes.  I am obsessed with this Antique Mall, it is well worth the trip to South Bend in between your RSM vists.

While satisfiying my browsing Pinterest fetish I found the following pins, unfortunately uncredited photography but look at the many ways you can incorporate bottle brush trees and small live trees (you can plant these in your garden!) in your holiday decor.

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Just a reminder that the Christmas in Blue Island celebration is this Saturday, December 2….here are all the deets….

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And I leave you with another holiday recipe, forgive me if I posted this last year…I hope you will give it a try,  Next year I will soak the cherries in bourbon or brandy…it is truly a yummy cake that keeps well and is a greate hostess gift and/or grab bag gift.  Enjoy….

From Nena’s Recipe Box

BRAZIL NUT/DATE CAKE

12-16 oz. shelled Brazil nuts

1 lb. pitted dates

8 oz. candied red cherries

3/4 cup flour

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

Put nuts, dates, and cherries in large bowl.  Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt over nuts and fruit, mix until coated.  Beat eggs until foamy, add vanilla, stir into nut-fruit mixture until well mixed.  Turn into 4 small and l medium size pans that are well greased.  Spread batter evenly.  Bake at 300º for l hour and 45 minutes.  Cool before slicing with a saw tooth knife (the cake is very dense)  I used aluminum pans with plastic covers, tie with a pretty vintage bow.  Be sure to keep one for yourself! I have had this recipe since 7th grade, needless to say, a very long time!

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WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: THANKSGIVING 2017… A FEAST TO REMEMBER

imageI like to think we could have looked like this, but alas, we didn’t!  I know Thanksgiving is behind us but we still have Holiday events to plan in the next month and through the end of the year.  I thought some of our Thanksgiving plans might have some suggestions for your upcoming get togethers and I’ve included a recipe.

Let’s start at the beginning of my visit to Blue Island with Tom Hawley and Tom Mantel for their annual feast.  When I arrived on Tuesday morning Tommy (Tom M) picked me up from the Metra and we went directly to DeMars our usual breakfast place to fortify ourselves for the tasks at hand.  Tommy had already done most of the shopping, including the two turkeys and gotten most of the ingredients for our Thanksgiving dinner for 14, of course, we had to make our way to our usual grocery store, (whenever I visit it is a must) Mariano’s, to get more goodies and forgotten stuff.  Naturally, our visit included a stop at the wine bar for our customary glass of wine, mine a lovely rosé Tommy’s a nice white.  We also picked up some cheeses and paté for that night. While perusing the aisles I found three different duck presentations, I have never seen them in a grocery before and I adore duck…I must put them on my shopping list….a duck breast, a duck confit and a half of duck, pictured below…can’t wait to try them. While I love duck I am not a fan of cooking it…I keep you updated on how it is, as Ina Garten would say, what could be bad!

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One of the main reasons we went shopping was for oysters for the dressings (we were doing two one with oysters and one plain).  We finally found two cans there but needed at least 4…we went to every store in the area, Tommy took me home and went to several more stores finally found one more can, we made do with three.  We figured there must have been a run on oysters…even when we asked the staff at the stores they were surprised when they went to the shelves where they should be.  It was rather like a sitcom with us staring at empty shelves expecting the oysters to magically appear!  I spent the time cutting 6 loaves of bread into cubes to let them dry a bit.  So much for Tuesday.  Oh yes, we ate the cheese and pate, more wine, watching HolidayInn and WhiteChristmas…I always shed a tear at the end of that one!

Wednesday was more prep, I made my carrot mold (see the recipe in my archives, it is really, really good) setting the table, making some of the canapes and generally getting ready…we took a lunch break to use my gift card that I won with my gift basket from the Blue Island Christmas Lights Festival fundraiser (this Saturday, it is always a treat to attend, go it you can) I attended a couple of weeks ago, I posted that gift on my Instagram.  Off we went to Double Play Saloon (and it is really an old fashion saloon, great fun!)  Had a very good burger and a Blue Island brew our total tab was $20.00….back we shall go to spend the other $30.00!  Way too much fun.  Picked up the centerpiece did a bit more prep and got ready to go back to the City to see Escape toMargaritaville…pre-Broadway.  We picked up Christine Hawley (Tom H’s sister) from work and made our way to The Dearborn for dinner, one of my most favorite restaurants in Chicago.  Always fabulous food and both the Lawless sisters greeted us and told us they were closed for Thanksgiving to give their staff time with their families, I love the Lawless family, they are THE best!  We left Blue Island quite early thinking traffic would be hideous, it wasn’t so more wine and martinis for us waiting for Tom H to join us.  imageIt was a lively fun show, I must admit I’m not much of a Buffett fan but did enjoy the engery of the performers.  Back to the Island for us and to bed to get ready for the big day….

imageThe tables ready for the guests…such fun to play in someone else’s home with their linens, china, glassware, etc.

Getting the dressing ready….do you think that is enough butter…I did perfect my knife skills (definitely not my forte!) chopping celery, onions and, of course, cubing the bread.  I’m happy to say I didn’t cut myself…yay!!!

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imageI want to do this next year…stuffing “muffins”…found on someone’s blog, sorry didn’t keep info but you can use your own recipe.  We put some stuffing in each bird and the rest in casseroles.

imageHot carrot mold slid out perfectly, I precut and plated.

imageThe Tom’s cranberries which we made a couple of weeks ago….yum, yum, yum!!!!

imageTwo of these babies and they were perfection, Tommy decided to use the Confection Oven and they were really, really perfect and delicious and cooked much faster!image

We had cocktails and nibbly bits (oh, yes I made Christy’s dip and cubed the rest of the Standing Rib Roast I had made for Tom’s Birthday a couple of weeks before and the beef from the Beef Wellington Christy had made for his actual Birthday).  Christy and Vicki (Tom H and Christy’s sister) brought some other goodies and Elenor (I have given you recipes from her recipe box on past posts and she has promised me more….yay!) brought two amazing pies…a pumpkin and my all time favorite, mince (which I also ate for breakfast the next morning, I would have eaten the entie thing it was that good!)  The guests arrived around 1:30, the Hawley’s Elenor and Harold, Vicki her husband John and their kids, Emily, Madeline and Jack along with Remus and his mother, Victoria, Ralph and us…..great festive group. Lot’s of food, wine, and great conversation.  No one went home hungry that I can assure you.

imageIncluding the squirrels, who were devouring the pumpkins on the side of the house.  It was fascinating to watch…I think they will probably explode!

Here is the menu….

Turkey

2 Dressings

Giblet and Plain Gravy

Cranberry Sauce

Mashed Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Glazed Carrots

Carrot Mold

Corn

Green Bean Casserole

Crescent Rolls

Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream

Mince Pie and Hard Sauce

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imageMy Toms with me at the feast….

imageAnd in actuality…Tommy, Nena, and Tom……

From Christine Hawley’s Recipe Box

East Indian Sour Cream Dip

Mix and refrigerate…can be used with anything, veggies, chicken, beef, shrimp…etc.

1/2 cup minced scallion or green onion

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon coriander

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1 cup sour cream

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: FASHION FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Rather than doing a review this week, I wanted to give you some recommendations on outstanding fashion books that have come out this year along with a couple other book thoughts for gift giving for your fashion friends and, of course, for yourself.  2017 has been an extremely good year for fashion titles and I am listing them in no particular order….here goes…..

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imageimageThe first three volumes in the series of designers for the House of Dior, the first, of course, Christian Dior.  Absolutely magnificent and our very own Costume Collection at the Chicago History Museum is represented!

imageI have been an admirer of Siriano’s work since he appeared on Project Runway!  His “fierce” style has just gotten better and better.  It was my pleasure to welcome him to Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago on November 13, 2009, with one of his first Collections and I interviewed him later for a President’s Club event at Columbia College Chicago.  He was my last personal appearance at Saks, that is the day I retired!  When I have seen him over the years, he always says, “I was your last designer!”

imageBy now you probably know I am obsessed with anything Dries Van Noten…here a two-volume set of his collections, it must be brilliant! Can’t wait to add them to my library.

imageOne of several books that accompanied museum exhibitions…this one at the Met, as always exquisitely done!

imageThe book that accompanies the exhibition that is currently at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Several of my friends have seen it and say it is a superb exhibition.  I can’t find it on Amazon, only on the Museum’s website if you are interested in it.

imageFrom the Museum of Modern Art in New York featuring their first fashion exhibition (I swear I have seen fashion exhibits there in years gone by, I guess not!)

imageA wonderful anthology on the long-running Bazaar.

imageThis looks amazing…a must add to your fashion library….

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And speaking of fashion photography…one of the first was Cecil Beaton and this book accompanies the film by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, who gave us The Eye Has To Travel about her grandmother-in-law, Diana Vreeland.  You know that I am mad for anything Beaton does…anxious to read this and see the documentary.

imageimageAnd speaking of DV, the man who worked with her at Bazaar and Vogue and who we immediately think of when we think fashion photography…Richard Avedon, he, of course, did much more than fashion (as did most of the “fashion” photographers) and the second book, Avedon Something Personal, goes deep into his life.  There was a fascinating review in last week’s weekend Wall Street Journal…does not paint a pretty picture, well let’s judge for ourselves, shall we!

imageThere has been so much type re this scathing “diary” that it has put it on the New York Times Best Seller List and every other book list out there. Brown, known for not pulling punches, has done it again and it is another I can’t wait to get my hands on.  Probably shouldn’t be on my fashion book list, but most certainly a book that chronicles social mores.

imageAnother one out in left field but sounds fascinating….

As usual, do let me know what you have read, your thoughts on which, if any, appeal to you and then we can compare notes.  Happy reading!

 

 

COLLECTIONS: HOLIDAY SHOPPING AT RANDOLPH STREET MARKET

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There are two more Randolph Street Markets for 2017 the first of which is Saturday and Sunday, November 18 and 19 from 10 to 5 with the preview party on Friday, November 17 from 5:30 to 7:30 to benefit The 606 Project and The Trust for Public Land.  The December Market will be Saturday and Sunday, December 16 and 17 also from 10 to 5.  Both these Markets are so much fun, not only with wonderful items for you and gifts for everyone on your list, but also fabulous food, drink (oh look, Moët & Chandon Champagne at the Friday night party!!!!), music, gift wrapping, and more…let alone free onsite parking.  Bring your list and get your gifting on!!!

I will return next week with another suggestion for a collection…could it be Holiday driven, what do you think…….

As you know I am obsessed with RSM and attend each month and share many of my finds and suggestions for collections on my Thursday posts. Do mark your calendar and join the festivities, I’ll be watching for you!