BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: A TALENT FOR MURDER

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I really, really, really liked this book.  It is totally engaging, Andrew Wilson has taken a real life event, Agatha Christie’s disappearance, and woven a fictionalized account of what happened during those 10 days, which was never explained by Agatha. You would think Agatha had written it herself…she does most of the narration in the book.  After finding out her husband, Archie, is having an affair she is, of course, devastated, while at a London train station she is approached by a Dr. Kuns who has a plan to have Agatha commit murder.  How, you say, well he blackmails her by threatening her young daughter.  We follow several plots in the book all, of course, tie together.  From the fumbling police, to a would be reporter, to the murder victim to be, the doctor, Archie, etc.  We learn about poisons, of course, we do, don’t we in many of Christie’s own books. I found some of the characters to be engaging and others demonic and Agatha to be brilliant, resourceful and sad but most of all determined to carry out the demands of the demented doctor.  Lots of plot twists, lots of red herrings, all in all, a most satisfying read.  I understand there will be more on Agetha by Mr. Wilson, next up, A Different Kind of Evil to be published in March 2018.  He also wrote Blood Beneath the Skin, a biography about Lee Alexander McQueen, which I haven’t read but plan to do so.

Here is a bit more on the story from the Publisher:

“Discover the real-life mystery centered on the queen of crime herself: Agatha Christie. In this tantalizing new novel, Christie’s mysterious ten-day disappearance serves as the starting point for a gripping novel, in which Christie herself is pulled into a case of blackmail and murder.

“I wouldn’t scream if I were you. Unless you want the whole world to learn about your husband and his mistress.”

Agatha Christie, in London to visit her literary agent, is boarding a train, preoccupied with the devastating knowledge that her husband is having an affair. She feels a light touch on her back, causing her to lose her balance, then a sense of someone pulling her to safety from the rush of the incoming train. So begins a terrifying sequence of events—for her rescuer is no guardian angel, rather he is a blackmailer of the most insidious, manipulative kind.

“You, Mrs. Christie, are going to commit a murder. But, before then, you are going to disappear.”

Writing about murder is a far cry from committing a crime, and Agatha must use every ounce of her cleverness and resourcefulness to thwart an adversary determined to exploit her expertise and knowledge about the act of murder to kill on his behalf.

In A Talent for Murder, Andrew Wilson ingeniously explores Agatha Christie’s odd ten-day disappearance in 1926 and weaves an utterly compelling and convincing story around this still unsolved mystery involving the world’s bestselling novelist.”

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: THE FORBIDDEN GARDEN

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I must admit I was drawn to The Forbidden Garden by its cover, I am a sucker for a floral book jacket and the garden in the title intrigued me and since this week’s posts are dealing with earth, particularly clay, why not do a book about a garden as my book review.  I have not read The Sparrow Sisters, which probably would have been a good idea since the Sparrow Sisters history is often referred to in this book. But not to worry you can get the idea of the first book and read it in the future if you enjoy this one, which by the way I did!

The story is multi layered but primarily concentrates on the history of an English garden that is in total shambles, actually, it has been dead for years, and a young gardener from the States who has been hired, because of her reputation, to bring it back to life with her unusual skills.  Sorrel Sparrow and her sisters have almost magical powers when it comes to gardens and making them extraordinary.  Sorrel is met at the airport by the brother of the Lady of the Manor, Andrew, and we really know from the onset that this will be a romance, how much of one I will let you read for yourself.  Andrew has been put in charge of taking Sorrel around London before they drive to the Estate, this, of course, includes some of London’s magnificent gardens.  I must say this and actually, most of the book made me very “homesick” for England, I truly love the UK, but by now you, my readers, know that!  The story is quite layered just like the garden and holds many hidden and forbidden stories.  They, of course, all come together for the climax.  We have hidden rooms, secrets held for decades, families almost destroyed by the past but the main story is of a living entity, the garden and how love can make it and the people around it come back to life.  To some extent, it did remind me of A Secret Garden, which we have all read, just a more “grown up version”. It seems the decayed, once magnificent, garden doesn’t wish to come back to life until Sorrel works her magic but does it spring back into bloom….perhaps!  Through the years the Kirkwood women have become ill after being in the space and what does this have to do with the hideous family tapestries, one of which is missing, does the missing piece solve this puzzle, perhaps!  The original garden was based on a Shakespeare Garden. I love the one I have often visited in Stratford, Canada, when I go to the Stratford Festival, and have had guided tours of the garden, not only is the layout of the garden described but each plant has meaning and is discussed.  This is done in great detail in the book and Sorrel keeps a diary of each planting and does a sketch of her plans which is charmingly featured at the beginning of the book.

Did I enjoy the book, yes, very much, who won’t find a romance of a space and people delightful, would I read another Sorrel Sparrow story, absolutely.  The author, Ellen Herrick, writes well, makes us like the characters, has thoroughly done her research and takes us on a most interesting journey.  Please leave your comments when you have read the book, (I would highly recommend it for your book club) or have you already read it!?

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From the book jacket:

“When Sorrel Sparrow is hired to restore the walled Shakespeare Garden at Kirkwood Hall—the ancestral home of Sir Graham Kirkwood and his wife, Stella—she finds desolation and shadows. According to family lore, generations have tried to return the garden to its former glory, but every attempt has failed. Determined, Sorrel vows to save the garden as only a Sparrow Sister can.

But as soon as Sorrel enters the garden, she feels a sense of heartbreak, betrayal . . . and perhaps even a dark enchantment. Intrigued by Kirkwood Hall’s history—and also by the haunting tapestries that tell its story—Sorrel, increasingly drawn to Stella’s enigmatic brother, sets to work. She slowly unravels the ancient garden’s secrets, only to learn that its destiny is irrevocably entwined with her own.”

For more on the author, Ellen Herrick go to her website www.ellenherrick.com

 

 

FASHION FLASHBACK: JUDITH LEIBER AND MORE FANS…

imageI had the pleasure of working with Judith Leiber on several occasions, each visit was a total joy.  In addition, she always invited me to visit her showroom/workrooms when I was in New York.  They were like a museum truly something to behold.  The pride level of the talented craftsmen quite frankly was something I have only seen duplicated in the Ateliers of Paris Haute Couture.  I think everyone only thinks of her beaded bags, which are exquisite works of art, but she also did skin bags, leathers and suede as well as fabric bags for day in addition to her overwhelmingly prolific collection of minaudière.  She would open a cabinet in her showroom that revealed a wondrous collection of very special pieces and always say, “choose whatever you like!”  If only, it was totally against store policy (Saks Fifth Avenue) to accept gifts from designers or vendors.  Unless the designer asked me to wear something from the collection we were featuring at a show (I was a sample size in those long ago days!!!), I bought what I wore at all times. I do own several Judith Leiber bags both day and evening and treasure each of them.

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Two bags from her fan collection (I included these at the end of yesterday’s post as a teaser, did you guess who I would be featuring today, of course, you did!) Each season there were animal bags, a themed collection, and her classics, always something extraordinary to add to your collection or start a new one.  She would also do special orders, perhaps just a color change.  You will see her bags on every red carpet as well as in the hands of royalty and our own First Ladies.  She was a major star with no star ego, a true icon in the industry.

image Judith Leiber in her workrooms in the early years.  The following is an excerpt from the Museum of Arts and Design and the Leiber exhibition that is closing this weekend.

“Judith Leiber spent sixty-five years in the handbag industry, from an apprentice in Budapest to the owner of an internationally renowned handbag company based in New York City. As the only female pattern-maker, and with the unusual ability to make a handbag from start to finish, Leiber brought a distinctly European training and skill set to the United States, where handbags were made with assembly-line skill division. This allowed her not only to succeed as a designer but also to revolutionize the meaning of handbag craftsmanship for the American consumer.

Leiber’s handbags run the gamut from finely crafted leather pieces and textile-based bags to the fantastical Swarovski crystal–encrusted creations for which she is most well known. Inspired by a life-long admiration of art, travel, and opera, Leiber’s bags include Art Deco–influenced hardware; materials such as Lucite and seashells; references to the artwork of Piet Mondrian, Georges Braque, and Sonia Delaunay; and collaboration with Faith Ringgold on a collection of handbags inspired by her quilts.

As Leiber’s reputation flourished, designers and suppliers sought her out, offering interesting materials, particularly textiles. Thus, many of her handbags are constructed with obis from Japan, Parsi ribbons from India, and fabrics from Iran and Africa. From the earliest days of her company, Leiber pushed the boundaries of handbag design—innovation that is epitomized by her famed sparkling minaudières, a technique that began as a solution to a damaged metal frame, and was then catalyzed by the design of her imaginative animal and food clutches to become fashion staples for First Ladies and celebrities alike.”

imageI love this photo of Mrs. Leiber surrounded by a few of her creations.  On one of her visits she was invited to attend a dinner in her honor at the home of one of our very good clients who collected Leiber bags…did I just say the Leiber showroom was like a museum, well I stand corrected, this client’s home was Leiber everywhere in specially designed museum quality cases, it was something out a movie and by the way quite tasteful.  Mrs. Leiber was overwhelmed.  The client, I might add, supplemented her collection, after that dinner, with Mrs. Leiber’s guidance.

imageAnother book to add to your fashion library, lucky me, mine is autographed by the wonderful creator herself!

 

One of my favorite designer stories came from James Galanos.  We were discussing selling many pieces to a single client and he told me that one of the California boutiques that sold his garments, actually bought most of the Collection each season, and that is saying something, had a client who had purchased multiple gowns that particular season and also ordered a Judith Leiber bag to go with each.  He was aghast at the expense.  My comment was “was the client involved with charities” answer, yes, very much so.  “did the client employ staff at her many homes, entertain there, have flowers, chefs, etc.” again, the answer, yes. “did the couple travel”…yes, yes, yes!  My answer to Mr. Galanos “the client is supporting the economy, we are just a small portion of that”.  His answer, “I never thought of it that way, but Nena, you are right!”  Wow, coming from one of the major fashion icons, oh my…  In other words, the people who can afford expensive items, clothes, cars, property, etc. make our economy, I guess that is what capitalism is all about.  Needless to say, I’m not in that category (one can live in hope) but I was lucky to be surrounded by beautiful things in my years in retail and can appreciate quality.

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Gerson and Judith Leiber in front of the wonderfully talented Gerson’s  paintings.

Information on the Leiber Museum….www.leibermuseum.org

“In 2005, Gerson and Judith Leiber built a gallery to house their works of art and to chronicle their careers, offering an unparalleled retrospective of their creations over the past many decades.

The Leiber Collection, a magnificent Renaissance styled Palladian edifice, sits majestically in a sublime sculpture garden that borders six additional gardens, each designed by Gerson Leiber, in a style befitting the local geography. Considered by many to be the best-kept secret of the Hamptons, you are in for a real treat as you peruse the exquisite jewel of a museum and explore the charming gardens.

Come visit us on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 1 – 4 pm”.

A YouTube video one of several, this a very dramatic life story of a major influencer and unique talent. Mrs. Leiber retired in 1998 having designed over 3,500 handbags!  The company’s current creative director and co-owner is Dee Ocleppo Hilfiger.

For further reading here is a link to the incredible Judith Leiber story in Harper’s Bazaar.

http://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/features/a17293/judith-leiber-from-holocaust-to-handbag-icon/

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There are other Judith Leiber fragrances, I chose to feature this one because of its name, love it!imageKarl Lagerfeld with his ever present fan with his then friend Yves Saint Laurent (whose 81st birthday we would have celebrated this week)

imageAnother photo of Karl Lagerfeld with his fan

imageSo much a part of his aesthetic that his fragrance bottle is fan shaped.

imageimageTwo looks from a John Galliano Dior Haute Couture collection.  As you can see fans are every where in every culture and in every era.

All photos from Pinterest credits unknown.

COLLECTIONS: FANS

imageToday’s post on fans was suggested by my BFF, Stephanie Lake, those of you who have followed nenasnotes from the beginning remember the week long postings I did on Stephanie and I call upon her when I am doing my Thursday Collection posts to see if she has anything to contribute, this time she turned the tables on me and got my juices flowing and my post on FANS was born.  In the photo above you see a portion of her collection.  Let’s look at a couple more from her collection with her words talking about fans…

“What else is at once as practical and as extravagant as a fan?    

I keep favorites on my vanity and I am never without one, nor is Odette, who has her own collection and is extremely proud that she can operate folded fan.”

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imageTwo from Stephanie Lake’s collection.

imageStephanie holding her patriotic fan….

“My interest in fans started with my graduate work; one of my first research papers was titled “Fashions In Flirtation: Fans in Eighteenth-Century Europe.”   In it, I examined fans as “the most mercurial of accessories,” reaching their provocative apogee as a paralanguage of gestures developed during that century.  Manuals for the meaning of each gesture were sold together with the most expensive fans.  Among my favorite quotes is from Art dans la parure et le vetement: “whatever the heat of the climate may be, the fan is above all things . . . a means or motive of gracious movements, under the pretext of agitating the air for the sake of coolness.” 

When curatorial work brought me to Tokyo and Kyoto I was gifted a number of fans of the type associated with Geisha fan dances, which I use the most frequently.   I also inherited a number from Bonnie Cashin, including one on which a beau wrote a love poem and drew a little portrait, including the lines: “Well her second name is Cashin / nd she really is a dashin’ / for her I have a passion / leading to mashin’ / but that is so old fashion.”  The Romance of the fan lives on!”

imageBonnie Cashin’s fan.

imageA bit of flirtation from Stephanie and her adorable daughter, Odette.  Love them!  Thanks so much Stephanie for sharing some of your collection for nenasnotes.  You can find Stephanie at https://www.stephanielakedesign.com/ and her magnificent monograph on Bonnie Cashin, Chic is Where You Find It here:           https://www.amazon.com/Bonnie-Cashin-Chic-Where-Find/dp/0847848051re

This post is going to be all over the place so please forgive me (but quite franking most of my posts do ramble don’t they!!!!!).  Fans have been a part of many cultures, the subject of Haute Couture collections, Japanese dance and art, Impressionists paintings and on and on….let’s look at some of my favorites with a couple from my tiny collection.  I collected fans as a child and they, along with other items were stolen from our Evanston home many, many years ago.  I’m sure they weren’t valuable to anyone but me but no matter, they are long gone.  The two below (I can’t find the fan that was on all the chairs at the 2006 Fall Christian Lacroix Haute Couture collection when the temperature in Paris was in the high 90’s for the two weeks I was there!)

imageThe lace trimmed one I got in New Orleans while attending a Costume Society of America Symposium several years ago, I fell in love with NOLA and treated myself to several souvenirs, I am especially fond of this one.  The black ostrich fan was a gift. Nena’s photo.

Speaking of ostrich feather fans, the first thing that should pop into our minds would be Sally Rand and her infamous fans and her dance at the Century of Progress Fair in Chicago, which, by the way, my parents worked.  Daddy did artwork for some of the Fair’s posters.  Sally’s dance was quite a scandal and the notorious fans are now housed at The Chicago History Museum www.chicagohistory.org and were featured in an exhibition several years ago entitled What George Wore and Sally Didn’t.

imageSally and her fans.

imageDita Von Teese with her exotic plumage.

imageThe cover of the exhibition catalog from The Met’s Dangerous Liaisons 2004 exhibition mounted in the Wrightsman Galleries of 18th-century furniture, it was an extraordinary exhibit, small but mighty in its drama.  As I recall it was the first of the costume exhibitions that have been mounted in spaces throughout the Museum, www.metmuseum.org brilliant as we now know!!!!

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imageA rather plain fan against an opulent gown.

imageA Japanese print. Check out similiar prints at The Art Institute of Chicago www.artic.edu

imageFan being used in Japanese theater.

A few of the many examples of painting of women with fans…I chose a few of my favorites.imageLa Japonaise by Claude Monet 1876,  Museum of Fine Arts Boston Collection.

imageGirl With Fan 1881 Pierre-Auguste Renoir,  Hermitage Museum.  I saw this when I was in St. Petersberg.  The Impressionists paintings had just started to be exhibited, after decades in storage, and the colors were extraordinary.

imageGustav Klimt Woman with a Fan 1917-1918

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Some of the fans I liked on Pinterest…photo credits unknown.

imageMy most favorite of all, isn’t it a stunner!

imageFrom Kevin Gorsch’s collection the fan was signed to him by Faye Dunaway when he styled her for an event in Chicago early 2000’s  You get a bonus with Kevin’s silhouette in the photo….you can visit Kevin (you can follow him on Instagram at redleopardcrocodilevintage) and his extraordinary handbag and accessories collection, The Red Leopard Crocodile, in the Ballroom at the monthly Randolph Street Market www.randolphstreetmarket.com

imageYou know it is superb if it is by Valerie Steele!  One to add to your “fashion” book collection!

imageA preview of Friday’s Fashon Flashback post….can you guess who I will be featuring?  I will also continue the fan theme a little bit, so much interesting material.

All photos, unless otherwise noted, are from Pinterest photo credits unknown.

 

 

 

 

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: MY TO BE READ PILE

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I have a stack of TBR books and thought it might be amusing to list them for you.  I, as I write this, don’t have any reading order in mind, although I might start with Cooking for Picasso.  I should tell you that I don’t do reviews on books I don’t enjoy, in fact, if I find I don’t like the book at the onset I don’t go any further.  Yes, I know, I really KNOW, that isn’t the way to read, but at this stage in my life there are too many books and articles that I want to read why spend time with anything I don’t enjoy…life is full of things we have to do, reading a book that I don’t enjoy isn’t one of them! The point is this, everything on today’s list might not get reviewed, although each sounds like something I would enjoy and want to pass that information on to you.  So here goes, I am giving you the covers and a bit of an overview, courtesy of the publishers, on each title.  Let’s explore together, shall we, this could be our little nenasnotes book club!

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“The French Riviera, spring 1936: It’s off-season in the lovely seaside village of Juan-les-Pins, where seventeen-year-old Ondine cooks with her mother in the kitchen of their family-owned Café Paradis. A mysterious new patron who’s slipped out of Paris and is traveling under a different name has made an unusual request—to have his lunch served to him at the nearby villa he’s secretly rented, where he wishes to remain incognito.

Pablo Picasso is at a momentous crossroads in his personal and professional life—and for him, art and women are always entwined. The spirited Ondine, chafing under her family’s authority and nursing a broken heart, is just beginning to discover her own talents and appetites. Her encounter with Picasso will continue to affect her life for many decades onward, as the great artist and the talented young chef each pursue their own passions and destiny.

New York, present day: Céline, a Hollywood makeup artist who’s come home for the holidays, learns from her mother, Julie, that Grandmother Ondine once cooked for Picasso. Prompted by her mother’s enigmatic stories and the hint of more family secrets yet to be uncovered, Céline carries out Julie’s wishes and embarks on a voyage to the very town where Ondine and Picasso first met. In the lush, heady atmosphere of the Côte d’Azur, and with the help of several eccentric fellow guests attending a rigorous cooking class at her hotel, Céline discovers truths about art, culture, cuisine, and love that enable her to embrace her own future.

Featuring an array of both fictional characters and the French Riviera’s most famous historical residents, set against the breathtaking scenery of the South of France,Cooking for Picasso is a touching, delectable, and wise story, illuminating the powers of trust, money, art, and creativity in the choices that men and women make as they seek a path toward love, success, and joie de vivre.”   Nena’s note, why wouldn’t we love this book…might need to be the first one I read!!!! www.randomhousebooks.com

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“From the #1 internationally bestselling author of The House at Riverton, a novel that takes the reader on an unforgettable journey through generations and across continents as two women try to uncover their family’s secret past.

A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book—a beautiful volume of fairy tales. She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own. On her twenty-first birthday, they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and very little to go on, “Nell” sets out to trace her real identity. Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell’s death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled. A spellbinding tale of mystery and self-discovery, The Forgotten Garden will take hold of your imagination and never let go.”  Nena’s note, I loved The House at Riverton, so this sounds appealing to me, what do you think!? www.simonandschuster.com

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“Discover the real-life mystery centered on the queen of crime herself: Agatha Christie. In this tantalizing new novel, Christie’s mysterious ten-day disappearance serves as the starting point for a gripping novel, in which Christie herself is pulled into a case of blackmail and murder.

“I wouldn’t scream if I were you. Unless you want the whole world to learn about your husband and his mistress.”

Agatha Christie, in London to visit her literary agent, is boarding a train, preoccupied with the devastating knowledge that her husband is having an affair. She feels a light touch on her back, causing her to lose her balance, then a sense of someone pulling her to safety from the rush of the incoming train. So begins a terrifying sequence of events—for her rescuer is no guardian angel, rather he is a blackmailer of the most insidious, manipulative kind.

“You, Mrs. Christie, are going to commit a murder. But, before then, you are going to disappear.”

Writing about murder is a far cry from committing a crime, and Agatha must use every ounce of her cleverness and resourcefulness to thwart an adversary determined to exploit her expertise and knowledge about the act of murder to kill on his behalf.

In A Talent for Murder, Andrew Wilson ingeniously explores Agatha Christie’s odd ten-day disappearance in 1926 and weaves an utterly compelling and convincing story around this still unsolved mystery involving the world’s bestselling novelist.”  Nena’s note, I really can’t wait to get started on this one….love the premise….anything that has Ms. Christie in it has to be a fun read! www.simonandschuster.com

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“For readers of Kate Atkinson and Tana French comes a page-turning literary mystery that brings to life the complex and wholly relatable Manon Bradshaw, a strong-willed detective assigned to a high-risk missing persons case.

At thirty-nine, Manon Bradshaw is a devoted and respected member of the Cambridgeshire police force, and though she loves her job, what she longs for is a personal life. Single and distant from her family, she wants a husband and children of her own. One night, after yet another disastrous Internet date, she turns on her police radio to help herself fall asleep—and receives an alert that sends her to a puzzling crime scene.

Edith Hind—a beautiful graduate student at Cambridge University and daughter of the surgeon to the Royal Family—has been missing for nearly twenty-four hours. Her home offers few clues: a smattering of blood in the kitchen, her keys and phone left behind, the front door ajar but showing no signs of forced entry. Manon instantly knows that this case will be big—and that every second is crucial to finding Edith alive.

The investigation starts with Edith’s loved ones: her attentive boyfriend, her reserved best friend, her patrician parents. As the search widens and press coverage reaches a frenzied pitch, secrets begin to emerge about Edith’s tangled love life and her erratic behavior leading up to her disappearance. With no clear leads, Manon summons every last bit of her skill and intuition to close the case, and what she discovers will have shocking consequences not just for Edith’s family but for Manon herself.

Suspenseful and keenly observed, Missing, Presumed is a brilliantly twisting novel of how we seek connection, grant forgiveness, and reveal the truth about who we are.” Nena’s note, sounds like another good one with a strong female detective who isn’t a twenty-something…sort of a Tennison don’t you think!  www.penquinrandomhouse.com

 

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From the author’s website: “In the summer of 1940, ambitious young American journalist Ruby Sutton gets her big break: the chance to report on the European war as a staff writer for Picture Weekly newsmagazine in London. She jumps at the chance, for it’s an opportunity not only to prove herself, but also to start fresh in a city and country that know nothing of her humble origins. But life in besieged Britain tests Ruby in ways she never imagined.

Although most of Ruby’s new colleagues welcome her, a few resent her presence, not only as an American but also as a woman. She is just beginning to find her feet, to feel at home in a country that is so familiar yet so foreign, when the bombs begin to fall.

As the nightly horror of the Blitz stretches unbroken into weeks and months, Ruby must set aside her determination to remain an objective observer. When she loses everything but her life, and must depend upon the kindness of strangers, she learns for the first time the depth and measure of true friendship – and what it is to love a man who is burdened by secrets that aren’t his to share.

Goodnight from London, inspired in part by the wartime experiences of the author’s own grandmother, is a captivating, heartfelt, and historically immersive story that readers are sure to embrace”.  Nena’s note….again soumds like a good one, I do like a story about a woman who can conjure the odds and it is set in London, and you know I love a good English story…..  www.jennifer-robson.com

image“A collection of all-new Paris-themed essays written by some of the biggest names in women’s fiction, including Paula McLain, Therese Anne Fowler, Maggie Shipstead, and Lauren Willig—edited by Eleanor Brown, the New York Times bestselling author of The Weird Sisters and The Light of Paris.

“My time in Paris,” says New York Times–bestselling author Paula McLain (The Paris Wife), “was like no one else’s ever.” For each of the eighteen bestselling authors in this warm, inspiring, and charming collection of personal essays on the City of Light, nothing could be more true.

While all of the women writers featured here have written books connected to Paris, their personal stories of the city are wildly different. Meg Waite Clayton (The Race for Paris) and M. J. Rose (The Book of Lost Fragrances) share the romantic secrets that have made Paris the destination for lovers for hundreds of years. Susan Vreeland (The Girl in Hyacinth Blue) and J. Courtney Sullivan (The Engagements) peek behind the stereotype of snobbish Parisians to show us the genuine kindness of real people.

From book club favorites Paula McLain, Therese Anne Fowler (Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald), and anthology editor Eleanor Brown (The Light of Paris) to mystery writer Cara Black (Murder in the Marais), historical author Lauren Willig (The Secret History of the Pink Carnation), and memoirist Julie Powell (Julie and Julia), these Parisian memoirs range from laugh-out-loud funny to wistfully romantic to thoughtfully somber and reflective.

Perfect for armchair travelers and veterans of Parisian pilgrimages alike, readers will delight in these brand-new tales from their most beloved authors..”  Nena’s note, can’t wait to read this one…I love travel stories by authors I admire, how do you feel about that?  Let’s explore together. www.penguinrandomhouse.com

And there you have it….at least six weeks of reviews, others might pop up on my radar and, as always, do make your suggestions and comments.

COLLECTIONS: MINATURE SHOES

imageMy mini collection of miniature shoes.  They sit on my decoupaged chest that held my Father’s paints.  Interesting that the Elfinware shoes have forget me knots on them and are on a postcard of them, who knew!  Not the world’s best photo but a hard one to capture with my handy dandy iPhone 7!

My collection began many, many years ago with the wooden snuff box given to me by the amazingly talented Beth Levine when she visited Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago with her Beth’s Bootery Collection, which was exclusive to the Store.  You will read her story in tomorrow’s Fashion Flashback post.  She collected these extraordinary boxes and created a shoe, in brown leather with gold detail I adored them, (wish I had a picture to share with you) that I owned and gave to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago Fashion Resource Center, an extraordinary Collection under the supervision of the brilliant Gillion Carrara www.saic.edu

imageA close up of my snuff box.  My photo.

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imageThe two photos found on Pinterest, credit unknown.  The shoe above is what the front of my actual Beth’s Bootery shoe looked like.  A good look at the slide that opens to reveal the container for your snuff.

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imageThe two images above are inlaid with mother of pearl.  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageIsn’t this a beauty inlaid with silver and the compartment flips up to reveal your snuff!  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageMy favorite of all the wooden shoe snuff boxes…isn’t is a wonder, so very tiny with all the intricate carving…I want it!  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

My Mother collected Elfinware and we found many, many pieces at various prices, some quite expensive and others unbelievably “cheap”, all special to Mom and to me, do we see a post in the future…probably!  Made between 1920-1940 in Germany to look like Dresden the items were quite inexpensive (much like Jadelite and Depression Glass when they were introduced) and have become collector’s items.  Be sure to check out the Randolph Street Market www.randolphstreetmarket.com this weekend, July 29 and 30 from 10 to 5, you might find a piece of Elfinware or a shoe collectible or whatever strikes your fancy!

imageI have, over the years, given away several of Mom’s pieces to friends who wanted a token from her collections. My photo.

imageOne of my favorites, a Limoges snuff box, again featuring forget me knots,  Interestingly I don’t have any “shoes” with lily of the valley…I’ll have to look for one!  My photo.

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I am partial to this piece, it is English porcelain and the largest of the collection.  It has the look of Imari, don’t you agree….a charming manipulation of clay to form the ruffle on what to me looks like a shoe bootie!  My photo.

imageA similar piece found on Pinterest with handpainted flowers.  Photo credit unknown.

imageAs is my custom, here is a book for you to expand your knowledge, if you are so inclined, of the wonderful collectible world of snuff boxes.  What you say, you don’t do snuff, well just think of them as beautiful objects that you can admire, perhaps put your aspirin in one or two of them!  Enjoy….

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: FAVORITE PINS THIS WEEK: GREEN

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I became addicted to Pinterest this weekend and found all manner of wondrous images of my all time favorite color…..green!  So why not do a post on all things green. Few words just glorious images like the above collage I prepared for the blog! I will identify my own photos, some may be repeats (sorry!) but mostly they are pins I have saved and don’t have photo credits

imageI adore color samples, here one of Pantone’s green palettes, these are the greens that are the most attractive to me, however, I do love all greens!

The following quote is attributed to the book,  Green: The History of a Color by Michael Pastoureau published by Princeton University Press (one of his series of books on color, I ordered mine immediately from www.amazon.com!!!!) “The color green is fickle, mutable, variously the color of love, youth, irresponsibility, but also madness, debauchery, and the underworld”.  

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imageFrom Carolyne Roehm www.carolyneroehm.com using an Ikat textile for her table setting, her “eye” is brilliant in all things, whether flowers, gardens or interiors.

imageAnother tablescape from Carolyne Roehm

 

imageI not only love this photo but want everything in it!!!! It is so me!

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I could live in any of these rooms and take inspiration for not only the color and the weathered look of the rooms but all the details large and small.

imageBeautifully detailed tiles.

imageA magnificent garden path leading to a secluded nook.

imageThe entrance to Monet’s home in Giverny

imageA fantastically beautiful solarium….

imageIvy on a brick wall from a weekend in Harbor Country my photo

imageA wood in Indiana my photo

imageI am mad for this capture….an exquisite bird sitting on a fern frond

imageFerns in a Blue Island garden my photo

imageI know I have posted this but it is a beauty with the gold embellished embossed leather binding, you might find something similar at the Newberry Library www.newberry.org Book Sale this week, Thursday through Sunday, July 27 through 30  or at this weekend’s RandolphStreet Market  www.randolphstreetmarket.com Saturday and Sunday.

imageMy all time favorite tree, a weeping redbud in full leaf, also in a Blue Island garden my photo

imageCan you believe this is a cabbage!  It is amazing and HUGE, the shades of an almost metallic green are extraordinary, another shot from my Harbor Country weekend.

imageI know I did this in another post but had to feature it again, John Galliano for Christian Dior Haute Couture Fall 2006 (the Collection I was fortunate to witness!!!!) Vogue photograph

imageA truly spectacular conifer in Harbor Country, my photo.

 

www.randolphstreetmarket.com

www.newberry.org

 

 

 

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: THE LITTLE FRENCH BISTRO

 

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Having read The Little Paris Bookshop (which I haven’t reviewed as yet!) I was looking forward to Nina George’s The Little French Bistro and I wasn’t disappointed.

I must say the beginning of the book was a bit off putting and since it is the beginning I feel safe telling you…our heroine travels to Paris and the Seine with the purpose of drowning herself, huh!!!???  She obviously has her reasons, she is running away from a forty-one year unhappy marriage. Why, you might ask, stay in a marriage that long, I think you will agree people stay in relationships for all sorts of reasons, but mostly, in my opinion, it is familiar, perhaps in some way, comforting normalcy.  Marianne isn’t physically abused but emotional abuse can be as devastating.  So she leaves and jumps into the Seine and by chance, there is a man (who appears to be homeless) on the banks of the River who saves her.  She isn’t happy about this but feels it means she must get on with her life by whatever means.  She doesn’t know what to do or where to go but starts her journey for the French coast and ends up in Brittany, which is known as “the end of the world”!  She is embraced by the population of the small town and finds work at Mor restaurant.  Quoting from the inside flap of the book “Among food, music, and laughter, Marianne finds a forgotten version of herself—passionate, (Nena’s note, yes there is an affair) carefree and powerful.”  Her past does catch up with her, literally, and decisions must be made, we hope she makes the right ones.

I really enjoyed Ms. George’s www.nina-george.com writing and how she brought the power of being oneself (even when you don’t know who that is!) to be life altering.  What I especially liked is the protagonist isn’t a 20 something but an “older” woman who rediscovers herself, obviously telling us it is never too late to be true to who you really are.  Is there a physical make-over, yes, and it is wonderful and, of course, the mental and emotional make-over. The story gives us hope that one can change no matter the circumstances nor the time of your life…live it fully!  Is there freedom to do whatever you want or haven’t tried before, absolutely and it is a delight to watch (read!)

I want to quote directly from the book, page 240 to be exact, it, in my opinion, perfectly describes the book’s meaning….let’s see what you think…

“Marianne loved the feeling of being wanted. As Marianne. As a woman.  ‘In my search for death, I found life.  How many deviations, side roads and senseless detours a woman can take before she finds her own path, and all because she falls into line too early, takes too early the paths of custom and convention, defined by doddering old men and their henchwomen—the mothers who only want the most dutiful outcome for their daughters. And then she wastes an immense amount of time ensuring that she fits the mold! How little time then remains to correct her fate.  And, yet. life as an autonomous woman is not a song.  It’s a scream, a war, it’s a daily struggle against the easy option of obeying.  I could have obeyed, could have lived less dangerously, ventured nothing, failed at nothing.’ ” 

Very profound and, again, in my opinion, spot on.

I  recently joined a Facebook group of women led by Catherine Grace O’Connell www.catherinegraceo.com (you may recall I profiled Catherine in a previous post) The group, The Fierce 50 Revolution (name is changing) exists to empower women from mid-life on by giving each an organization to network with other women.  Do go to the Facebook site for details.  This book should be MUST reading for all the members and I would suggest, for all my readers.  It is a charming eye-opening look into the world of conforming and then becoming an independent person.

You know I like to support Independent Booksellers but in this instance, my book was purchased from www.amazon.com

COLLECTIONS: BROWN TRANSFERWARE

imageA collection of brown transferware.  Photo courtesy of Pinterest credit unknown.

I did a post several months ago on blue and white transferware and discussed my own collection of green transferware, now here we are with brown.  Actually. these are the three colors I am familiar with (the blue and white), collections in friends homes, (the green) which I collect, or (brown) assembled while assisting with decorating a country home many years ago.  So brown it is today.  All of the colors and there are many, including pink, purple, red, even yellow, you will find examples to add to your collection or start a new passion at the monthly Randolph Street Market www.randolphstreetmarket.com which will be July 29 and 30 from 10 to 5.

“Transferware is a style of ceramics including pottery, dinnerware, and other delicate items. It uses transfer printing, a decorative technique which was developed in England, in the mid-18th century, particularly around the Staffordshire region.

The process starts with an engraved copper plate similar to those used for making paper engravings. The plate is used to print the pattern on tissue paper, then the tissue paper transfers the wet ink to the ceramic surface. The ceramic is then fired in a low-temperature kiln to fix the pattern. This can be done over or under the glaze, but the underprinting method is more durable. The process produces fine lines similar to the engraved prints in old books. Before transfer printing ceramics were hand painted, a laborious and costly process.”  From Wikipedia (never know how much to believe from this site but this seems accurate).

imageHere is a small portion of the collection I amassed several years ago.  It is a complete supper set found in various antique markets both here and abroad.  I started this collection before RSM began but have found items to add to it recently at the Market. I didn’t want anything very flowery nor with people but rather English scenes and a flower or two.  I don’t remember where I first found what I wanted for this country house but it just grew from there.  I do remember I was doing a fashion show out of town and went antiquing at a local mall on our way back to Chicago and happened to glance down into a case and there was an entire set of the exact pattern I was collecting…if you are a collector, you can only imagine my excitement…had to run out to find a cash machine and hurry back to make my purchase.  I have, as mentioned, added to the collection over the years but the place settings are done.  I add a pitcher, a platter, a bowl, etc. when I see them.  I particularly like the salt and pepper shakers on the top shelf, they were in the antique mall collection.

imageThe platter at the top of the breakfront was found at an antique market in the English country side.  I carried it and several other pieces back with me on the plane home, I was, for some unknown reason, upgraded to first class on the flight and my treasures were stowed very carefully by the flight attendant, she must have been a collector as well!

imageMore of the collection displayed on a rough white plaster wall.  I think very country, don’t you agree!

imageA group of pitchers found at various times on various treasure hunts.

imageI would love to find a similar cheese dome, isn’t it smashing!  Love it!  Pinterest image credit unknown.

imageGreat collection of plates from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

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imageA couple of reference books found on www.amazon.com

 

Photos are all taken by Nena with an iPhone7 unless otherwise noted.

Some sites to investigate:

www.marthastewart.com  Transferware article….excellent information

www.marthastewart.com  video Transferware Questions

www.marthastewart.com  video How to Display a Collection in a Cabinet

www.transcollectorsclub.org

I thought since we are English today why not a typical English “pudding”….

ENGLISH SUMMER PUDDING

imageEnglish Summer Pudding Pinterest photo credit unknown.

2 tablespoon water

150g (5oz ) sugar

450g (1 lb) washed, mixed summer fruits, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries

100 to 150g (4 to 6oz) day old white bread, sliced and crusts removed, I use the divine Authentic French Brioche from either Mariano’s or Whole Food, I am totally addicted to it…or day or two old store bought pound cake, the technique and amount remain the same

Whipped cream, ice cream or your favorite home made custard

METHOD:

Stir the water and sugar together and bring to a gentle boil. Add all the berries and fruits except the strawberries. Stew the fruits very gently and not for too long.  They should simply be softened but still retain their shape. Once you feel they are ready put to one side (juice and all) and leave to cool.

Cut the slices of bread or cake, into half then each half into triangles. They do not all have to match perfectly; you will use these to line a 1½ pint/700 ml pudding basin.

Start by lining your pudding basin with cling film. Then continue by dipping a couple of triangles in the juices of the stewed fruits. Lay these in the bottom of the dish and then continue the same way but lining the sides of the basin with bread slices ensuring there are no gaps.

Once completed, fill with the stewed fruits including the strawberries. Cover the top with more juice dipped bread slices. Make sure not to add too much of the juices from the fruits as this may cause the bread to lose its shape. There must be enough to soak into the bread, though.

Place a saucer on the top of the basin and weigh down with something heavy like a tin of tomatoes or beans is ideal. Place in the refrigerator and leave overnight.

The next day, turn the pudding out onto a pretty serving plate, preferably a piece of your transferware, and serve with either the whipped cream or make some lovely custard sauce. If you are lucky enough to have scorching sunny weather, then serve with ice cream and champagne or dessert wine.  Yummy, yummy. yum!!!!

 

 

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: PEKOE MOST POISON

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Yes, I do read a Cozy Mystery now and then…to me, they are like an Intermezzo between dinner courses, they cleanse your brain, it doesn’t have to work too hard and the characters are all familiar.  I find that especially true with Laura Childs’ Tea Shop Mysteries I have read almost all of them.  I also like her Scrapbooking Mysteries series, they are set in New Orleans, one of my most favorite cities in the States, I’m not a scrapbooker, oh wait, I do love Pinterest and have always been a clipper, do those count! www.laurachilds.com

Pekoe Most Poison, while being formula, which is why I like Childs, is a good read and a much needed break from some very heavy reading that quite frankly I gave up on and will start again later.  You can easily sit comfortably on your deck, by the water, in your garden and read while sipping tea, of course, or in my case on the South Shore Train going to and from Michigan City, Indiana one day last week.  The protagonist, Theodosia Browning, owns a tea shop in charming Charleston (which always plays an important role in the stories) along with her staff, her tea sommelier the debonair, Drayton, her chef the young, Haley and, of course, her dog Earl Grey.  As always, I would suggest starting with the first of the series just to get the lay of the land, but I’ll leave that up to you.

The murder in each story always happens quite near the beginning of the book and gives you many, many suspects along the way.  In addition, and an addition I really like, you get to know Charleston’s charm as well as the surrounding area.  Theo was a marketing whiz and decided to change lifestyle and became the owner of an extremely successful tea shop.  She, Drayton and Haley plan not only the day’s breakfasts, lunches and tea times but also host themed tea parties in each book, sometimes several.  The recipes included are always delightful and sound quite delicious.  I am a tea drinker and have found many of Drayton’s suggestions interesting and Childs gives a list of purveyors at the back of each book.

This book opens with a “Rat Tea” (a Charleston tradition) being given by one of Charleston’s wealthiest women (her money not her husbands), Doreen Briggs, in her elaborate mansion  During the course of the party Doreen’s husband, Beau, drops dead…we learn from poison. The police arrive with a new detective, Detective Pete Riley, who, of course, is fabulous (will this develop into a romance…Theo usually has a beau in each book, we shall see!).  Theo has helped the police in the past, much to the dismay of Detective Tidwell who is out of town for this book and has just met Detective Riley.  We find out much about Beau’s soon to be opened Gilded Magnolia Spa.  Learn about misappropriated funds, an overpowering PR woman, Starla, Beau and Doreen’s family, and many of the usual cast of characters from previous books.  A grant that Doreen is holding over Drayton’s head to “blackmail” Theo into getting to the bottom of the murder.  As always twists and turns, but a fun romp none the less…my little gray cells didn’t have to work very hard and they could take a breath.  When you want a “book breath” why not cozy up with a cozy!