WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: HALLOWEEN STORIES

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

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

Story #1

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

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

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

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Story #2

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

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

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

Story #3

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

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

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

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Above photos from Pinterest photo credits unknown.

Love these charming plates from Williams-Sonoma.

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Hope I get these in my treat bag……

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PROFILE: SWAN LAKE JOFFREY BALLET STYLE

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jeraldine Mendoza and Grieg Matthews photograph by Cheryl Mann.

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

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

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

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

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

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Both swan photos found on Pinterest photo credits unknown. 

 

PROFILE: JAY AND DEEPA LAKHANI TRADITION MADE MODERN

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It isn’t often that you meet people and instantly know you will be forever friends  I had that wonderful occurrence when I met Jay and Deepa Lakhani  Deepa Gurnaniat a reception at Neiman Marcus, Chicago, for, another new friend, Kobi Halperin , and his Erte inspired collection with embellishment by these extraordinary creators.  At a fabulously delicious dinner at Margaux Brasserieorchestrated by our hostess, Shelley Rosen, Founder of Luxe Bloom, I was seated between the couple and I’m afraid I monopolized them for the entire evening, they are amazing.  Here is their story.

I AM OBSESSED WITH YOUR PARTNERSHIP TELL ME HOW YOU COLLABORATE AND, OF COURSE, THE STORY OF HOW YOU MET AND MARRIED…IT IS A WONDERFULLY ROMANTIC STORY THAT I WANT TO SHARE WITH MY READERS YOU CAN BOTH ANSWER PLEASE PUT YOUR INITIALS IN FRONT OF YOUR ANSWERS

Jay Lakhani: It is funny that Deepa and I didn’t meet until much later in our lives even though our families have known each other for generations – we have been family friends since our great grandparents. The younger kids lost touch with each other because we were not living in India. I met Deepa in New York while her sister and I were roommates in College. We hit it off instantly because we were both in fashion school at the time – she at Central Saint Martins, London and I in the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York.

Deepa Lakhani: We fell in love and decided to get married pretty soon after that. From the beginning we understood that we also wanted to merge our fashion lines together. We felt that it was possible because we were in sync creatively and on the same page about our design philosophy.

The Wedding

WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST JOBS

JL: I am a Jewelry Designer by profession, but also passionate about sales and marketing. My first job in the industry was in 2001 with Andin International, wholesale Jewelry manufacturers supplying to department stores and retailers in the United States. Here I received training in design as well as sales and marketing.

DL: You can say I have been a designer-entrepreneur from the get go. I worked as an assistant buyer for Browns in London for a short while and that gave me an insight into fashion retail and the everyday needs of a girl. I always wanted to start my own embroidery factory and I did that in India in 2002.

Some of my, Nena’s, favorite earrings, examples of  Deepa’s creativity

BRIEFLY DESCRIBE YOUR CURRENT OCCUPATION

JL: We are both designers by education and occupation. At our company I handle all of sales, marketing and PR while Deepa handles all of logistics, accounting, and production. We only meet when we design.

Jay working one-on-one with one of their artisans in their factory in Mumbai, India

WHEN DID YOU DISCOVER YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOUR TALENT

JL: As far as I can recall I have always had an interest in fashion, focused on clothing, silhouette and style. I would always diligently follow runway shows of my favorite designers and had a strong point of view since the beginning.

DL: I think we both always knew this is what we wanted to do. Fashion school is what helped me further discover my talent and gave me the confidence to pursue my love for design.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD “MADE IT” EXPLAIN

DL: When we launched on 5th Avenue in New York City at the store Henri Bendel in November 2006. We made it at the ‘open see’ that has about 500 designers showcasing, and only 15 out of those finally make it. It was our first store launch and things really took off from there.

Below photos from The Accessories Council Excellence Awards, August 2017

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Jay and Deepa with New York team at the Awards dinner

At same dinner with Anthropologie buyers and Betsey Johnson and Eva Longoria

HOW DID YOUR ORIGINAL PASSION BRING YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW

JL: My parents are Jewelers by trade. I have always had a keen interest in fashion and an eye for Jewelry. We saw a need in the market for handmade products and the necessity of preserving traditional arts and crafts. That is true luxury to us. We feel strongly about this and that is why we started this initiative and have taken it on for years to come.

WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN YOUR ALTERNATE CHOICE AS A CAREER….WAS THERE ONE

JL: Nothing but fashion for me.

DL: It was either fashion or medical school for me. My father understood my passion for design and nudged me in that direction.

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Deepa’s April 2018 Birthday lunch

YOUR FAVORITE BOOK, MOVIE, LIST THE FOLLOWING,IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE…THEATER (LEGIT, MUSICALS), BALLET, TYPE OF MUSIC YOU LIKE TO LISTEN TO, LOCAL RESTAURANT

Book: Devil Wears Prada

Theatre: Kinky Boots

Music: Spiritual and meditational music, Buddha Bar

Local Restaurants:  Mr. Chow and Bareburger in NYC, Pali Village Café and Bastian in Mumbai,

HOBBIES….

JL: I love to dance. I am a trained Bollywood dancer and used to teach classes in New York.

DL: I enjoy sketching and cooking in my free time. Both of us love yoga, traveling and watching movies together.

HOME….MODERN, TRADITIONAL, ANTIQUES (WHAT ERA) ECLECTIC DESCRIBE

JL: Our home can be described as minimal, modern, and our zen, cozy refuge at the end of a hectic day

WHO WOULD YOU HAVE AT YOUR FANTASY DINNER (LIVING OR DEAD AND BE SURE TO INCLUDE YOURSELF!) AND WHAT WOULD YOU SERVE (10-12 GUESTS)

JL and DL: Anna Wintour, Oprah Winfrey, Anne Hathaway, Gautam Buddha, Dalai Lama, Karl Lagerfeld, Coco Chanel, Erte, Beyonce & Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.

JL: We would serve a full Indian spread because I love Indian food. A traditional Indian Thali would be so much fun. It would of course be organic, nutritious and mostly vegetarian because that’s how Deepa likes it.

FAVORITE VACATION SPOT VISITED AND/OR ON YOUR GO TO LIST (HERE IS A CHANCE TO TALK ABOUT WHERE TO GO AND WHAT TO DO IN INDIA!)

JL:  We are in love with Bali and could go there again and again. Greece is a place on our list that we haven’t been to yet. Hopefully Summer 2018!

DL: We also go to India often, especially to Mumbai and love it there. Otherwise the most beautiful, colorful side to India is in Rajasthan with its beautiful forts, luxuriouspalace hotels, rich textile heritage and fantastic food.

FAVORITE WORK OF ART

JL: Mona Lisa

DL: I love Leon Bakst and Erte’s portraits of Marchesa Luisa Casati

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED

JL: We would like to be remembered for our humanitarian contributions to society.  We believe in giving back and building up people around us who are in need.

 A FAVORITE, OR TWO, RECIPE

Both Deepa and I hail from the Sindhi community in India, and our favorite Sunday indulgence is Koki, a whole wheat, spiced pancake. You could eat that with some chilled yoghurt or mango pickle or some Dum Aloo (potato dish) famously from the region of Kashmir. I follow British-Indian chef and author Maunika Gowardhan @cookinacurry and these recipes are from her blog.

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Sindhi Koki

Ingredients

(Serves 4)

150gms whole wheat flour

1 medium red onion finely chopped

2 green chillies (or less if you prefer it mild)

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp pomegranate powder

80gms coriander leaves finely chopped

1 tbsp softened butter

Salt to taste

125mls water

Vegetable oil for frying

Method

In a bowl mix the flour, chopped onions, chillies, cumin seeds, pomegranate powder and coriander leaves. Add the softened butter and salt. Mix well and add the water little at a time to make a soft and slightly sticky dough. Knead well and divide into equal portions.

The koki should be still thick so roll the dough out to no more 8cm in diameter. Heat the pan. Add the koki to the warm pan. Cook for 5-7 seconds over medium heat and turn over to cook the underside. Add a tsp of oil on the top side and flip over again. Cook for a further minute on each side as it begins to change colour and has a few brown speckles on the bread. Keep warm wrapped in a cloth or foil while you make the rest. Serve warm with a pickle & some yoghurt or a curry.

Kashmiri Dum Aloo

Ingredients

(Serves 4)

60gms cashew nuts

18-20 small new potatoes peeled

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 medium white onion finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic finely chopped

1” piece of ginger finely chopped

200gms greek yoghurt lightly whisked

1 ½ tsp kashmiri chilli powder (or mild paprika)

1 tsp fennel powder

½ tsp cumin powder

2 tbsp tomato puree

150mls water

½ tsp ground cardamom powder

Salt to taste

1 tsp crushed dried fenugreek leaves (optional)

1 tbsp coriander leaves for garnish

Slivers of ginger for garnish

Method

Soak the cashew nuts in warm water for 20 mins. Prick the new potatoes with a fork lightly (this helps them cook all the way through). Heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil in a wok or kadhai. Add the potatoes and fry for 3-4 minutes until they turn crisp and golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper & set aside.

Whisk the yoghurt and mix in the chilli powder, fennel powder and cumin powder. Stir the spiced yoghurt and set aside.

Drain most of the water from the cashew nuts; blend the cashew nuts to a fine puree. Set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in the kadhai. Add the chopped onions and sauté until they begin to soften for 4-5 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and ginger and fry for a couple of minutes as it cooks. Turn the heat to a low setting and add the spiced yoghurt. Stir well for a minute and add the cashew nut paste. Stir for 2-3 mins. Tip in the tomato puree and stir for a further 2 minutes.

As the curry starts to leave oil from the sides of the pan add the fried potatoes, water and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10-15 mins stirring ever so often until the potatoes have soaked in the flavours and cooked all the way through. Add the cardamom powder, crushed methi/fenugreek leaves if using, fresh coriander and ginger. Stir and serve warm.

BLOGS/ INSTAGRAM/ WEBSITES YOU FOLLOW

WWD, Business of Fashion, Vogue India, Man Repeller, Chiara Ferragni, Alessandro Michele, Priyanka Chopra, Deliciously Ella and many more

 All photos courtesy of Jay and Deepa Lakhani.

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: ICE SKATING

imageWhen I was a little girl I wanted to either be a ballerina or a figure skater.  I took lessons in both and loved every minute of them.  Today let’s talk about figure skating.

I think one of the things I liked most of all about skating was wearing the incredible costumes Mom made for me.  Totally adorable,  little skirts of felt or velvet with tops and little bonnets to match and, of course, I could wear colored tights long before we wore tights. the only time you wore tights in those days was either for ballet or figure skating, lucky me I got to do both!  I thought I was totally cool!

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Each Saturday, during the winter, Mom and I would take the El/Subway from Howard Street (we lived in Rogers Park in Chicago at the time) to the Grand Avenue station where we got the Grand Avenue bus East to Fairbanks and walked a couple of blocks to the Arena (which became the CBS Chicago headquarters).  Daddy would often go with us and stop off at work and meet us or go with us to watch me skate.  The figure skating classes were taught by professional skaters and I was crazy about mine.  The classes were small and we had the entire rink to ourselves…the ice smooth as glass (I always had difficulty skating on outside ice, especially when used for hockey games, fairly rough compared to figure skating ice, yes there is a difference!)  But the most fun of all was when The Ice Follies were in town and we got to skate on their ice which had exquisite colored patterns in the ice.  We felt like we were The Ice Follies…and then we got to watch them perform at the Saturday Matinee….it was magical! We, of course also had The Ice Capades, but The Follies were my favorites especially since they shared their ice with me!   I have searched and searched for a photo of the Arena’s rink to no avail, but did find a couple of fun illustrations from The Ice Follies.

imageimageA couple of programs I found on Pinterest.

imageimageI have never heard of this film, now a must-see on my list…..and she skated in it….amazing!

Often after class, we would go to The Hilton to the Boulevard Room for their ice show, I could have watched for hours.  I would have what I thought was a grown-up cocktail, we didn’t call them Shirley Temples…Mom and Daddy, of course, had “real” ones and with a wink from Daddy to the waiter, mine was the “same” (these were the days of Old Fashioneds, Whisky Sours, Manhattans…each served in the proper glass!). imageFrom the book Vintage Cocktails Assouline

imageimageimageHow in the world they skated on so tiny an area is still a puzzlement to me.  It was truly amazing and wonderful, so glamorous!

Now, of course, we watch the Winter Olympics with the incredible skills of the skaters (by the way a new movie, I, Tonya, is now in release, mixed reviews but for all accounts an interesting film!) and are able to take advantage of the extraordinary outdoor skating opportunities our fabulous City offers us.  Here are some that are worth a visit.

imageThe McCormick Tribune Ice Rink at Millennium Park (you can, of course, rent skates) It is wonderful any time of the day but what can be more fairytale-like than at night!

imageAlso in Millennium Park in Maggie Daley Ice Skating Ribbon, to be enjoyed by all, again the views are part of the experience.  An ariel view of the rink.

imageThe newest kid on the block The Rink at Wrigley, how fun is this!

Skate at the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Farm in the Zoo, remember this spectacular Zoo is one of the few in the world that is free!  Yet another exquisite view of the skyline of our City!image

Have you been to Navy Pier lately, if not you are in for a major treat it just keeps getting better and better.  I love going in the Winter it has an almost magical charm, its calm, and totally beautiful with views of the City that you can only get if you are out on the Lake.  For a special treat, you can skate indoors in their Fifth Third Bank Winter Wonderfest….

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And this hidden gem at The Peninsula Chicago, complete with its own Chalet, for its guests to enjoy, could this be any more enchanting, I think not!imageimageimageimageCould there be a more romantic spot…no, there couldn’t!

Of course, there are many other ice skating venues in the City and indoor rinks to polish your hockey skills along with your pair dancing and singles savvy.  Just grab your skates and enjoy!

The last three photos I took with my iPhone all others from Pinterest photo credits unknown.

imageReady for Hot Buttered Rum…..

For 4 drinks from epicurious:

2 cups water

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup dark rum

Bring all ingredients except the rum to a boil in a 1 1/2-to 2-quart saucepan over moderately high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 10 minutes.  remove from heat and stir in rum.  Serve hot.

 

 

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: 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!

 

 

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: JOFFREY BALLET CHICAGO

imageThe Joffrey Ballet Chicago’s Nutcracker comes to the Auditorium Theater on   December 1 and performs through December 30.

I have always had a passion for ballet and took ballet for many years, I must admit every time I see a ballet performed I am on pointe up on the stage, well at least in my mind’s eye! Perhaps it is my Russian heritage and perhaps I have a ballet gene or perhaps it is because my Father had the privilege of seeing both Pavlova and Nijinsky.  I can remember the many, many times sitting on my Father’s lap (and eventually having my own seat) with huge eyes loving every pirouette, pas de deux, the music, the magnificent sets, and the costumes, all of it! It has been my pleasure to see many of the world-renowned dancers from the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo, Sadler’s Wells, American Ballet Theater, New York City Ballet, and, most importantly our very own Joffrey Ballet! All these companies performed in Chicago and I saw both New York companies in New York as well and the Joffrey when it was in NYC.

My first encounter with the Joffrey was many years ago when they made their first performances in Chicago. my friend, Barbara Varro, who was with the Sun-Times at the time, was assigned to write a story about Mr. Joffrey and Mr. Arpino and we went back stage after their performances of The Green Table and Trinity (still my favorite of all their repertoire!) and either that year or another season we saw Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs premiere which was costumed by the late great Oscar de la Renta!  Brilliant in all respects.  Being in the dressing rooms and on stage of The Auditorium was extraordinary and guess what I did it again last Sunday….let me explain.

I wanted to see Giselle and the only available date I had was the last performance the matinee on Sunday.  Fortunately my dear friends, Brian Smith and Geyer Morford, wanted to attend, yet again, and went with me, after a lovely brunch at Cochon Volant.  All  I can tell you is that I was as wide eyed as I was when sitting with my Father…it was magnificent and the performances were a world premiere of Lola de Ávila’s adaptation for the Joffrey…you can be sure it won’t be the last time it is performed by this amazing company. The production was flawless and a perfect tribute to Artistic Director, Ashley Wheater, who is celebrating his 10th anniversary with The Joffrey Ballet Chicago! www.joffrey.org

imageChristine Rocas and Dylan Gutierrez

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Victoria Jaiani and Temur Suluashvili

imageThe Joffrey Ballet Chicago Corps de Ballet

After I caught my breath we went back stage, nothing more magical then looking out at the house, which is breathtakingly beautiful from every possible view, Sullivan most certainly knew how to do buildings exquisitely…and bumped into Ashley anther treat for my day.  Saw a couple of the ballerinas greeting their little admirers…ah memories!  I am so fortunate to have the Executive Director, Greg Cameron, Chief Marketing Officer, Brian Smith and former Joffrey dancer, Michael Anderson as my special friends and to call Ashley a new friend as well….lucky Nena!

To continue it’s 2017-2018 season The Joffrey presents it’s sensational adaptation of The Nutcracker which premiered last year in a production choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon.  The Ballet journeys inside Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair, a fascinating concept and truly a spectacular, it not surprisingly opened to rave reviews, an annual must-see for all ages. I must admit I was a bit skeptical, the original Joffrey production was one of the best I have ever seen and I have seen many really great ones.  I needed not to have worried the new production exceeds all expectations.  Get you tickets immediately!!!!

imageimageScenes from The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker is one of my all time favorites, isn’t it everyone’s….for several years Saks Fifth Avenue did a series of Platinum events for our top clients and they could choose from several offerings of events you couldn’t buy and they were limited to 10 couples, one of which was the Joffrey’s performance of The Nutcracker at the Rosemont Theater before they officially became The Joffrey Ballet Chicago.  After the performance we had a sit-down dinner in a private room at the Theater and seated one or two of the performers and Mr. Arpino at each the tables (Michael Anderson recalls being one of the dancers in attendance).  I had authentic German Nutcrackers as the centerpieces and each guest received one as their parting gift.  I must admit the evening was a huge success.

Coming in Spring 2018 Modern Masters, February 7-18 and Midsummer Night’s DreamApril 25-May 6 and a very exciting Fall program to be announced in the near future.

How fortunate we are to have The Joffrey Ballet Chicago as part of our amazing cultural scene, this year has been a year of announcements for The Joffrey, their announcement of their move to The Lyric Opera House in 2020 (they came to Chicago in 1995).  Ashley’s 10th Anniversary, the upcoming The Nutcracker Behind the Scenes documentary on Thursday, November 16 at 8:00 on WTTW www.wttw.com/nutcracker

Chicago loves its culture and particularly its ballet, lucky us that The Joffrey decided to make Chicago home…can’t even begin to wait to see what is in store for this world class dance company!

All photos for nenasnotes courtesy of The Joffrey Ballet Chicago.

Photos by Cheryl Mann

 

 

FASHION NOW: SPRING 2018 REVIEW PART 6 MILAN

imageMilan proved to be a mix of straightforward elegance and dramatic presentations such as the Fellini inspired spectacular of Antonio Marras, shown above!

Lots of anniversaries celebrated, Missoni, Etro, Fendi, etc., (remember Italian Fashion is all family-based, that is one of the unique qualities of the presentations) and, the show that had everyone talking, Donatella Versace’s tribute to the founder of the Brand, her brother, Gianni and its dramatic finale with five of the 1990’s Super Models, (pity Christy and Linda weren’t there!) fabulous!  So many shows, so much to talk about, I’m just going to touch on a few and continue to see what I can find that is tieing trends together from New York to Paris you will be reading this until the next series of shows occur!

We began Milan Fashion Week with Gucci and end with Dolce & Gabbana.

Gucci Spring 2018….

imageStripes, shine, pink, orange and black and white.

imageStripes, knit…be sure to notice the handbags and shoes…more socks!

imageDenim, leather, pattern.

imageLeather bomber jacket, layers.

imageThe power suit in pink….a color seen in all collections so far.

imageThe black dress, sexy, a must have, again seen in all collections….a major classic looking new, note the colored textured leg.

Jeremy Scott for Moschino…

imageStage

imagePink tutu with black leather very Katy PerryimageimageFloral finale

Fendi by Karl Lagerfeld…

imageimageimageimageStripes, leather and I know you all hate the socks with sandals, but they are most certainly a trend!

Alberta Ferretti (Yes, I worked with her on a show)…Spring 2018 continues her feminine understated looks.

imageLove the silk trench over the embroidered gown.imageimageimageThe scale of the finale.

Prada…

imageStripes and pink.imageimageLooks more like fall to me but animal print always a good thing no matter the season!

imageLook familiar…very Versace but Fendi…a trend in the making!!!???  Let’s watch it!

Versace…

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imageimagePetal pink

imageDenim and Versace signature prints with a touch of lace…love these!

imageimageTHE FINALE TO END ALL FINALES!!!!

Dolce & Gabbana end Milan Fashion Week…

imageHouse of Cards set, a show produced for and attended by Millenials…interesting concept, and we know all the Millenials like to wear tiaras or flowers in their hair…they have come to the right place!

imageimageimagePrint mix always a D&G signature…

imageStripes…yes…

imageimageBlush pink, okay….

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Glitz, of course

imageBlack check….imageAnd mass model finale, double check!

Okay Paris, show us your stuff!!!!!!!!!

All photos were taken from various internet and Pinterest sources, photo credits unknown.

 

 

 

 

FASHION FLASHBACK: JUDITH LEIBER AND MORE FANS…

I wanted to repost this Judith Leiber Profile, Mrs. Leiber passed away on Saturday, April 28, 2018 at age 97.  She and her husband of 70 years, Gus, died within hours of each other.  Not only a unique talent but an outstanding human being.  May she and her love Rest In Peace

Nena

 

 

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.

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