Every year, for as long as PBS has broadcast them (since 1959) I have watched the New Year’s Day concert from Vienna. This year’s was, like everything else, quite different and somewhat strange due to the continuing pandemic. The Vienna Philharmonic played, exquisitely led by our own Riccardo Muti, in the glorious Wiener Musikverein.
The difference was the orchestra played to an empty hall but had millions of us watching and listening to this annual tradition, now hosted by Hugh Bonneville, who was in the UK. The broadcast will be repeated, in Chicago on WTTW, this Sunday, January 3. It has just been announced that Daniel Barenboim will conduct the 2022 Concert.
This years program was, as usual, mostly Strauss, some of my most favorite music. Why you might ask…from the time I was very young, actually I could say from birth, I was exposed to many types of music in my home. I have always liked classical music, as did my parents…you by now know my taste, in just about everything (including my brain!), is very eclectic that continues in my music choices. At an early age I became obsessed with music boxes and asked Santa for one that played a Strauss waltz. Santa always delivered my wishes and I got a quite charming Swiss music box playing the Strauss waltz, Tales From The Vienna Woods, composed in 1868. https://youtube.com/watch?v=Og3joyCntrI&feature=share
Here is the top of my very old music box which, by the way, still plays!!!! I played it every night to lull me to sleep after Daddy either read me a beloved story or told me his own stories….loved those most of all!!!! Through the ensuing years I always have sound on, when working, reading, doing nothing at all, and even all night. It is truly the background to my life.
The beginnings of music boxes can be traced to Switzerland in 1796 and were small enough to be carried in a pocket, like a watch and often contained a timepiece. The music box as we know it became extremely popular in the mid 1800’s.
Also, Automatons became highly prized and are now quite collectible
Remember the Monkey Automaton in Phantom of the Opera, it was a pivotal part of the story. He plays the hauntingly beautiful “Masquerade”.
I have, obviously, just scratched the surface of this fascinating subject (perhaps more in-depth research and a second post is in order!) and have mixed several stories in one post….but as I said my thoughts take many, many different directions and I don’t see that changing in this New Year! Stay tuned to see what I’ll explore next!
All images from Pinterest photo credits unknown. Image of my music box taken with my iPhone.
By now you know I am obsessed with historical fiction especially when the book concerns “real” people. When this exceptionally written book came into my consciousness I knew it would be one I would not only enjoy but would devour and, of course, would want to share with you. I was correct in that assumption. (As usual, I recommend The Book Stall my Independent Bookseller, as your source when purchasing your books.)
The protagonist is none other than Alva Vanderbilt who married into one of the wealthiest, if not THE wealthiest at the time, American dynasties. Wealth was new to Alva and the story tells us of a world known to very few. The Astor’s ruled New York Society, especially their Matriarch, Caroline. Snubbed by Mrs. Astor, Alva was determined to make her place, along with her husband, William, and the rest of the Vanderbilt family to reach the top of the Gilded Age social scene. And not only did she do exactly that but did it with grace and class Fowler takes us into this rarified world via, their exquisite homes, think Marble House (The Biltmore is briefly mentioned), the many homes in New York City. I particularly enjoyed Alva’s forays into every detail of her many homes and her participation with the noted architect, Richard Hunt, in planning the architecture and each and every phase of the construction of the mansions and the interiors from paint colors, fabrics, to furniture….everything! Having literally millions to spend she thought out every possible item in her homes and became the personification of elegance of her era.
Marble House in Newport, Rhode Island
A couple of the interiors …
Living in a strained marriage, (I’m not doing spoilers here, if you know the background of the era you know of the scandals) Alva made herself a pilar of New York, Newport, Paris and London society in lifestyle including her Charles Frederick Worth wardrobe (you know I enjoyed those descriptions!), the exquisite entertaining….balls, formal dinners…highlighting the developing of the Arts in New York City, making sure her children were exposed to the best of educations, associating with the “right” people (including Oliver Belmont) while respecting everyone no matter their social status…which I greatly admired. She was always a philanthropist and became very involved in women’s suffrage. In many ways she reminds me of our own Bertha Palmer as well as others of her time. It gives us details of the women (or The woman, Alva) behind the wealth which was always in the hands of their husbands, fathers, guardians. Fowler’s eye for detail parallels that of Alva’s…her research is impeccable. Read it you will be transfixed!
A couple of books to give you thoughts on the food of the time…
I’m including a recipe for Beef Wellington, which happens to a favorite of mine to serve at special dinner parties. This recipe is from Epicurious.com
- a 3 1/2-pound fillet of beef tied with thin sheets of larding fat at room temperature
- 3/4 pound mushrooms, chopped fine
- 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 pound pâté de foie gras (available at specialty foods shops) at room temperature
- 1 pound puff paste or thawed frozen puff pastry plus additional for garnish if desired
- N/A frozen puff pastry
- 1 large egg white beaten
- an egg wash made by beating 1 large egg yolk with 1 teaspoon of water
- 1/2 cup Sercial Madeira
- 2 teaspoons arrowroot dissolved in 1 teaspoon cold water
- 1 teaspoon water
- 1/2 cup beef broth
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped black truffles (available at specialty food shops) if desired
- watercress for garnish if desired
- In a roasting pan roast the beef in the middle of a preheated 400°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the thermometer registers 120°F. Let the fillet cool completely and discard the larding fat and the strings. Skim the fat from the pan juices and reserve the pan juices.
- In a heavy skillet cook the mushrooms in the butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until all the liquid they give off is evaporated and the mixture is dry, season them with salt and pepper, and let them cool completely. Spread the fillet evenly with the pâté de foie gras, covering the top and sides, and spread the mushrooms evenly over the pâté de foie gras. On a floured surface roll 1 pound of the puff paste into a rectangle about 20- by 12- inches, or large enough to enclose the fillet completely, invert the coated fillet carefully under the middle of the dough, and fold up the long sides of the dough to enclose the fillet brushing the edges of the dough with some of the egg white to seal them. Fold ends of the dough over the fillet and seal them with the remaining egg white. Transfer the fillet, seam side down to a jelly-roll pan or shallow roasting pan and brush the dough with some of the egg wash. Roll out the additional dough and cut the shapes with decorative cutters. Arrange the cutouts on the dough decoratively, brush them with the remaining egg wash, and chill the fillet for at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours. Bake the fillet in the middle of a preheated 400°F oven for 30 minutes, reduce the heat to 350°, and bake the fillet for 5 to 10 minutes more, or until the meat thermometer registers 130°F. for medium-rare meat and the pastry is cooked through. Let the fillet stand for 15 minutes.
- In a saucepan boil the reserved pan juices and the Madeira until the mixture is reduced by one fourth. Add the arrowroot mixture, the broth, the truffles, and salt and pepper to taste and cook the sauce over moderate heat, stirring, being careful not to let it boil, for 5 minutes, or until it is thickened. Loosen the fillet from the jelly-roll pan, transfer it with two spatulas to a heated platter, and garnish it with watercress. Serve the fillet, cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices, with the sauce.
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I 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.
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.
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!
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!
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…
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.
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.
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.
All 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!!!!!
Above photos from Pinterest photo credits unknown.
Love these charming plates from Williams-Sonoma.
Hope I get these in my treat bag……
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.
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.
The painting in the background of the photos that hangs, along with other superb Degas works at The Art Institute of Chicago.
Another of our Degas paintings that inspired the production. Both above images found on Pinterest no photo credit available
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.
Could there be a book any more perfect, I think not!!!!!
Both swan photos found on Pinterest photo credits unknown.
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.
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
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.
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,
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.
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
Vegetable oil for frying
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
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
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
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.
When 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!
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.
A couple of programs I found on Pinterest.
I 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!). From the book Vintage Cocktails Assouline
How 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.
The 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!
Also 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.
The 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!
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….
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!Could 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.
Ready 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.
By 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.
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!
I 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.
Christmas 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.
I found this advertisement quite delightful.
Start now and you will be all set for Christmas 2018!
Covers of the boxes
Of course, a book recommendation for further research and enjoyment!
And another one for fun!
I 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
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…..
The 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!
I 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!”
By 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.
One of several books that accompanied museum exhibitions…this one at the Met, as always exquisitely done!
The 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.
From 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!)
A wonderful anthology on the long-running Bazaar.
This looks amazing…a must add to your fashion library….
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.
And 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!
There 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.
Another 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!
The 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
Christine Rocas and Dylan Gutierrez
Victoria Jaiani and Temur Suluashvili
The 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!!!!
Scenes 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 Dream, April 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