FASHION FLASHBACK: LUCILE DUFF GORDON

cV

imageI have wanted to do a story on Lucile’s time in Chicago and have researched it for years, when I met Randy Bryan Bigham (see his Profile on nenasnotes on Monday, January 8, 2018) on Facebook I hit paydirt.  Randy is the reigning expert on all things Lucile and he has helped me find more information on Lucile Ltd. in Chicago.

image

The story of Lucile Ltd. begins in London in 1890 and continued until the early 1920’s when she left the company (reluctantly!) She was the first to do many, many things that we now take for granted in the world of fashion…the first to release women from corsets (along with Poiret and others of the time) the first to create her own fragrance (note “French Novelties” in the advertisement above, that was how her fragrances were promoted!), exquisite lingerie and most interesting, to me, did the first “fashion parades” (fashion shows) using live mannequins.  She gave her garments provocative names and was a HUGE success in London, then New York and Paris.  If you GOOGLE Lucile Duff Gordon you will probably be taken to the Titanic site, she and her husband Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon sailed on the ill-fated crossing and were survivors of the sinking of the ship. Randy’s insight….”Yes it was awful but Lucile came through that bad spell and went on to become even greater. It has been said she was tainted by the scandal but I have not found that to be true. The press defended her and her publicity value only increased. So, while we may think of the Titanic today as the thing she’s most known for, that was absolutely NOT the case in her own day. She was hugely famous as a designer and public personality, and she continued to be celebrated well into the 1920s. It was a horrible tragedy to have witnessed, and the aftermath was very hurtful to her and her husband personally, but it was a blip on the screen of her life. At least that’s how I see it, and my research shows it was her fashions that kept her in the public eye and her amusing personality was also very entertaining. The Titanic was something to forget and the press seemed to feel that way too.”

imageLady Lucile Duff Gordon.

That is an entirely different story and one that has been told.  The new bit of information, to me, that Randy thought would interest me was two other passengers on board are part of my fashion history (many degrees of separation!)  From Randy… “You may be aware of this already but Leila Saks Meyer, the daughter of Andrew Saks, one of the founders of Saks, was on board the Titanic with her husband, Edgar Meyer. In fact, Lucile talked with the couple in the lounge on the fateful night the ship hit the iceberg. Leila Meyer survived in Molly Brown’s lifeboat, but Edgar was drowned with so many others in that terrible disaster.”

imageA page from Lucile’s memoir Discretions and Indiscretions.

image

Sensing there was a market in the Midwest, especially Chicago, she sought a site where her clients lived, Lake Shore Drive, in a mansion that was directly across the street from the Potter Palmer Mansion which put her in contact with Bertha Honore Palmer and the rest of Chicago society.  In addition, she did a collection for the Sears Roebuck catalog to bring her vision to the “masses”!

imageThe doorman at the entrance of Lucile Ltd. in Chicago, the townhouse of Colonel Franklin McVeagh at 1400 Lake Shore Drive.

imageimage The Rose Room in the Chicago Salon. The images above graciously shared by Randy Bryan Bigham.imageFrom Pinterest photo credit University of Michigan.  Designers such as Bill Blass. who did the Lincoln Mark VII cars from 1979 to 1983, continued this tradition.  Again Lucile was one of the first!  Chalmers, like the Maxwell, is now owned by Chrysler

She came to Chicago in 1914 and in 1916 hired an unknown young man to work for her (he later traveled with her to New York, served in World War l returned to work for Lucile in Paris and other Parisian designers and then….Hollywood!)  That young man was Howard Greer who worked at Paramount Studios and also has his own couture and ready-to-wear collections into the 1950’s.  He was placed at Paramount Studios by a woman we all know, Edith Head! Again a story unto itself. Find out more about his time with Lucile Ltd. in his autobiography, Designing Male.  His description of the interior of the Salon… “Its paneled walls and inlaid floors remained as he (McVeagh) had left them.  Thick purple rugs lay on the showroom floors.  Curtains of gray satin draped the windows.  Gray taffeta upholstered the divans and chairs.  Glittering chandeliers hung like stalactites from the ceilings.  Until now I had known only the culture of and refinement of bird’s-eye maple and hand-painted china propped upon a plate rail and I spent most of my time ogling all this dazzling splendor from the vintage point of a doorway.  The people, too, were in no way reminiscent of my friends at home.  Mannequins, like haughty duchessses out of a Graustark novel, emerged from the little stage that was framed and clouded with gray chiffon curtains.  the saleswomen and their assistants wore rustling gray taffeta bouffants, and were patronizing and superior.”

imageHoward Greer around the time of his tenure with Lucile Ltd.imageA photograph and sketch from a film in the late 1920’s looks like a Lucile garment. Both images from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

The images below were graciously given to me by Jessica Pushor, Costume Collections Manager, Chicago History Museum 

imageimageimage This dress was donated by Mrs. Irene Castle Enzinger in 1953; it was created for her by Lucile when she appeared in Irving Berlin’s Watch Your Step, circa 1914.

imageimageDress, wedding-style, of off-white satin. Bodice trimmed with pleated self-fabric, white organdy, Chantilly lace, and sprays of satin flowers. Square neckline; elbow sleeves. Light blue satin sash at natural waist. Full-length skirt of white organdy trimmed with Valenciennes lace insertion and edge stiffened with whale bone. White satin overskirt lined with light blue satin. Petticoat of Pussy Willow silk (stamped on selvage “Genuine pussy willow”) with crepe chiffon ruffle.Worn by Katherine Keith at her marriage to David Adler on June 1, 1916.

imageimageDress wedding-style, of white silk satin. Bodice has low, square, lace-trimmed neckline in front. White satin flowers attached at proper left front corner of collar. Long fitted sleeves. Back satin buckle closure. Slim-fitting skirt; floor-length. Train of white satin with silk-thread embroidery of floral bouquet at base. Worn by Ginevra King for her marriage to William H. Mitchell on September 4, 1918.

imageimageCoat of black satin embroidered with multicolored chinoiserie pattern and ribbons. Wide sable collar. Fingertip-length sleeves with sable trim. Falls below the knee. Black and blue velvet lining. Worn by Margaret Harwood Stevens.  Lucile was known for its use of exotic motifs and silhouettes. This coat from the Paris branch reflects the taste for chinoiserie in French fashions around 1923.

Updated information from Randy Bryan Bigham…
“It’s important to know the coat post-dates Lady Duff Gordon’s association with the label. She left the year before the coat was made. Since a few of her designs were used in the house’s first collection after her departure (spring 1923), it’s possible the print or fabric was her choice, but the overall design may not have been. There had been disagreements about the aesthetic direction of the Lucile houses for several seasons, and she was decidedly on the outs with the company by that time, so all her ideas were not being adhered to, and sadly she was very much disrespected by the new director by 1922, when she was sacked as chief designer.”
You knew there would have to be a book (I gave you Randy’s superb monograph on Lucile in his profile….be sure to order it, it is a MUST have for any fashion library!)  And the author I am now presenting to you references Randy and his book along with other publications she researched.
Here is a novel by Karen Harper that I think you might enjoy, I did. What wouldn’t I like about a story set in Edwardian times (a bit before and a bit after) a historical novel, you know I love them, and not only about a designer I have always admired but her sister Elinor Glyn, the notorious author (at least at the time…her scandalous novel, Three Weeks, has been re-released, it was the Fifty Shades of Grey of it’s time).  It is a romance to be sure, the Sutherland sister’s love lives read like a romance novel but all based on fact and not always happy or successful. I was particularly taken by the affair between Elinor and Lord George Nathaniel Curzon, fascinating and tragic…. Of course, the book discusses the sinking of the Titanic but does not make it the defining moment of Lucile’s life. The book gives us glimpses of the people of the time from the Royals and the American women who married into English society (they had the money, the husbands had the titles…think Downton Abbey!) Hollywood stars, Broadway (Lucile designed for the Ziefeld Follies), and all the names of the time…The Duke of Windsor, Lillie Langtry, Elsie de Wolfe, Oscar Wilde, Charlie Chaplin, Clara Bow (supposedly Elinor gave her the title The IT Girl!) and on and on.  But it so much more than that it is the story of two independant women, way ahead of their time, knowing what they wanted to do with their lives and doing it their way. They were definitely The It Girls of their generation!  A good read.
image
 A surprise…….
imageThis stunning sketch is from Rosemary Fanti from her Facebook page and she has given me permission to use it….the copy reads:  “Thank you, dear Nena Ivon, for piquing my interest with your fascinating blog on early 20th Century fashion designer #LucileDuffGordon.  Here’s my take on a thoroughly-modern-Lucile dressing gown design.”  Rosemary is one of Chicago’s treasures and an amazingly unique talent.  Do you think I can have her do a sketch of me…now that could be a very interesting post!

PROFILE: RANDY BRYAN BIGHAM

imageRandy Bryan Bigham with his book, Lucile-Her Life by Design

I am extremely excited to share a profile on a very special individual I met on Facebook, Randy Bryan Bigham.  I became totally intrigued by his scholarship and dedication to Lucile Duff Gordon, a designer I have long admired and whose story is a unique and fascinating part of fashion history.  I asked Randy for some advice on Lucile’s venture in Chicago (you will read more about that in this week’s Friday Fashion Flashback) and we became “off Facebook friends” via correspondance (he follows nenasnotes much to my delight) and I asked him if he would be one of my “profiles” and he said yes!  His answers to my questions along with his biography and photos are very personal and I am thrilled to be able to introduce you to such a humble scholar.  I know you will feel you have found a new friend just like I have!

Randy Bryan Bigham is an independent fashion history scholar whose research has been featured in a number of books, including Lucile Ltd (2009) by Valerie D. Mendes and Amy de la Haye; Hollywood Before Glamour (2013) by Michelle Tolini Finamore; and  London Society Fashion (2015) by Cassie Davies-Strodder, Jenny Lister and Lou Taylor.

The author of Lucile – Her Life by Design (2012), the first full-scale biography of Edwardian couturiere and Titanic survivor Lady Duff Gordon, Randy has contributed to TV documentaries for the BBC, the Sundance Channel and the National Geographic Channel. His journalism has appeared in Women’s Wear Daily, the Sunday Times Magazine and The Lady. He’s also the author of Finding Dorothy, a biography of silent screen star Dorothy Gibson (2012), and of Life’s Décor, a biography of Helen Churchill Candee that was included in the 2008 reissue of Candee’s 1924 travelogue Angkor the Magnificent.

image

Randy was a consultant for the 2016 exhibition Lucile – Fashion. Titanic. Scandal at the Guelph Civic Museum in Canada, and coming up in 2018 his own private collection of Lucile garments and memorabilia will be spotlighted in an exhibition at the Titanic Museums in the USA.

imageRandy (on the right) with Edwardian era and Titanic historian Hugh Brewster who worked together on the 2016 Canadian exhibition Lucile: Fashion. Titanic. Scandal.

Since 2015, with friend and research colleague Inger Sheil, he’s been an admin for the Facebook group, Fashion Designers, 1800-1950.

image

With Inger Sheil, a friend and colleague of 15 years, Randy is an admin for the Facebook group, Fashion Designers 1800-1950. This 1919 cover of Les Modes features an evening gown by Paris couturier Jenny (Jeanne Sacerdote), whom Randy has researched.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB

Do you mean my first job as a writer? Or do you mean my very first job? If you mean the latter, it was mowing lawns at about age 13! It was for an old lady, a Mrs. McClain, whom I used to ply with questions about her memory of the fashions of her youth. She was born in 1902, and could recall the dresses of the Edwardian era, which I was already fascinated by. Mrs. McClain said she remembered lawn parties where the women’s gowns trailed the grass, and I just loved that visual. Talking to her was fun. The long hours of hard work, mowing her huge front yard — not so much!

As to my first proper writing job, it was for the small daily paper in my hometown. I had worked freelance, writing for big papers, doing art and book reviews, but no editor would hire me on staff until the tiny newspaper in Ennis, Texas took me on. That started my evolution as a writer, learning to pare down sentences, to edit, to get the best quotes, to tell the story so simply that readers are — hopefully — moved. The human interest feature story always mattered to me. I was a horrible news reporter. I must have driven my first editor mad! Hard news and politics weren’t for me. I still hate all that, and I’m sure I’d die of boredom if I had to write about it!

BRIEFLY DESCRIBE YOUR CURRENT OCCUPATION

I write freelance – locally and nationally, and I work as a consultant on various projects, some having nothing to do with fashion history. One thing that’s come along fairly recently is my working as a consultant for Paper Studio Press, which publishes beautiful paper doll books. I’ve worked on three titles so far, all of them on fashions of the 1910s, my favorite era. And I just did an interesting section on the history of the fashion show for a Bloomsbury textbook that will be out in 2018. Really, I just have fun. I don’t make a lot of money, but you don’t need a lot to be happy. Some of the research and writing I do is for free. Helping other writers out with material for magazine articles, assisting curators with info on garments for exhibitions, etc., are some of the things I do. Not so interesting to some but it amuses me.

WHEN DID YOU DISCOVER YOUR TALENT

I’m not sure that it’s talent. I think it is more luck than anything, and a lot of determination. If you love something you just have to do it. There isn’t much of a choice. It’s in you or it’s not. You’re led to do what you do through passion and tenacity. But going back to talent: I knew I could write reasonably well, and I had that gift in elementary school. Teachers noticed it and asked me to read my stories to the class. I can’t recall now what the stories were about, and how I had the nerve to get up in front of the class, I don’t know. I’m in my 40s now, and should be past being shy, but I’m petrified of speaking in public, and can only do it impromptu. I cannot prepare for it. I would be too nervous.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD “MADE IT” EXPLAIN

I don’t think I have made it yet! I’m just a fashion history nut who’s been lucky to find ways to express my love for the subject. I have contributed to important projects – books on the Titanic, which started my interest in some of the famous women aboard, books on fashion history, exhibitions. But all those projects just sort of happened. The accomplishment I’m most proud of is writing Lucile’s biography. That’s been such a driving force for me, and the research has opened doors. I’m very grateful to the people who saw my work as important and helped me along the way. There were a few naysayers but you can’t listen to people like that.

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

My original passion was Lucile. When I first found out about her I was intrigued but didn’t think I would find very much. I was really surprised she was so celebrated and influential and, to tell you the truth, a little shocked she was not better remembered. Back in the late ‘80s, when I first went to school at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) in New York, almost no one was interested in her. People would ask “Who?” And it used to irritate me. I felt I had to justify myself all the time. Now it seems everybody is an expert on Lucile! (Nena’s note…no one does it as well as Randy, without question!)

image

Randy was first drawn to the work of Lucile, seen here with a model in her New York studio in 1916, when he was a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology in the mid-1980s.

The library at FIT has the scrapbooks and photo albums kept by the staff of the New York branch of Lucile Ltd, so I became fascinated and immediately thought I should do a book. That was just a dream then. I had to earn a living, so I couldn’t devote a lot of time to it, and that’s why it stretched on until 2009 when I finished the final draft. Publishers were interested along the way, including a university press that wanted to cut it down and to not use very many color images. As you can imagine, I wasn’t thrilled with offers like that, so I finally published it myself five years ago. I was excited and am still happy to see how it’s been taken up and cited in various major studies on the history of dress. There’s so much drivel about how one can’t hope to have a success with a self-published title, and while that might be true in most cases, if you’ve got a special subject, the right people will be drawn to it. And I probably have made as much money from it as have authors who’ve gone the traditional route.

image

imageimage

  1. Lucile, among her achievements, is responsible for launching the first modern fashion parades, using a stage, music, lights and all the accoutrement of show.

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

I don’t think I could have done anything else well. I went to FIT to be a designer and I was hopeless. You should have seen me trying to draft a pattern. I don’t have a natural perseverance with anything but writing and editing. Nothing else seems worth it. If I had the talent, I would have loved being a designer. I have the creativity, I think, just not the technical skill.

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

I read mostly fashion history and biographies. I don’t care for fiction, although I quite enjoyed E.M. Forster a few years back, but that’s mainly because I’ve seen the films that have been made of them. One of the dress history writers I enjoy most is Caroline Evans, whose book The Mechanical Smile I was honored to contribute research to. She was one of the first scholars to embrace my work and to make me feel what I had done mattered. I also love to read Christopher Breward. His books are all excellent. He is excellent. So is Alistair O’Neill.

image

Randy with fashion historian Marlis Schweitzer, author of When Broadway was the Runway and other titles featuring her own research on Lucile.

As to theatre, I don’t have modern favorites as far as plays. I so love researching early 20th century musical theater. While learning about the Ziegfeld Follies, when I was working on Lucile (she designed for the Follies in the 1910s and early ‘20s), I got hooked. And I’m crazy for silent film history, particularly the costumes of the early female stars. I’ve written an article on Theda Bara’s influence on fashion in the ‘teens for a scholarly journal, and I hope it sees the light of day. And you know the first paper doll book I helped with for Paper Studio Press was on Theda.

Regarding modern film, I like some foreign titles, particularly French and Italian. I’m crazy for Anna Magnani! And, believe it or not, I like a few horror flicks. I know that doesn’t fit much into the rest of my personality but I can’t help it. I’m a fan of The Blair Witch Project and of the first Friday the 13th, if you can imagine that. I’ve even become friends with Adrienne King, the star of that first film, and the only really good one in the series, if you ask me. I interviewed her a couple years ago. She’s a dear, sweet person, so real and supportive.

imageAlthough Randy loves romantic period films, he’s a fan of the horror classic Friday the 13th, and has become friends with its star, Adrienne King, with whom he’s seen here in Dallas in 2016.

As for TV shows, I watch CNN, “The Golden Girls” reruns and I haven’t missed a season of “Survivor.” And, you’ll probably laugh at this, but I like the “Finding Bigfoot” series on Animal Planet. I’m not really a believer but I like the mystery of it.

imageRandy loves history but isn’t above enjoying pop culture reality shows like CBS’s “Survivor” and The Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot.” This card, signed by the cast, was sent him by a friend, Linda Plochocki, for Christmas last year.

I don’t have a favorite restaurant but I do love Italian food. I’m not hard to please in that area, and my expanding waistline is proof of it.

HOBBIES….

I love taking country drives and snapping photos of nature. I’m not a gifted photographer but I like being out and about on a beautiful day and recording what I see.

imageA pastime for Randy is taking photos along the country roads in and near his hometown of Ennis, the Official Bluebonnet City of Texas.

I used to enjoy hiking but my injury has so far prevented my resuming that. Someday, I hope to get back to it. I lost my right leg from the knee down back in 2013 due to an infection that came on suddenly. It was a huge adjustment. To say it changed my life is an understatement. It just about did me in, but I think if you keep focused on what matters, you can come through anything. It has taken the four years since I lost my leg to have a firm philosophy about it. The bottom line for me now, when it comes to being disabled, is it doesn’t matter. And I don’t feel disabled. I am still me. I haven’t changed in the essentials. But I don’t walk as fast, and I can’t run anymore. I used to love to run. That’s the only thing I get emotional about. I hate that I will probably never run again. But in general I’m still happy with life; whatever good it has in store for me, I welcome it. The bad stuff nobody wants, of course, and you just learn to work around it.Randy lost his right leg at the knee in 2013, after surviving a serious infection. The setback only strengthened him, he says, and made him more determined to enjoy life.

image

This shot of Randy was taken in a field of bluebonnets near Ennis during the town’s Bluebonnet Trails Festival.

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

I love anything Elsie de Wolfe would have approved of. I adore Louis Seize antiques, mirrors, chintz, old wicker, green and white stripes. I’m a huge Elsie fan.  I think with certain tweaks that take into account changes in modern life, her ideas are still in good taste.

imageElsie de Wolfe’s early 1900s interiors featured design elements Randy appreciates.

WHO WOULD YOU HAVE AT YOUR FANTASY DINNER AND WHAT WOULD YOU SERVE

I would invite Zandra Rhodes, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington (I love old jazz), Cecil Beaton, the cast from Finding Bigfoot and Bigfoot! And I would add you to the list because we could compare notes afterwards! I’m not a gourmet so I have no idea what I’d serve but I’d hire someone to do it all up perfectly.

FAVORITE VACATION SPOT VISITED AND/OR ON YOUR GO TO LIST

I fell in love with Versailles when I first visited the Palace and Petit Trianon in 1997. I’ve gone back twice, and would love to go again. It really is a spiritual experience for me, having researched Marie Antoinette and Rose Bertin.

imageOne of Randy’s favorite places in the world is Versailles, where this picture of him at age 28 was taken in 1997.

That reminds me: I do have a favorite book! Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette by Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell. It’s stellar. Get it. You’ll love it.

imageOne of Randy’s favorite books on fashion history is Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell’s Fashion Victims

FAVORITE WORK OF ART

I really appreciate Corot’s landscapes, especially Souvenir de Mortefontaine. I know it’s one of his most famous, so it may be expected that I would like it, but I never tire of it. It warms the soul. And that’s what great art is supposed to do. I have a copy framed on the wall by my bed. It’s been there for over 20 years.

image

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED

Just as someone who loved history and who got a kick out of sharing it with others. I hope I’ve had a hand in shedding light on the work of great designers in history like Lucile who are in fact artists deserving of admiration and respect for the beauty they gave the world in their time. That’s what we try to celebrate in the Facebook group, Fashion Designers, 1800-1950.

image

 

A FAVORITE RECIPE

I’m not a cook. I do make a mean pimento cheese but that’s probably too simple to brag about. I eat salads when I can, and that certainly saves on calories, but I’m not going to lie — on busy days it’s a McDonald’s cheeseburger! And believe me, if I could eat pasta every day and not gain weight, I’d do it. A family friend who’s an incredible cook, and is surrounded by other gourmets, shared a recipe recently and he gave me permission to include it here. Kevin Graves is his name and he collaborated with his friend Robin Dailey to come up with this delicious recipe. Kevin calls the dish Palm Beach Chicken because that’s where they were when they conceived it. It is garlic infused sautéed chicken breasts served on a bed of cooked asparagus with a creamy sauce and topped with green onion and chopped fresh tomato.

imagePalm Peach Chicken, a recipe by Kevin Graves and Robin Dailey, is delicious and beautiful.

Palm Beach Chicken with Asparagus and Tomatoes

2 lbs. Aldi Boneless Chicken Strips
3 Tbsp. Minced Garlic
1 stick Butter
4 Tbsp. Avocado Oil
6 Green Onions Chopped (divided)
1 medium vine-ripened Tomato, chopped, drained
6 oz. Whipped Cream Cheese room temp
1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1 Tsp. natural tenderizer with no MSG
1 Tsp. Smoked Paprika
2 Tsp. Garlic Powder
1 Tsp. Onion powder
1 Tsp. Dried Cilantro
1 Tsp. Dried Parsley
¾ Cup fresh Shredded Parmesan (divided)
½ Cup Grated Parmesan and Romano
Dash of Lemon Pepper
1 Tbsp. Powdered Chicken Bouillon
Tsp. Corn Starch

Directions:
Melt butter in pan on ned-low, add avocado oil, 5 chopped green onions, sprinkle tenderizer into mixture, add chicken. After it’s been sautéing and has been turned a few times add garlic, garlic powder, onion powder, lemon pepper, paprika and dried seasonings. Add a few more shakes of tenderizer, keep turning, then let simmer on low.

Asparagus:
Rinse, snap, rub 2 lbs of asparagus with avocado oil and a few dashes of garlic powder and salt and steam in the microwave for 3.5 minutes.

Tomato: Chop, drain, add 1 chopped green onion and a dash of salt, pepper and garlic powder, sit to the side in small colander

Take a long oval tray and spread vertical to the length of the oval tray (imagine the tray is horizontal so lay asparagus spears in opposite direction and place chicken pieces in the middle.

Keep the chicken drippings simmering on low, add the heavy whipping cream and cream cheese, 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan and cornstarch and whisk. Pour a few ladles over the chicken and put the rest in a pourable cup. Keep it warm or it will break and separate.  After adding the sauce sprinkle the tomato mixture and top with remaining shredded Parmesan and serve.

ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF RANDY BRYAN BIGHAM

Some links Randy has shared with us….

Lucile – Her Life by Design by Randy Bryan Bigham, currently only available via lulu.com, can be ordered here:
“Ontario Today” CBC Radio interview with Randy Bryan Bigham by Rita Celli
 
“Beautiful and damned” by Randy Bryan Bigham in The Lady
 
“A beautiful, devilishly gorgeous career” by Randy Bigham for Urbanette
 
“The Pioneering Fashions of Lady Duff Gordon.” An interview with Randy Bryan Bigham by James Blake Wiener for Fair Observer
 
“Lucy Duff Gordon.” Entry by Randy Bryan Bigham and Leslie Midkiff DeBauche in Columbia University’s Women Film Pioneers Project.
 
PastFashion, Randy Bryan Bigham’s fashion history blog.
 
“Pop Culture Tonight ” Radio interview with Randy Bryan Bigham by Patrick Phillips

CELEBRATIONS: CHAMPAGNE!

imageI do love a great bottle of champagne and when better to have it than New Year’s Eve (I say any day, but that is just me!). I thought it might be a bit of fun to look at its beginnings and how it is served.  As with any alcohol drink responsibly….

Of course, there are many ways to serve it, I really prefer a coupe but others swear by a flute and there are so many new shapes of glasses that can make your bubbly even more special.  I think when having a large crowd which is what I will be with this year, flutes are the answer unless you have wait staff to pass on gleaming silver trays! I found a great selection today on one of the blog posts I follow Remodelista.

image

Champagne is both a region and a wine. Only sparkling wine produced in Champagne can be called Champagne. Other sparkling wine produced elsewhere in France or around the world cannot legally be called Champagne. They are sparkling wines.  The Romans planted vines in the region in 57BC according to the World Food and Wine website (a fabulous resource for all things food and wine!)  After the French, the English were one of the first to embrace the wine and are still one of the largest consumers.  We think of the monk Dom Perignon as the first to develop champagne…rather he tried to perfect it in the 1660’s trying to eliminate the bubbles which were, at the time, thought to be a flaw in the production.imageA photo from Pinterest of some of the top brands…..we are having Veuve at this year’s celebration, and plenty of it I might add!!!!  My favorite of all time is Cristal followed by Krug and Dom Perignon.  A good Preseco is also a great choice. Let me tell you about my first experience with Cristal…I was honored to be one of a small group of the Chicago History Museum Costume Council members (I was acquisition chairman at the time) to be selected to be photographed by the world-famous photographer, Victor Skrebneski, for a spread in Town and Country (many years ago)….that is a story unto itself…another time! After all of us were photographed we were invited to dinner at Les Nomades (one of my all-time favorite restaurants in Chicago) very glamorous and beyond delicious…we were all, of course, dressed to the nines and had a sensational time. A few days later a bottle of champagne arrived at my home.  I put it aside and was having a small dinner party several weeks later, nothing special just a mid-week event for four.  I thought I have this bottle of champagne put it on ice and have it.  At the time I was unaware of the brand and found it quite charming in its packaging and clear bottle.

image

We all enjoyed it very much and I decided to get a couple of bottles to have on hand.  When I went to my local liquor store I almost fainted at the price…no wonder it was delicious.  The cost, by the way, should never dictate your choice and as with any wine, it can go off.  It is still my favorite and a rare treat.  Another shocker was on a trip to the UK I was asked to pick up a bottle of Krug (I hadn’t had it before) and said not a problem…again being naive I wasn’t thinking price and again was stunned when I made my purchase and upon researching both these brands found them to be two of the most expensive.  Well, I have never questioned my taste in food and wine I do, however, find that the treats are limited to special occasions.  There are, of course, various vintages in champagne as in wine.

I found a couple of books that you might like to add to your library for more detailed information.

imageimageimage

I found so many variations on champagne cocktails on so many blog posts that I became mind boggled…..I like mine either “straight” or a classic champagne cocktail which is very simple soak a sugar cube in bitters drop into your glass and fill with champagne….yum, yum, yum!  A sprig of rosemary seems overkill to me but to each his own.

image

image

imageAnd then there is the tower, it seems to be the fashion this year!imageI’d like you to meet my escort for New Year’s Eve (we constantly live in hope!!!!!)

 

Enjoy your celebration and let’s all look forward to a New Year of health, happiness, and peace!

 

NEWS JUST IN……

Saks Fifth Avenue has reason to celebrate the New Year and raise a glass or two of champagne as they welcome their new Vice President/General Manager, Matt Brown.  They have shared his information with me to share with you.  I met Matt yesterday and I know he would love to meet all of you, you will find him charmingly down to earth. Do drop by the store and say hello.

 

image

Chicago – Dec. 21, 2017— Saks Fifth Avenue is proud to welcome Matt Brown as the new Vice President, General Manager of Saks Chicago at 700 N. Michigan Avenue. Matt joins Saks Chicago in this position with nearly 15 years of experience in the retail and spa and wellness industries and will manage the day-to-day operations of the 180,000-square-foot, multi-floor retail destination.

“I am looking forward to taking this next step in my career as Vice President, General Manager at Saks Chicago. It is an exciting time for retail in Chicago, as the city thrives, and I couldn’t be any more proud to manage such a prestigious retail destination,” stated Brown.

Brown spent the past seven years of his career at Saks, holding positions of increasing responsibility in store leadership, most recently acting as Vice President, General Manager of Saks Philadelphia. Prior to joining Saks, He held various management roles in the spa and wellness industry.

 

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!

image

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….

image

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.

image

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

image

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: THE PARIS SPY

imageI have been a fan of Susan Elia MacNeal since her first novel featuring our heroine, Maggie Hope, Mr. Churchill’s SecretaryThe Paris Spy was a bit heavier than her previous books and perhaps this wasn’t the time for me to read it.  It has been very gloomy in Chicago the past couple of weeks and this did not lift my mood.  That being said, it is well written, the research extensive and I greatly appreciated the addition of the books MacNeal consulted and has listed for us, for my TBR list.

We find Maggie in Paris waiting to start her assignment, as an undercover agent, from the British.  We are in the midst of the Nazi occupation of France.  Maggie has gone to France to find an operative, who hasn’t been heard from, and her half-sister, having bought her way out of a concentration camp, has gone missing.  She, of course, is on assignment to gather as much intelligence as possible and report back to London.  Her cover is that of an Irish socialite (Ireland was neutral during WWII) in Paris for her trousseau for her upcoming wedding and when “her” Louis Vuitton trunk arrives, at her safe house, she changes into her Chanel Couture (of course she does!) and goes to the Ritz, which, as we all know, is a Nazi stronghold. As she is registering at the Hotel she encounters none other than Gabrielle, Coco, Chanel who takes her under her wing.  (It seems that the last few books I have read and reviewed have referenced either Christian Dior or Chanel.)  Chanel takes Maggie, aka Paige Kelly, under her wing and actually to the ballet that evening where two of Maggie’s friends, Hugh, a former lover and his new amour, Sabine, are performing.  After the performance, they go to Maxim’s and the plot thickens. During the evening Chanel discusses her feeling for the Nazis among other things, quite shocking (read Sleeping with The Enemy: Coco Chanel, Nazi Agent by Hal Vaughan and come to your own conclusions!)  I am making it sound very glamorous, it is anything but.  The story is brutal not only in the devastating occupation of France and the humiliation of the Parisians but in the actual brutality of the captors with their “guests” thankfully we are spared the worst of it, but still hard to read.

Will Maggie/Paige find who she is looking for, will we learn who the double agent is (he sides with the Germans because he “prefers Fascism to Communism” what a choice, who would want either!!!!)  The heroes of the story are the women who see things are not what they seem in transcriptions and report them only to be ignored…seriously…and they are very strong women to be sure, some things don’t change do they!.

Two passages I wanted to comment on…the first is Chanel’s remarks on page 204 Maggie has attended the Nina Ricci Couture show and encounters Chanel as both are coming back to the Ritz.  Chanel asks Maggie how she enjoyed the presentation to which Maggie responds: “I liked the red especially, but someone with my coloring (she is a redhead) really can’t wear that color.”  Chanel: “Yes, I heard there was a lot of red—and sable.  And the wedding dress?”  Maggie:  “Beautiful.  But it might be a bit much for me.  Perhaps an ivory silk suit might be better for these times.”  Chanel:  “Nonsense! We must embrace excess—especially these days!  We’re dancing on the edge of a volcano, after all…..”   Interesting ñ’est pas!

The second refers to using actors, decorators, and designer, all in the US Army, to build “fake” tanks and other equipment to fool the Nazis into thinking the Allies were where they weren’t…see pages 206-207.  This is what Bill Blass did during the war. He told me about it and said it was a great pleasure to be able to divert the German army by creating “stage sets”.  See his autobiography Bare Blass for further details on this operation.

This book gave me more information on the British spy system used during WWII than I knew or suspected and I must say I definitely didn’t expect the ending…obviously there is more to Maggie’s story to be told!  Let’s see what MacNeal has in store in book 8, I for one will be eagerly awaiting it.

 

 

COLLECTIONS: HALLOWEEN

PLEASE CORRECT STEPHANINE LAKE’S WEBSITE THE CORRECT INFORMATION IS www.stephanielakedesign.com MY APOLOGIES FOR THE ERROR!

 

imageGrab your candy corn this is going to be a long post and I hope a fun one, we all love Halloween don’t we!!!!  It seems that everyone now decorates for this spooky holiday and spend over 9 million dollars on it, oh my, that is scary!!!! I wonder how much of that is spent on Pumpkin Spice items…..or maybe that would be another several million!!!

CORRECTION SHOULD READ 9 BILLION $$$$$$$$

image

The holiday began in ancient times, the Celtics had the festival of Samhain to celebrate their New Year began on November 1. All Hallows Eve became Halloween sometime in the late 1800’s a time to go trick-or-treating, carve pumpkins, get dressed up in costumes and all in all come to the end of a season and get ready for winter.  There is so much to learn about ALL the traditions that I encourage you to do a bit of research on your own and, of course, be sure to watch the Giant Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, a yearly tradition…he will appear one of these years!

image

Let’s begin with pumpkins…having a very talented artist as a Father I had amazingly glorious carved pumpkins and I could carve my own acorn squash, I don’t remember having the charming small pumpkins and other decorative gourds back in the day.  We always had several, one was never enough and I got to help scoop out the pulp and seeds anytime I could spend with my Daddy I did so and I very happy to say he always had lots of time for me…only great memories.  I now see painted pumpkins, glittered pumpkins, gilded pumpkins, and on and on…love them all.  Here are some photos of some of the thousands you can find on Pinterest and Instagram…enjoy…

image

imageimageimageimageimage

Do come to Randolph Street Market www.randolphstreetmarket.com this weekend, October 28 and 29 from 10 to 5 where you will find lots of vintage Halloween items. I had a huge Halloween party every year from grade school through high school.  Everyone, of course, came in costume, mine, for several years, was a white fringed cowgirl outfit that Mom fashioned each year worn with handtooled white leather boots that we got each year when we spent the summer in Midland, Texas (yes, you heard that correctly!), cowgirl hat and gloves….I thought I was Dale Evans (I was crazy about Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger, what can I say!) Mom decorated every inch of our homes with crepe paper and traditional Halloween paper goods (see what you can find at RSM, I can assure you lots….)  We always had a sit down meal also themed as well as games.  We went trick-or-treating on Beggar’s Night as well as Halloween alternating different neighborhoods…it was the best time ever!

A couple of books on collecting Halloween items….

imageimage

Here are some of the decorations we had when I was a child….

imageI had all of these…aren’t they super and now very collectible, see what RSM has…

imageimageimageWe would often have these to go trick-or-treating….hard to find now but great fun to fill with goodies.

imageAbsolutely love this, I want to go to this party…a great way to display all the collectibles you will find at Randolph Street Market.

imageWhen you are in the South Bend area please make a stop at Council Oak Antiques at 50981 S.R. 933 N. as you can see the vendors are ready not only for Halloween but for the rest of the Fall celebrations.  They are open daily and I am mad for the Owner’s Instagram account patricia_mcmahon_smith, do check it out. Photo courtesy of Council Oak Antiques.

There are a zillion haunted houses to visit, parties to go to or host your own, my favorites are at The Peninsula Chicago, hurry home from the Randolph Street Market on Saturday don you costume and attend this year’s extragranza…here are the details…image

And for the children, the party is Saturday morning, also at The Peninsula Chicago www.chicago.peninsula.com….Party invitation graphics courtesy of The Peninsula Chicago.

image

Here is our precious Odette modeling her butterfly costume exclusively for nenasnotes photo by Stephanie Lake….

imageimageimageJust perfection…..

imageWorking on Halloween Haunted House….

image

TheFinished Halloween House…scary!!!!

imageimageThe above seven photos courtesy of Stephaine Lake, www.lake@stephanielakedesign.com  go to the nenasnotes archives for the week of December 12th for the series of profiles I did on Stephanie…you wont’t be disappointed!!!

imageAfter the festivities I am ready for my treats…and you!!!!!

imageOn my way home…….

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: CORK

image

By now you know my brain wanders all over the place…take cork for an example, today’s subject!  I was at one of my new most favorite restaurants, MARISOL www.marisolhicago.com at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.  The Museum is celebrating it’s 50th Anniversary, more on that in a future post.  Back to Marisol….I have been waiting for it to open for months and anticipated a new neighborhood place to hang out and I have definitely found it!  Love the atmosphere, the staff, headed by General Manager, Sarah Martins, is amazing, they are courteous, remember your name after one visit (what??????) and smile, what a concept, and the food, yes. the food is beyond yummy.  More on this new place in yet another post, fingers crossed that Chef Jason Hammel will share a recipe or two with us.  Wait, isn’t this post about cork, you ask, yes it is!  Here is why.

image

My wine buddies joined me one evening and we were having our wine when Jason, our server extraordinaire, asked if we didn’t want a bottle with our dinner, we, of course, agreed, why not…it was a lovely Gamay.  Jason opened the bottle, presented me with the cork and the first sip to taste.  Looking at the cork, I decided that I needed to do a post on cork…of course, I did.  I explained to Jason and my dinner friends that is how my crazy mind works.  It brought to my mind the reason you are handed the cork, most certainly not to sniff it unless you want to have the smell of “cork”!  It is to let you know that the cork has the name of the winemaker/vineyard on it ad that it matches what you have ordered.  In years long gone, labels became illegible but the cork with its brand endured.   There is a great article on the website VinePair in their Wine Geekly posts on “What To Do With The Cork When Your Server Presents It!” Go to their site if you want to learn more, www.vinepair.com

I then, of course, started researching cork and where it comes from, actually from the cork oak from Southwest Europe and Northwest Africa, the bark is harvested, the trees are not cut down.  Cork is used in approximately 60% of all wine corks, you now can find synthetic corks and screw tops.  It is also used in musical instruments, flooring, wall covering, the interior cores of baseballs (who knew!!!) etc. etc. etc. In my life, my Father’s drawing board was topped with cork as was his inspiration wall (great for tacking bits and pieces) in his at-home studio.

imageAs the bark looks before it is harvested.

imageThe look of the pressed cork that would have been on my Father’s drawing board and wall.

Let’s look at a few decorative ways to use corks, I love to collect them on trips (use to do match boxes but who has those anymore!!!!) here are some ways you can use them in your home.

image

imageimageChampagne corks for this chandelier.

imageOf course a book on the subject, you know me and books, To Cork or Not to Cork by George M. Faber.

A couple of games…

imageimage

And in fashion…

image

The Nike LeBron 12 EXT “King’s Cork” shoe from the Nike website.

image

The iconic Salvatore Ferragamo cork and suede wedge made for Judy Garland in 1938.  It is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Collections.

image

Dutch designer, Jan Taminian cork platform boots worn by Lady Gaga

imageTwo exquisite headpieces by Philip Treacy for Alexander McQueen worn by Isabella Blow.

imageThis movie has very little to do with cork but it is one of my favorites and I adored Alan Rickman in anything and he is superb in this film, I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it or see it again!

I could easily go on for pages, which I usually do, there are so many images on Pinterest and online that it is hard to stop but stop I shall.  Look for yourselves who knows you might get inspired to do a cork craft after you have opened your own bottle of wine, looked at the brand on the cork and enjoyed a glass or two!

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

 

 

 

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: THE ADDRESS

imageI have been waiting for this book to come out for months, having enjoyed Fiona Davis’ first book The Dollhouse and anticipated a good read, I wasn’t disappointed!  I usually don’t like plots that go from one time to another, this one begins in 1884 and then travels to 1985, this is done in different chapters.  In this case, it works extremely well and brings the story to contemporary times.

We begin at a luxury hotel in England where our protagonist, Sara Smythe, is head housekeeper and sees a little girl balancing on a window ledge, rushes to save her (which she does), the father of the little girl, Theodore Camden, is so grateful he offers Sara a position at the soon to be opened Dakota, in New York where he is one of the architects and project manager.  She thinks the offer is not sincere but because she saved his daughter.  Shortly after Camden, his wife and children return to New York, Sara receives a ticket and travel expenses to join them.  Without much hesitation, she boards her ship and sails for New York and her new life….by the way, all this is in the first few pages of the book!

When she arrives at the Dakota she is stunned by the size, the beauty of the structure and the location, in the middle of nowhere, remember this is 1884.  Sara finds herself as managerette (don’t you love this title!) and totally in charge of basically everything.  She is very much up to the task and the new apartment dwelling opens beautifully.  Naturally, she lives in the building as does Theo and his family.

We then meet our other protagonist, Bailey Camden, a modern young woman who is an interior decorator and has just been released from rehab where she was treated for alcoholism and drug addiction.  Her boss has taken care of her rehab expenses and promptly fires her.  Her “cousin” (are they really cousins!!!!???) and friend Melinda, is rehabbing an apartment in the Dakota with the idea of making it very modern much to Bailey’s chagrin.  As part of their agreement, Melinda allows Bailey to live in the apartment during the renovation along with the promise of her fee when Melinda turns 30 in a few weeks and receives her substantial inheritance. If you have ever been in the building you know it is tradition personified and still considered a prestigious building, it is a stunner.

Both stories have lives of their own but, of course, mesh together as well. We meet many characters along the way, learn about New York as it begins to become the City we all know and love by learning about its architecture, go inside an insane asylum (not my favorite part of the story, I felt it was a bit long), the glamour of the Gilded Age and the excess of the 1980’s New York scene.  My take away was how talented women, in any age, with the drive, the know how, skills and willingness to succeed do so.  A feminist story, perhaps, but more one of human nature, self-worth and lots and lots of intrigue along the way, romance, yes that too!.  Did I like the book, yes, indeed I did!

From the last paragraph on the fly leaf of the book….”A century apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted and struggled against the golden excess of their respective ages—for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the nightlife’s free-flowing drinks and cocaine—and take refuge in the Upper West Side’s gilded fortress.”

 

PROFILE: THE AMAZING UNIVERSE

imageI’m not doing an official “profile” post today because I am in Southern Illinois to see the total eclipse….I am totally beyond excited for this once in a lifetime experience!

I thought you might enjoy the following article from The Guardian from August 15, 2017, we are taking turns reading it aloud (not the driver) in the car on our five hour drive (oh my!)  Be sure to use your special glasses and enjoy the total eclipse of the sun!

“‘Most spectacular thing I’ve ever seen in my life’: US readies for total eclipse

Tyler Nordgren, a physics and astronomy professor at the University of Redlands says eclipse watchers should be prepared for a multi-sensory experience

One of Tyler Nordgren’s illustrations of the eclipse. Photograph: Tyler Nordgren

Millions of Americans will look up toward the sky on Monday 21 August and watch stars shine in the afternoon, feel the day’s heat swapped for an evening chill and hear the sounds of confused birds and animals during the first total eclipse seen in the continental US in 38 years.

The spectacular event in six days’ time will cross a strip of the country occupied by 12.2 million people, with millions more expected to travel to the 70-mile-wide eclipse path, aiming to catch a glimpse of a sight that has captured the imaginations of people for millennia.

“I’ve spent my entire life looking at the sky as an astronomer – at the Milky Way, the stars, meteor showers – and this is the most spectacular thing I’ve ever seen in my life with my own eyes,” Tyler Nordgren, a physics and astronomy professor at the University of Redlands, told the Guardian.

Nordgren, who saw the total eclipse in Europe in 1999, said nothing compares to the multisensory experience a solar eclipse offers.

“The shadow of the moon moves over you, day turns to night for half an hour, the stars become visible in the middle of the day, the sun turns black and the most incredible thing – the sun’s corona: that million degree atmosphere that is invisible at all other times – suddenly you see the enormous crown, its rays of pale white spreading outward from the sun,” he said.

Map

The corona is only visible during an eclipse and will be watched closely by an army of scientists eager to take advantage of the opportunity to study the sun’s energy. Researchers will monitor the eclipse from the ground, air and space, and Nasa has invited casual observers to track temperature and cloud data on their phone to create a citizens’ scientific map of the eclipse.

The rare event is also bringing a torrent of visitors to cities located in the eclipse path. There are 200 million people who live a day’s drive away from prime viewing spots, and the US Federal Highway Administration has warned: “This isn’t your average travel weekend.”

That influx has inspired travel companies to take advantage of the demand on hotels and transport.

The travel company HipMunk found that compared to the same period in 2016, there was a 29% average increase in booking prices at seven cities in the eclipse’s path including Omaha, Nebraska; St Louis, Missouri; and Columbia, South Carolina.

Last week, car rental searches on Kayak.com for Portland, Oregon, which is an hour’s drive from a main eclipse viewing site, showed an “unusually high demand” in the city, with a 1,469% increase in car rental searches and no cars available.

eclipse science

Though solar eclipses are extraordinary and rare, scientists have been able to predict them since ancient times.

Babylonian astrologers recorded eclipses on clay tablets between at least 518 and 465 BCE and were eventually able to predict them.

Then for centuries, solar eclipses were regarded with terror. In May 1716, a London pamphlet warned that a predicted eclipse was “The Black Day, or the prospect of Doomsday”.

That shifted by the 20th century, when a journalist wrote in the Hartford (Connecticut) Courant: “Although the frequency with which solar totality occurs, and the scientific knowledge which has robbed it of the mystery and even the terror which formerly accompanied it, great value in astronomical circles is given to its recurrence.”

Nordgren, who wrote a book on the history of eclipses, plans to watch it with his family and friends.

He was a child when the last US total eclipse occurred in 1979, but missed it because he was hiding in his Portland home with the curtains drawn, afraid his eyes would be burned from watching the event. Nordgren said he realized afterwards that he had been “cheated out of a life experience”.

When he saw the eclipse in 1999, he was surrounded by scientists who were attending a conference in Budapest. He said he was excited this year to finally share the experience with his loved ones.

Nordgren said: “My hope is I have not oversold this to my wife.”

 

image
Nordgren’s book on the history of solar eclipses…I for one will be getting it!