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.

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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.

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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.”

 

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

COLLECTIONS: ART POTTERY

imagePhoto was taken from the Pottery Boys website.

I have been posting about the Pottery Boys  www.potteryboys.com this week and their open house this Saturday, August 19th.   The piece above is from their vast collection, each piece I feel is extraordinary.  I wanted to share a few more of their pieces, a glimpse into the creativity of David Erpenbach, another skilled artist, and delve into a collection at the Chicago History Museum www.chicagohistory.org

imageOne of the Pottery Boys pieces and an up close photo of the special top. The details look like jewelry.  Both photos were taken by me in their Studio. image

imageAnother from their website.

imageAnother photo I took in the Studio.

imageFrom Tom Mantel and Tom Hawley’s Collection, I featured the grouping of three pieces in another post here is the very large piece close up and then the exquisite detail of the top of the sculpture and the intricate almost lace like work of the body of the piece.

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While I was preparing this post my thoughts wandered back in time to the apartment of a dear friend and colleague at Columbia College Chicago, Dianne Erpenbach and her husband, Jon, and their collection of their son, David’s unique, and wonderful art pottery.  Why don’t ask me, I haven’t thought about it in years.  I contacted Dianne who in turn let David know I was interested in seeing his current work.  I asked him to share his thoughts as well…you know I will do that!

Here are those thoughts and some of his special pieces:

“I use traditional wheel thrown and hand built techniques to begin all of my pieces. My vision is to take traditional pottery forms and make them more unique by cutting, altering and adding several thrown and hand built pieces to create one final form. Some of my pieces may use up to ten or more thrown or hand built pieces to create one piece. I do not use molds so all of my pieces are original and one of a kind. My experience with firing includes High Fire reduction, High and Low Fire oxidation, Soda Fire, Salt Fire, Pit Fire and Raku. I have five years of learning and experimentation during my undergraduate study at Northern Michigan University where I completed my Bachelor of Fine Arts with a studio concentration in ceramics.”

imageDavid Erpenbach at his wheel.

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imageMy favorites of David’s work…as you know I am a green girl, but these really drew me into them.  All above photos courtesy of David Erpenbach.

The Midwest is known for its pottery, think Ohio for an example, McCoy, Hall, Shawnee, USA, actually a mark not a brand, (all of which I collect in white, you have seen some of that collection, and some green pieces).  Roseville, Rookwood, and Weller, of course, and all the Arts and Crafts designers and Mid-Century artists.  The subject is huge and I will probably do future posts on it but I wanted to do a short photo essay on Teco which was/is done locally.  “The American Terra Cotta Tile and Ceramic Company was founded in 1881 in Terra Cotta, Illinois between Crystal Lake and McHenry.  It became the first American manufacturer of architectural terra cotta (I did a post on terra cotta a few weeks ago in my Thursday Collections series). The founder William Day Gates began experimenting with clays and glazes for art pottery which introduced TECO Pottery (TErra COtta) in 1899.  It is known for it’s Teco Green glaze, a smooth, microcrystalline, matte.” (Source Wikipedia).  I like to credit as much as I can to local resources for nenasnotes and I found several pieces housed in our Chicago History Museum Collections www.chicagohistory.org all from around l905.

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imageThe three pieces above are in the Chicago History Museum Decorative Arts Collection.

imageThis piece found on Pinterest photo credit unknown.  I think it is stunning.

imageAn out of print book….if you are interested I would suggest an internet search.

Of course, you will find many, many art pottery pieces to add to or start your collection at the Randolph Street Market www.randolphstreetmarket.com Saturday and Sunday, August 26 and 27 from 10 to 5.

 

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: THE FORBIDDEN GARDEN

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

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

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

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From the book jacket:

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

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

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

 

 

FASHION FLASHBACK: BETH LEVINE SHOES PART 2

imageLong before Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, Brian Atwood, Patrick Cox, Prada and Miu Miu (let alone Chanel, Dior, etc.) there was Salvatore Ferragamo, Roger Vivier, Andrea Pfister, Maud Frizon, and the list goes on…and, of course, Herbert and Beth Levine. Beth Levine and Beth’s Bootery are the subjects of today’s post.  I have always loved shoes and have worn heels since I was 13 years old, of course, heels then were 3-4 inches, not the stilettos of today (which, by the way, I wore for many, many years!) This post came about when I read about the Michael Kors buy of Jimmy Choo for 1.2 billion dollars!

I had the opportunity, at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago, to work with Fiamma Ferragamo, Roger Vivier and Andrea Pfister (who did a last of my foot to fashion special shoes just for me…do I have any of them, the answer, unfortunately, is no!!!)  All were delightful to work with and extremely talented.  Each with their unique style creating works of art and at different times in my SFA tenure.  Vivier was the first shoe creator that I worked with, he was the hot designer of the time and did an exclusive line for SFA (actually, all those I worked with did exclusives for us, and they were extraordinary). He could not have been more charming, a true French gentleman with the utmost creativity.  I worked with Fiamma and Andrea often and sometimes did fun fashion events with them.  A few times I did vignettes using picture frames and had the model’s feet and legs outside the frames (that is all you saw) showing the most exciting of the shoe collections. The designers, as well as the clients really had fun with those events.

Now on to the Levines….I wore Herbert Levine shoes when I was in high school.  We had the most wonderful shoe stores in Chicago (the Chicago store was next door to Saks on Michigan Avenue) and in Evanston called Joseph’s and they carried all the “of the moment styles”, one new “invention” was the “Springolator”.  The Springolator shoe features an elastic insole that is designed to create tension between the shoe and the bottom of the foot to stay on the foot, without slipping off or go clack-clack when you walk.  It was “invented” by Herbert Levine and his designer wife, Beth.  It is in actuality a mule or slide but stayed on your foot because of the tension. 

imageBeth Levine as I remember her, joyful and beyond talented!

I had several pairs especially for all my dance dresses…we wore a lot of party dresses in the 1950’s and I made most of them myself…I never wanted anything anyone else had.  My prom dress (I was already working at Saks when I graduated high school) was made of unbleached muslin, strapless, of course, and I fashioned rosettes of the muslin to applique on the skirt (with petticoats underneath as was the fashion at the time!) and tied an apricot velvet ribbon at the waist, on my feet, Herbert Levine Springolator shoes in ecru with bows in the same apricot velvet!  Actually, they looked a lot like the pump on the cover of the book at the beginning of the post but they were open toe…you get the idea. Quite chic if I say so myself….

imageimageTwo examples of Herbert Levine Springolators.

imageI had this exact shoe except in pink (me in pink!!??, interesting) the ornament was Dresden china.  I loved those shoes.

I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Beth’s collection of wooden shoe snuff boxes and the shoe she designed in their honor.  Here are a couple of other “themed” shoes that I found amusing…

imageThe racing car flat.

imageVery Mod and certainly the late 1960’s.

imageBeth’s boot revival “were made for walking” as Nancy Sinatra’s 1966 song tells us https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbyAZQ45uww They started a craze that has survived to current fashion and just get higher and higher up the leg and in heel height.

imageAdore this shoe and it came on many color combinations.

imageI am mad for this shoe the lace embellishment, the shape of the heel, a true masterpiece (could also be a Vivier!)

imageI think this is a particularly beautiful heel….just like the back of our ready-to-wear garments are seen by all so are the back of our shoes.  Wouldn’t you love to see these with a LBD for a fabulous cocktail party….please!!!!!

imagePortrait by Philip Pearlstein, 1980’s which was on loan for the Beth Levine: The First Lady of Shoes exhibition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in 2015. Go to their blog at npg.si.edu

All images from Pinterest photo credits unknown.

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: FAVORITE PINS THIS WEEK: GREEN

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

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

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

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

imageAnother tablescape from Carolyne Roehm

 

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

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

imageBeautifully detailed tiles.

imageA magnificent garden path leading to a secluded nook.

imageThe entrance to Monet’s home in Giverny

imageA fantastically beautiful solarium….

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

imageA wood in Indiana my photo

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

imageFerns in a Blue Island garden my photo

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

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

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

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

imageA truly spectacular conifer in Harbor Country, my photo.

 

www.randolphstreetmarket.com

www.newberry.org

 

 

 

COLLECTIONS: TERRA COTTA

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imageEach month at the Randolph Street Market www.randolphstreetmarket.com I search for blogging inspiration and I always come across something that entices me.  These pots were no exception!  I found them at the Randolph entrance to RSM at Cosmic Girl Goes Home’s booth along with many other fascinating objects.  The proprietor, Robin Sweeney, doesn’t come every month, she travels from Ohio, but you will be greatly pleased when she is there, I love her ecstatic!  You can find her at her Instagram account @cosmicgirlgoes or on Facebook at cosmic girl goes home.  What I liked about these terra cotta pots is that they are already weathered.  Yes, you can do this yourself or perhaps you have some in your garden shed but if not you are in luck…I love the patina.

imageimageA couple more shots from the booth.  All three photos I took with my iPhone.

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Let’s look at some ways to use them in the garden or in your home….all the following photos were found on Pinterest photo credits unknown.

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A garden arch of terra cotta pots as well as pots for all the blooms.  I want to live there!

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Am I the only person who misses Martha Stewart’s original programs….I simply devoured them and really learned so much.  Perhaps they can be streamed somewhere…can’t you stream everything!!!!  One series she did was with Guy Wolff and it was absolutely fascinating.  Here are a couple of photos of his wonderful work www.guywolff.com.  There are several very interesting Guy Wolff videos on YouTube.

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imageOf course, I have to share his book….what would nenasnotes be without a book recommendation!!!!

The history of terra cotta (earthenware) takes us to ancient times and could be a very long post, instead, I thought I would briefly bring up Emperor Qin the first Emperor of China’s terra cotta army.  Thousands of the terra cotta soldiers were found buried with the Emperor, each with a different face.  I was mesmerized by them when many of them were on exhibition at the Field Museum last year.  You will want to read the entire story here are two sites to give you lots of information, The Smithsonian Museum Magazine www.smithsonianmag.com has a great article as well as National Geographic www.nationalgeographic.com  Check YouTube for in-depth videos on this unique view of history.

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No recipe today, don’t have too much I can do with terra cotta, although you could think up something with fresh clean pots….hum, let’s think about that!!!!  Martha where are you when we need you!!!!