WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: HALLOWEEN STORIES

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

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

Story #1

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

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

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

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Story #2

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

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

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

Story #3

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

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

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

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Above photos from Pinterest photo credits unknown.

Love these charming plates from Williams-Sonoma.

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Hope I get these in my treat bag……

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BOOKNOTES: SEPTEMBER TO BE READ LIST

16342407-F683-4D48-9B49-0F5DD55F4751I thought I’d give you a preview of some of the books I will be reviewing this month.I have SO many on my TBR list that it was difficult to choose just a few…but here goes…

I am currently reading The Masterpiece by one of my favorite authors, Fiona Davis. So far it doesn’t disappoint.  It is the story, told in two time periods (seems to a trend in many of the novels I have been reading, wasn’t a fan, but am adjusting to them…this one definitely works!), of the art school housed in the Grand Central Terminal in New York, one of my favorite NYC structures.  You know how much I love historical fiction…this is a fascinating little known story…..I’ll post the review next week.

Next up, I’ll probably review a long over due non-fiction work by another of my favorites, Julia Reed, South Toward Home. I always love her books and her other writings….informative, funny, and very, very well written I never want to finish her books and that is a compliment….I think we are in for a good read. 1CBA0F19-D464-40C9-A7EC-151F444932BF

Torn by which of these titles to read next….maybe The Dinner List, intriguing to me and hopefully to you since that is one of the questions I ask each of my nenasnotes Profile guests to answer…”who would you have, living or dead, to your dinner party?”  Should be a fun read

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Or maybe I’ll switch gears and go with another author whose works I enjoy, Natasha Solomon’s and her House of Gold.  Another historical piece set in Austria and England during the World War I era.  You know I love any story set in England and that time period….we shall see!  61A9BA18-7F9F-4A8B-B80E-227AD207A6AA

Of course I need to re-read Bonnie Cashin Chic Is Where You Find It by the Uber talented, Stephanie Lake, who is joining this month’s nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club and then read what looks like a stunning addition to the Christian Dior oeuvre Dior and His Decorators by Maureen Footer, this is the October selection for nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club.

 

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Stay tuned for my reviews on each (go to the nenasnotes Archives for my review on the Bonnie Cadhin book).  As the song says….the beat goes on, or should I say the books go on and on and on…..

This post is underwritten by an anonymous sponsor.  Contact me for sponsorship opportunities. 

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: DOOR KNOBS

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As you well know, I am a HUGE fan of vintage items, the patina, the color, the wear of love in use….what could be more fun than collecting vintage doors knobs!  A good start, as always, a trip to the monthly (Saturday and Sunday, September 29 and 30 from 10 to 5) Randolph Street Market

My photos on site at Randolph Street Market.  These I found at the RSM in the Olde Good Things booth they were salvaged from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, which is in the midst of being renovated.  I am  particularly fond of the crystal ones but also like the white porcelain ones as well  I bought some several years ago, white porcelain, for my all white bathroom door and in my naïveté thought one size fits all….silly Nena….hardly!  I suggest you do your homework, if adding vintage doorknobs to your home whether it is a fixer upper or modern…measure, measure, measure and then measure again.  Take a photo of your existing door knob, or the actual piece, with you along with your standard antiquing kit of magnifying glass, tape measure, etc. when on your quest for anything that is sized.

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An ordinary builders grade set….shall we see if we can improve on this seen everywhere piece and…Lets look at some that I found on Pinterest….there are, of course, zillions to attract your eye and imagination….here just a few images. CCD0E0A8-1A74-435B-A2E6-CA469C7B61CC

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A fun “bouquet”.

E9C746A1-D98D-4AB2-961A-12BD58E88D86These could be mounted on your wall for decor or to hang bags, jewelry, belts, whatever’s….I think they would make an interesting art instillation.

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4BA8FF6C-06CA-4A96-B1D4-D2622A9917AAOr you could top a cork and use as a bottle stopper like I have done….here one in my kitchen, photo by me.

3EBFCFF1-D6D3-4253-AF43-6C771199DAC3A very close up photo (!!!!!!) of one of the knobs I got years ago at Anthropologie , love that store….they are on my closet doors.  You are getting a look at the green of all my walls (and ceiling) of my teeny home, every wall except the bathroom which is all shades of white.

 

Or how about tiny vases or from rustique art’s Pinterest site…a photo, postcard, note holder….love the whimsy of these.  What can you think of, in your creative minds, to use these tiny works of art in your decor.

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I’m beyond obsessed with this glorious piece, spectacular, who does craftsmanship like this today…..extraordinary….did you notice, with few exceptions…all my photos are “ green”.

You have seen some keys in the locks….check out how the ubertalented Margaret Buckman uses them in jewelry.  I did Margaret’s wonderful story on November 14, 2016….do check it out in the nenasnotes Archives, you will be enthralled!

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Books on the subject, of course….here are a couple that got my interest…and I’ll do a post on unique doors and another on door knockers in the future.

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468BC240-417E-43FF-BED2-5FCD4A0F079DAll photos unless otherwise noted found on Pinterest photo credit unknown.

FRIDAY MUSINGS: TINY HOUSES

 

78A3DA77-25DD-4D42-A9E0-35F0ABFA4DD9No this post isn’t about tiny Coalport, Meissen or other small collectibles (I can do that later) but rather actual tiny houses!!!! Yes, ones you live in. Full disclosure, I already live in a tiny house…what you say, “I thought you live in a high rise condo”, true but it is 700 square feet…so I am qualified to discuss the subject…just saying!  As a child I adored my doll house and, of course, spent many hours making many log cabins with my Lincoln Logs with Daddy.

At this point in time in my life should I be rethinking my living arrangements and perhaps see if any of my land owning friends will let me “park” myself on their property…I don’t drive so it would either be a permanent structure or mobile, with a hired driver when needed

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I am obsessed with watching ALL the programming on tiny homes on HGTV and DIY, but then I’m obsessed with most of their programming.  It seems many of them are either metal frames or wood cabin looking…neither would be what I would want, so mine would have to be designed to my specs, of course it would, and here are some looks that appeal to me.  Most with either a Victorian shabby chic or bohemian feeling, definitely my style, or a bit of modern….maybe!

Too cookie cutter for me…

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More my taste…

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A more mid-century look perhaps……

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Even George Bernard Shaw enjoy a tiny house, it rotated with the sun, for his studio.F3FF65EA-F576-4F3C-9678-0BBCCDAA2808But I envision something more Pygmalion or actually Beaton’s My Fair Lady decor…  CE5BDD98-7536-4041-9B8F-8724E1A424E4If truth were told I would love to retrofit a Vintage Airstream….some thoughts…FC2D018A-809D-4BEE-9214-C4F510AA78382B7BDC28-5CE0-4F31-B977-A762E7CEFD007D5E98B0-F319-4202-932D-597E512FC552C3A6A03B-46A8-424A-87DD-ED687AA3C2AB055E7C4C-6324-43C8-8A48-8E0F19A0C8B7

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Okay full confession, how I really want to live is in a English gypsy caravan.  Ruthy, my Mother, loved to tell of the gypsies and their caravans that would camp on her Father’s land outside Joplin, Missouri.  Each year they would come and my Grandfather gave them permission to use the land. As children, Mom and her siblings would visit the camp to hear wonderful stories and play with the children. Mom didn’t look like her brothers and sisters and I teased her that she must have been left as a baby by the gypsies to be taken care of by my grandparents…she rather liked the idea of a Bohemian lifestyle and found it a romantic notion (she was, of course, a legitimate child of my grandparents, birth certificates and Bible entry as proof!!!!!) In any instance, fairy tales aside, I find gypsy caravans right up my alley…in fact my current dwelling resembles one.

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How I want my home to look….walls and pillows are pretty similar now, would love to do either wallpaper or dark lacquer green, very glossy, paint.

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AEC579F9-E28A-414B-8E8B-C210111808C63CDF6C7B-76C5-445A-A8D0-2B57245751070F4DEADB-4CB6-43AC-AE7B-FA81F8E4DAE50EA93ACD-07BC-4BEE-B35A-AB30D82B6D20F7AD5A2F-5C1E-4D12-984D-0F1843AAC67E4A1107C7-AE6C-443C-9484-F72C281AE312118D0E6D-D08D-4B8D-8A91-795885A661037A04DA17-7DF1-4141-B772-3BB847C9FED1Too much…in my mind never….and I would have to consider where to house ALL my books.

BC59AEA5-267B-4C40-ABCA-93043A8FF33BHow I see my caravan in its pastoral setting….I can dream can’t I…..

All images found on Pinterest photo credits unknown.

MONDAY MUSINGS: WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT??!!

914DD8BA-0E7A-4835-937B-0AF625C6A4D6A question I have been asking myself, sorry for the lack of posts….lots of reasons, primarily a dead computer….a learning curve of doing nenasnotes on my iPad, let’s just call it frustration, confusion and loss of clear focus…let’s talk about it, shall we.

Perhaps it’s the lack of spring blooms, yes, they will come (I took the above photo last year in Harbor Country…I’ve referenced the grounds in many other posts), but then we rarely have spring until later, if at all. So I guess that’s not it.  I made a decision when I began my blog, a year and a half ago, that I wouldn’t do negative posts and I have stuck to that philosophy….so please let me vent this one time.  I decided to ask a consultant to help me toward my path to monetize nenanotes. I found the perfect person and we “clicked” immediately as friends.  During our delightful meetings over a period of time and lots of glasses of wine, I was advised to do lots of selfies, makeovers, talk about product, etc.  None of which is my style at all.  I’m not a pretty young thing who will have followers to buy what I  wear or droll over tutorials on how I apply my makeup …who cares!!! It has nothing to do with age but rather a preference of what my “mission/goal is”.  I think it is best to leave that to those who do it well. Guess what, I decided not to follow that advice (and it was excellent advice just not for me!) but continue on the path of my original plan to share my experiences in the world of fashion, do book reviews, explore collections, interiors (mine and others) share profiles of interesting people, my travels, in general talk about what interests me.  I do, however, have (suggested at my meetings) a smashingly glorious Media Kit produced by my dear friend, the extraordinarily talented, Christine Hawley, who also worked with me to produce my exceptional logo. I will use it for potential sponsors for nenasnotes. I’ll be happy to share the MK with any of you who are interested.

Okay, rant over. What do I have planned going forward, actually lots!!!  High on my list is to kick off my nenasnotes Fashion Book Club with Loulou & Yves by Christopher Petkanas. I will do a review, Christopher has asked me if I would post my review on the actual date of publication which is Tuesday, April 17th, I’m excited to do so.  It will be the first in my monthly Fashion Book Club choices and Christopher is interested in joining the discussion via Skype, too exciting for words! I will be announcing that May date soon along with the rest of the year’s exciting selections and surprises. Stay tuned!!!!!97B4DD29-93F9-46AC-AA9A-49F169C68071

I’ve been lax in sharing recipes with you lately…..sorry, I’ll correct that shortly. I love to make brownies and think mine are THE best (don’t we all!!!!!), I’ve made them forever.  For some unknown reason I had purchased a box of brownie mix as well as a can of fudge frosting and thought why not give them a try….I added pecans and vanilla to the brownies (sorry Tommy I was naughty and changed yet another recipe!!!) They were absolutely delicious and I think they are my new best!!!!!57807917-295B-4FE7-849E-EE9CDE411161

I am obsessed with looking at other peoples homes and gardens so you can bet you will see more of those, what did we do before Pinterest, I have zillions of clippings from magazines through the years as well as complete issues of some of my favorites, that is what we did. The photo below is a corner of my home (it was taken by Christine Hawley, I told you she is talented in so many ways!)…I’ve already done a post on paisley, there will be several on my needlepoint (some of which you can see on my built-in daybed) textiles, my lily of the valley collection in the breakfront and all over my home.  You can also see how I house some of my obsessive book collections, the two vintage bamboo shelves are mostly fiction and the tall slim bookcase (made for me by Harold Hawley, whom I profiled in my post on page-tuners) holds my collection of needlework books. You can also see lots of art on all surfaces. 3A576191-CDE5-4A95-9A76-C3124C09E84D

Gardens, of course….here is my favorite tree, in spring bloom, in Blue Island at the Tom Hawley and Tom Mantel home.  It is spectacular each season 9BB99CCF-DDB1-49FB-ABD5-3B44A670EAB8

As for my Profiles, I have a couple coming up that I know you will enjoy, waiting for photos on several and transcriptions on others. They are really, really outstanding and worth waiting for.  And always profiles of designers I have had the pleasure of working with.  Below I’m with Bob Mackie who has just launched his exquisite fine jewelry collection and is busy at work on the costumes for The Cher Show which will open in Chicago pre-Broadway in June…all too exciting for mere words!!D3B0A1F7-B99B-47B7-88BA-02BE1144DB92

Collections, of course, mine, and others and those found, like the assemblage below, at my favorite go-to monthly event Randolph Street Market

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From a magnificent private collection of English Ironstone.

Of course, I’ll continue to share fashion shows past and present such as the benefit for RefuSHE on Thursday, April 12th at The Cultural Center. The photo below is from last years show with a gown incorporating fabric produced by the members of the RefuSHE ccommunity in Africa and created by one our talented Chicsgo based designers. 1E65F7B4-9A5E-479F-A96C-806C2A046734I think I’ll cross out the makeup and keep wine…well maybe keep both on the top of my list…..your thoughts my friends!!0589C2AE-6CB4-4D43-B87E-3937333C121C

To sum up, in addition to the aforementioned topics, I’ve been asked to redo my Fashion Show Production class at Columbia College Chicago which i am very excited to do as well as a couple of other CCC projects, we shall see how they develop.

If there are topics you want to explore with me let me know.  Until Spting arrives…..0B5F6705-23E6-4917-B449-380810FA655D                      Photo from Pinterest credit unknown

 

COLLECTIONS: PAISLEY TEXTILES

 

 

5E98AAE5-16F5-4ED0-B779-26F05FB81C60.jpegI’ve been fascinated with paisley forever and in my very eclectic home it works perfectly in many ways from draping the back of a chair, to pillows, to the layering of authentic vintage pieces, Ralph Lauren textiles, and modern fashion shawls on my day bed (I’ll feature the “made” bed in another post, it is a pillow explosion!!!!) to many other renditions of the paisley pattern.

In the above illustration you see how the paisley shawl was worn during Victorian Times. While watching the superb second season finale of VICTORIA on PBS (having planned on doing this post for a long time) I was thrilled to see the Queen pick up a paisley shawl and wrap it around her shoulders….heaven!!!

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Paisley’s origin goes back centuries in India, Iran and other countries but the name came from where it was manufactured in the 19th Century, Paisley, Scotland. Just as Queen Elizabeth II attended her first fashion show during London Fall 2018 Fashion Week to present the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design to Richard Quinn, she also made a huge endorsement to the British fashion industry. The same was true of Queen Victoria. This being said the royal presence and seal of approval is a huge boom to any industry in the UK.

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Some examples of paisley in clothing

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Wooden paisley fabric stamp

Above images from Pinterest photo credit unknown

There are many sites and articles and, of course, books where you will find more information on this glorious pattern. I wanted to share my own collection in my home as well as share some from my Pinterest account where you will find many more examples.

50D97176-BCB4-4E6E-9F1E-AA5AD1E4E7AF.jpegOne of my window ledges with vintage bamboo shelves (mostly holding novels and to be read books) collectibles (of course, many treasures found at Randolph Street Market ) and festooned with a vintage paisley fragment next to antique lace panels backed by two panels of green drapery, one silk one velvet perhaps overkill, to me not too much!!!!  Linda Heister helped me get the drape exactly right…took a bit of time with me standing on my build-in daybed and adjusting all the elements just so! She also gave me 4 pillows also made from vintage paisley fragments. They are unadorned, I will, at some point in time, do some trim.

5D3F6AF2-F441-4207-B8FC-976F30F8DFF4.jpegThe elements of the top of my painted antique French daybed one of my first purchases for my room when I was in high school. One piece I would always keep. The upper right you can see a peek of the base which is a fitted sheet from a long ago Ralph Lauren linen collection (I have several just in case one wears out) the stripe is a mix of pattern (I often use it as a table cloth especially for Christmas time dinners) on the bottom left the tradition paisley pattern which layers over the stripe and the black banded piece is a challis shawl from a Gloria Sachs outfit (worked with her on many personal appearance trunk shows at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago).  The outfit was three pieces, jacket, slim skirt and this shawl each a different paisley coordinating pattern, loved it, wore it, wish I had it now…more to the point wish I could fit into it now!  At least I can enjoy, and wear the shawl!

35D23D7B-0C0E-49C8-BA87-AF4BF86C5C6D.jpegThis pillow sham is at the head of my bed and holds my guest bed pillow  love the combination of paisley patterns  F153C9CD-D13F-454E-9924-BAD694F95EC3.jpegInteresting assortment….actually three paisleys the base is yet another vintage fragment that I used to “upholster” a love seat in the library area of my apartment, a few of my vintage pillows and two bolsters one more vintage paisley and the smaller piece made from a watered velvet paisley that I found in a remnant bin that I also had upholstered on my antique dining chairs (my point here is don’t walk away if there are holes, tears, small amount yardage, think of how you can use them in your decor…use your imagination and creativity). The lily of the valley rug  drapped over the caned settee is one of my many needlepoint projects. Most of my pieces I do from charts rather than painted pieces. I will do a story on my needlework later (of course I will!!!!!)

79D971F6-36CC-4D3D-9941-5218F60D6DF7.jpegI showed you this pillow in another post it was a gift from my friend and former boss, Michael Hawley (you can check the nenasnotes archives on his profile) he had it made for an Antiquity piece when he was at Gumps in San Francisco, yet another of my treasures. At the moment it resides on one of aforementioned watered velvet dining chairs.

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A closeup of one of my many full paisley shawls (this one is on my “comfy sit in all the time” chair) it is in mint condition…not always easy to find, especially the centers which are often solid red or black, and usually quite pricey. I have gone that route but LOVE to find that illusive bargain.  I actually found a beauty last summer at RSM! Love the treasure hunt, that is why I always look forward to the monthly Randolph Street Market. I don’t drive so can’t get to antique malls, etc. a joy that we can visit this always fascinating event right in the heart of the City….thank you Sally Schwartz!!

The above photos are my images

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The above  images are all from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

FROM NENA’S RECIPE BOX

CURRIED LAMB

I have done this recipe to rave reviews for years it is from the Life Picture Cookbook. I use leftover leg of lamb which I usually serve for Easter the recipe below call for lamb shoulder…choice is yours. You can substitute beef, veal or pork, I never have. I serve with small bowls of the following toppings…shredded fresh coconut, chutney, peanuts or pistachios, Golden raisons, chopped hard boiled eggs, perserved lemon slices, chopped green onions and lots of white rice. It serves 6. Does keep well if you have any left over it can be frozen without the add ons.

3 pounds lamb shoulder

1/4 cup flour

2 cloves minced garlic (I use the jarred garlic, which I love)

4 large white onions, sliced

3/4 cup butter

4 small apples, pared and chopped

4 Tablespoons curry powder (I use Spice Islands and probably add a bit more)

4 Tablespoons dark brown sugar

4 Tablespoons raisons

2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce

2 lemons sliced

4 Tablespoons shredded fresh coconut

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 teaspoon grated lime peel

1 Tablespoon salt

Cut meat into 2-inch cubes, roll it in the flour.  Sauté the garlic and onions in butter in a large skillet for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.  Add meat and sauté for 10 minutes (less is using leftover lamb), stirring constantly.  Add apples and curry powder.  Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the remaining ingredients and two cups of water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour.  The aroma is a killer!!!  Serve over white rice and accompanying garnishes. Enjoy. Suggested wine…your choice but I would do a love a full bodied red  Dessert I would do a fruit sorbet with season fruit and a slash of orange liqueur.

 

 

NENASBOOKNOTES: PAISLEY RABBIT AND THE TREEHOUSE CONTEST

 

9B407105-1DFD-4774-83F4-D555988CC8DFBefore you think I have gone totally mad stay with me…..I know this is a children’s book….but is it really.  Let me explain.  A new friend of mine, Brett Firdman, a major Media Influencer, knowing I love books, and she is no longer reviewing them, has referred nenasnotes to publishers, authors and publicists. This was the first I received. I immediately loved our heroine’s name (I collect vintage paisley and was planning a post on it…it will appear later this week) so I thought why not!  When I received the book, before I opened it, I was totally enchanted by the exquisite cover illustration. I have been enamored with books from birth.  Both my parents constantly read to me and when I started to read, well you know the rest…I haven’t stopped. I don’t have children but have always read to my friends children and grandchildren and their presents are always books. This one would be bought in bulk it is glorious in its prose and art…I want to live in Paisley’s treehouse.

The premise of the book is a lone girl rabbit, Paisley, is up against Jimmy Squirrel whose father owns the biggest construction company in the city. Jimmy challenges a close group of friends to a treehouse contest. Paisley has no building skills and no one to help her enters the contest. The story is motivational for all ages in seeing the so-called underdog take charge, get a team together and defying all odds create something magical while proving anything can happen with grit, nerve and a can do attitude. The result is extraordinary in so many ways.    Not only will children read this over and over, so will I.

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From the amazing insightful author, Steve Richardson when asked how he came up with the idea, “The book was inspired by watching my sister, Margaret Chambers who is an interior designer,  work on awe-inspiring and epic multi-million dollar houses.”

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Then he was asked what he thought was the most important message of the book, “The importance of not jumping into a project but taking it slow, doing research, thinking creatively and big.  Looking for ways to bring creative people together with all kinds of talents to work as a team.  Finally, it’s not just about winning but producing something that will help others when done.”

The artist, Chris Dunn, is only in his 20’s and this is his first children’s book.  His illustrations are glorious, I can’t wait to see what he does next. You can find him at www.chris-dunn.co.uk.

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Paisley writing thank you notes in her library.

My thanks to Smith Publicity for getting me this advanced copy, Impossible Dreams Publishing Co. releases the book on March 1, 2018.  My recommendation get it for every child in your life and be sure to get one for yourself it is a total delight.  Just you wait until you see the finished house, I want to find property and hire Paisley and her team to build my dream house!

 

FASHION FLASHBACK: LUCILE DUFF GORDON

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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.

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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.

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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.
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 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!

A FASHIONABLE CHRISTMAS

imageWhen these two gentlemen greet you at the door of Casa Hyder/Smith you know you are in for a great time, their annual Christmas Tree Trimming Party was not an exception.  I have been after Greg Hyder since I began nenasnotes to join me with his stories, all of a sudden he became shy and kept putting me off.  I finally said, “you are off the hook”!  A sigh of relief from him and then he thought better of it and said: “how about coming to our Tree Trimming Party and documenting it!”  Why not indeed! I have known Greg for years and Jim for just about as long.  I worked with Greg when I was still at Saks and he was always very generous with chefs from The Peninsula Chicago, where he is Director of Style and Community Relations, when I had events that featured the top chefs in Chicago, in addition he never said no to door prizes for special shows and events.  We have had many too many glasses of wine together, obviously both our sign of a good friendship!  Silly us!!!

Well, all I can say is when someone tells you they are obsessed with something believe them!  There isn’t a square inch of their exquisite home that isn’t decorated to the nines.  It is extraordinary, to say the least.  Let me take you through it, at least a little bit of it.  The scale is something else.  The tree is gigantic, I have no idea how they got it up three flights of stairs.

imagePicking out the perfect tree at Gethsemane Garden Center

imageLights on and the ornament placement begins….each area of the tree has its own themed ornaments, let’s look at some of them, there are hundreds!  Many collected on their trips and many are family traditions.

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imageimageimageimageAnd, of course, a Cubs section!!!!  Our hosts are avid Cubs fans!

imageSome baubles were held aside for the party guests, remember the theme of the day was a tree trimming party!!!!  We were told if their placement didn’t meet with Mr. Hyder’s approval off they would come (after the party!)  Pictured are Tim Emond, Becca Smith (Jim’s daughter), Julie Machmon and Jean Antoniou.

On to the Santas….

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The custom-made Cubs Santa next to the fireplace….glorious!!!!

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imageimageimageimageimageThe crystal chandelier is festooned with red ribbon and the bobeche are filled with cranberries rather than drippings of candle wax, finished with a huge ornament.

imageAnother chandelier looking from the hall into the living room.

imageThe hall from the living room into the rest of the home.

imageSanta has forgotten his hat on the bed…

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Jim’s painting over the chest in the bedroom, it is only displayed during the Christmas season, another takes its place the rest of the year.  I was quite taken with this painting.  Obviously a talented artist.

imageAnother wall in the bedroom, I love icons and have done a post on them.

imageOne of the bathrooms, of course, in its festive attire!

How about a couple of wreaths…..

imageIn the dining room..

imageAnd inside the backdoor in the kitchen….

imageThe back bedroom with its African theme gets in the holiday spirit!

imageimageimageThe drinks tables…special Christmas Mimosas, yummy!

imageThe tree in the corner of the dining room with more treasured memories

imageimageOh, and did I mention food……my oh my what a spread. Top photo the sweets table (I suggested a cookie exchange next year they were so good!!!!!) Bottom the baked ham, cheeses., paté, relishes and on and on and on……(I got a goodie bag, yay!!!!)

imageJim, Nena, and Greg in front of the tree (still wasn’t finished the tinsel had yet to be placed piece by piece by piece!) that rivals the one in The Walnut Room and this one is alive!!!!!  Thank you so much, my friends, for allowing me to share your Christmas story with my readers, I am most grateful!

The soup served was worthy of my having two cups, here is the recipe beyond fabulous but then so was the entire afternoon…

FROM NENA’S RECIPE BOX

GREG AND JIM’S CREAM OF PUMPKIN SOUP WITH CURRY

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 1/2 quarts chicken stock

32 ounces (4 cups) canned pumpkin

2/3 cup brown sugar

Salt to taste

White pepper to taste

Nutmeg to taste

2 cups heavy cream

Chopped chives or parsley for garnish

Serves 12

Melt butter in 6 or 8-quart saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onion and saute for 5 minutes until translucent.  Add curry powder and cook for 2 more minutes.  Add chicken stock, pumpkin, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and nutmeg; blend in cream.  Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.

Adjust to desired consistency with a roux (equal parts melted butter and flour) or a whitewash (flour and water).  If too thin, cook an additional 10 minutes to cook out the starch.  If too thick, add more cream.  Adjust flavor with seasonings.

Blend in a blender until smooth and creamy.  Ladle into bowls or mugs and garnish with chives or parsley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COLLECTIONS: BOTTLE BRUSH TREES AND OTHER CHRISTMAS TREES

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This display of bottle brush trees and small houses was found at the last Randolph Street Market www.randolphstreetmarket.com you will find similar trees at the last RSM of 2017 on Saturday and Sunday, December 16 and 17 from 10 to 5 along with many, many other treasures for yourself and for gifts.

We all know that Queen Victoria’s beloved husband, Albert, brought the Christmas Tree to England from his native Germany…you know I love to research my posts but unfortunately, there isn’t a book on bottle brush trees so I will regale you with photos today some with a brief note or two….enjoy.

I do have a couple of very small trees in my very small apartmenet but I am a collector of angels at Christmas.  However, we always had a magnificent tree each year.  My mother, Ruth, created miniature trees, for years, using friends and clients (we sold them in the Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago Holiday Boutique that I managed for many years, I posted about it last year, check the archives) costume jewelry to create these tiny gems….I only have a couple left, I have, over the years, given mine to her friends who wanted a token from her.

imageHere are two of Mom’s tiny jeweled trees I keep them out all year under domes, each is around 6″ tall.

imageHere is one of my collection of vintage Christmas angels holding a teenie tree.

imageA village with bottle brush trees in one of the bedrooms at Tom Hawley and Tom Mantel’s home (every room in the house as well as outside decor is in the festive Holiday spirit).

The above photos were taken by me with my iPhone 7.

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The above photos were taken just before the Council Oak Antiques, in South Bend, Indiana, Holiday Open House a few weeks ago (you may not find exactly what is pictured) by Patricia McMahon Smith’s son, Jack, especially for nenanotes.  I am obsessed with this Antique Mall, it is well worth the trip to South Bend in between your RSM vists.

While satisfiying my browsing Pinterest fetish I found the following pins, unfortunately uncredited photography but look at the many ways you can incorporate bottle brush trees and small live trees (you can plant these in your garden!) in your holiday decor.

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Just a reminder that the Christmas in Blue Island celebration is this Saturday, December 2….here are all the deets….

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And I leave you with another holiday recipe, forgive me if I posted this last year…I hope you will give it a try,  Next year I will soak the cherries in bourbon or brandy…it is truly a yummy cake that keeps well and is a greate hostess gift and/or grab bag gift.  Enjoy….

From Nena’s Recipe Box

BRAZIL NUT/DATE CAKE

12-16 oz. shelled Brazil nuts

1 lb. pitted dates

8 oz. candied red cherries

3/4 cup flour

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

Put nuts, dates, and cherries in large bowl.  Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt over nuts and fruit, mix until coated.  Beat eggs until foamy, add vanilla, stir into nut-fruit mixture until well mixed.  Turn into 4 small and l medium size pans that are well greased.  Spread batter evenly.  Bake at 300º for l hour and 45 minutes.  Cool before slicing with a saw tooth knife (the cake is very dense)  I used aluminum pans with plastic covers, tie with a pretty vintage bow.  Be sure to keep one for yourself! I have had this recipe since 7th grade, needless to say, a very long time!

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