Much like Clara (Marie in this production), in Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet, I think I have been fascinated with Nutcrackers since I first saw the ballet as a little girl.  Our own Joffrey Ballet, does a superb new interpretation choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon and running through December 30th at our exquisite Auditorium Theater, as seen above in my photograph of the curtain.


My first, and for many years, was the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo which I adored, that was followed by the New York City Ballet choreographed by the incredible George Balanchine at Lincoln Center which I saw in NYC in 1964 and to my mind the best until I saw the Joffrey’s production when they first came to Chicago….pure magic and performed at The Rosemont Theater.  An aside, when I was at Saks Fifth Avenue we did a series of what we called Platinum Events and our Platinum clients could choose from a menu of events (I’ll go into those in another post) one of these was the opening night of the Nutcracker with a catered dinner after the performance in the Theater’s Private Room.  I did red plaid taffeta cloths to the floor, of course, on the dinner tables and along with Gerald Arpino had at least one dancer from the performance, in their costumes, at each table.  The centerpieces were elegant stunning German Nutcrackers which we’re given to each guest as their gift after dinner. The event was very private with only fifteen couples, the Store Manager with their spouse and me.  A huge success.  I have been a huge fan of The Joffrey’s Nutcracker and I must admit I was skeptical of the new version…..silly me it is beyond brilliant….is Wheeldon the new Balanchine, I am beginning to think so.  I have to compliment the genius team of Ashley Wheater, Artistic Director and Greg Cameron, President and CEO for continuing to push our extraordinary company in new directions especially with the Classics (my favorites).  Up next the world premiere of Anna Karenina, February 13th through 24th, Mark your calendars now, I know I will! Better yet get your season tickets….what a perfect Holiday gift for everyone on your list and for yourself, I’d like to find that in the toe of my stocking!

Julian Crouch bringing his incredible Nutcracker to life. Photos by Cheryl Mann.

I  wrote the following on my Instagram account immediately after the performance last week and wanted to share that “review” with you.

“I am never at a lack for words but the Joffrey Ballet Chicago’s production of Christopher Wheeldon’s The Nutcracker has rendered me speechless….it is a flawless spectacle. The dancing, the use of modern technology in a traditional beloved ballet, the costumes and the sets…WOW. On this the 200th birthday of our State, it was a perfect celebration of our history to reimagine the setting and place it in Chicago at the spectacular World’s  Columbian Exhibition of 1893.”

Fabrice Calmels as  The Great Impresano of The Fair and ensemble, Cara Marie Gary as Marie, Fabrice, Cara and Yoshihisa Aria as Franz.

Miguel Angel Bianca and Alberto Velazquez E63BDAF5-1F64-4791-86BB-F59BCF1638D1


Dylan Gutierrez as The Rat Catcher.


Fernando Duarte as Mother Nutcracker


Fabrice Calmels and April Daly as The Great Impresario and The Queen of the Fair


The corps de ballet as snowflakes in the Second Act.



Finale…please notice the staging replicating the Auditorium interior pillars, beyond gorgeous. They also lit the ceiling for a bit of glamourous effect. The Louis Sullivan building was completed in 1889 and in addition to the theater the building housed a hotel…I’m sure guests to the World’s Fair stayed there.

The production will be at The Auditorium Theater through December 30th. Do go you will be transfixed, something we all need!!!!

Where can you find vintage collectible Nutcrackers, of course, i would suggest you check out the December Randolph Street Market on December 15 and 16. And if you more history about actual nutcrackers please go to the Randolph Street Market blog for my  November post on them (I do two posts monthly you might enjoy them give, the site a look!)

All the images were shared with me by The Joffrey Ballet and were taken by the talented  Cheryl Mann.

This is not a sponsored post.





You have heard me mention my visits with my dear friends (my “adopted family”) in Blue Island, Illinois.  In fact, I have done several blog posts about “The Islands” over the past three years  I would love for you to share the fun this Saturday, December 1st for their special Annual Blue Island Light Parade and Kringle Mart.  The following is all the information you will need for a quick get away from Chicago.  You will love Blue Island’s exquisite diverse architecture and most importantly, its charming, welcoming residents….go and have fun, I know they will!!!!

“Blue Island kicks off the Christmas season on Saturday December 1st

Blue Island, IL – Plans are underway for a fun-filled, family friendly day to kick off the Holiday Season. The highlight of the day will be the Blue Island Light Parade that will take place on Saturday, December 1st at 5:30 pm. It will begin at Western Ave. and Prairie, go south to New Street.

Join Mayor Vargas at MetroSouth Park following the Parade to light the Christmas Trees in the park. Then bring the kids over to the Santa House at High and Western to take their picture with Santa and Mrs. Claus, bring your phone or camera (from 6:30 pm until 9 pm).

Earlier in the day, the Blue Island Public Library will be showing Christmas movies from 1 pm to 4 pm. There will also be a Kringle Mart under the tents in the parking lot located at High and Western from 2 pm to 9 pm. Free train rides, Kiddie Carouseland Ferris Wheel rides are also available for the kids from 2 pm to 6 pm while you shop!

You can do a little Christmas shopping or get something to eat at the annual Business Open Houses up and down Western Ave and Olde Western Ave. There will also be free horse-drawn wagon rides down Greenwood from 6:30 pm to 9 pm. Pick up is by the Kringle Mart at High and Western. The Blue Island Public Library will have their annual Open House, lighting their tree and serving refreshments following the parade as well.

Kick off the holiday season with Christmas in Blue Island! May it be bright!”





Update….Booth One


I recently had the MOST incredible experience that I want to share with you  I was asked by my new friend, Betsy Ingram, to be interviewed on the BOOTH ONE podcast. I found the idea intriguing and while I am very use to being interviewed and doing interviews, they are usually for print. In addition, I have been wanting to do my own podcast, to expand on nenasnotes and nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club, for a long time and was anxious to see how it all works.  All I can tell you is it was a total joy.  Gary Zabinski is an unbelievable interviewer…he had, most certainly, done his homework on me.  The interview, let’s call it a conversation between friends (which we now are!) was held in their apartment  we had a casual dialogue before the taping which was followed by wine and cheese….my faves!!  I don’t usually do anything other than my own musings but wanted to give you ALL the info on this amazing podcast the only thing missing was not meeting co-host, Frank Tourangeau, next time!!  I’m am happy to share the interview with you.  Enjoy!!!!!

Fashion world icon Nena Ivon joins us in the Booth to talk about her astounding career, her varied interests in all things cultural, and so much more!

A legend in Chicago, Nena Ivon was the fashion and special events director at Saks Fifth Avenue from 1956 to 2009, where among other things, she produced all of the fashion shows, handled publicity, styled the windows and dressed the mannequins.

She has worked with hundreds of the leading fashion designers and style icons of the 20th and 21st centuries, including many great models. Nena talked about the quality one-on-one time she got to spend with these designers, picking them up at the airport when they came to town for Saks events.

She is currently a member of the executive board of the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum, and a faculty member in Fashion Studies at Columbia College Chicago (where the Nena Ivon Collection is archived).

She is also the author of a marvelous blog called Nena’s Notes. We love the way she organized the blog. As you will learn in more detail on the episode, each day of the week has a different theme to reflect things she’s passionate about. Monday is for profiles of people, starting with a Proust-like questionnaire, then an interview. A favorite topic for her is how people reinvent themselves when they leave one career, such as the models she worked with. Tuesday is for book reviews. Wednesday is musings, which can go in a number of different directions. Thursday is for collections, not just of fashion, but also other beautiful objects. Friday is for Fashion. Spotlights on designers she’s worked with or the current season. Check it out. There is something for everyone. We are excited that she is working on a podcast and a book!

Amazingly enough, Nena has a direct connection to the real Booth One and the impetus for our show. Back in the day at Saks, they would hold two fashion shows a week at The Pump Room at lunch time. Then there were conversations in Booth One with stars, Broadway tryout cast members, authors, and local personalities. Nena led a number of these interviews. Oh, how we wish those were recorded!

Speaking of Booth One, she is a huge fan of theatre, ballet, and opera. Her favorite medium is musical theatre!

Learn who Nena’s favorite designers are, including the great Bob Mackie, who she says is a brilliant designer of clothes as well as costumes. Gary tells Nena that he has never missed an episode of Project Runway. Her favorite designer to come out of that show is Christian Seriano and she tells us why.

Check out this glam photo of Nena with Christian LaCroix. The photographer, Robert Carl, said of the picture, ““I love this shot of two sophisticates, Nena Ivon and Christian Lacroix. It reminds me of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic,” even though she is the high priestess of Chicago fashion and he is the darling of Paris.”

We talk about the new Library of Congress National Screening Room, which has films from 1890-1999. They are being digitized so we can all check them out. The goal is to have their vast collection reach the largest possible audience.

Nena talks about Guo Pei’s collection at Paris fashion week. Wow. Check out her stunning and show-stopping designs on her website.

Kiss of Death: Dorcas B. Reilley

As you know, we end every episode with a celebration of a life. Our New York correspondent and good friend, Robbie Young, suggested Dorcas B. Riley, the inventor of green bean casserole! She was a supervisor in Campbell’s Soup test kitchen and led the group to come up with a great dish that could be made with things already in most people’s pantries. Made with Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, it offered “convenience with a touch of glamour.” Here is the original recipe, still being made today. It is estimated that it will be served in 20 million homes this coming Thanksgiving. Our producer’s grandmother added some Velveeta, which made it even better. Read her story here.


In the heyday of the Pump Room at the Ambassador East Hotel here in Chicago, Booth One was the most sought after seat in the house, as the privileged celebrities and other luminaries (check out the amazing list here) who were seated there could be seen from the lobby, the bar and the rest of the room.  A place to see and to be seen.*

On our BOOTH ONE podcast (formerly known as TalkSports), host Gary Zabinski and his rotating co-hosts and guests engage in the art of lively conversation as we attempt to revive that feeling of being in the best seat in the house. We talk about our recent “Booth One” encounters with brilliant artists,celebrities, world-class events, and behind-the scenes experiences.  Our Booth One conversations cover a variety of topics, including current events and the esoteric. We also send our hosts to some of the more exotic places and events in this great metropolis and beyond, looking for Booth One-type experiences to share with our listeners.

Anything is fair game on BOOTH ONE, reflective of the kinds of conversations that must have taken place in the legendary Pump Room’s first-class seating.  Be a fly on the wall we attempt to recreate the magic, mystery and mischief of the BOOTH ONE experience for your amusement and edification.

Send us photos and descriptions of your Booth One experiences and we’ll share them with our listeners on the podcast and here on the website. Your reservation to BOOTH ONE is waiting!

*The original Booth One from the ’40s is on display in a wonderful exhibit at the Chicago History Museum called The Secret Lives of Objects.  There is a colorful replica in the theater at the UP Club at Second City.

Gary Zabinski (Host):

Gary’s career in the entertainment industry spans four decades as a producer, director, venue manager and promoter in theatre, music, dance, opera, cabaret and comedy.

He has an Actors’ Equity card from his days as a professional stage manager and emergency performer on and off-Broadway and in the legendary Chicago theatre community.

His passions include golf, the American Musical Theatre, Stephen King, the US Supreme Court, cooking for friends, red wine, the Cubs, the Blackhawks, and a frosty half volka/half gin martini (a “OO7”).

Gary is the product of a well-rounded education from a slightly obscure Midwestern liberal arts college. And the school of hard knocks. His friends refer to him as The Gangster.

Betsy Ingram (Producer):

Betsy has worked in Chicago theatre as a producer, director, actor, and general manager. She currently works with the company that oversees production for concerts and events at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Past positions include founder and Artistic Director of the Thresholds Theatre Arts Project, General Manager for Chicago Shakespeare Company, Producing Director for New Crime Productions, and Executive Director of Blind Parrot Productions.

She directed The Remembered City featuring Tony Fitzpatrick and Steve Earle, which was performed as part of the Traffic Series at Steppenwolf Theatre then was selected to be presented at the Galway Arts Festival. She is the president of Booth One Productions, a nonprofit arts organization that produces this podcast as well as theatre projects such as the world premiere adaptation of Stuart Dybek’s The Coast of Chicago, co-produced with Kristan Schmidt and Walkabout Theatre, presented at Loookingglass Theatre. Betsy is a graduate of Stanford University.

Frank Tourangeau (Co-Host):

Frank’s life has been spent in the arts and in arts education; teaching, performing and directing both at the high school and college level. After getting a BA in English from Elmhurst College and an MA in Theater from the University of Illinois, he started teaching at University High School in Normal, IL where he coached the speech team there to three consecutive IHSA state speech championships. He then moved back to the Chicago area and taught at Fenton High School in Bensenville, running the Speech and Drama Dept. His 5 years there culminated in a state championship in speech and a few weeks later a state championship in drama, a feat that has been unequaled.

After taking time off to get a Ph.D from Southern Illinois University, he began teaching and directing at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, IL where he directed such productions as Jesus Christ Superstar, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Hair, Little Shop of Horrors, A View From the Bridge, Summer and Smoke, Dames at Sea, The Elephant Man, ER, Grease, and where he coached the C.O.D. speech team to 5 National Championships.

He has now become somewhat of a world traveler with recent trips to Cuba, Turkey, Russia, Montenegro, Norway, the Faroe Islands, Spain, Iceland, among others. Plans for later this year include Prague, Krakow, Budapest, Vienna, Viet Nam, Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore. Frank is married and lives in the Chicago suburbs. He goes way back with our producer and has many many stories!!!





The following is a repost from November 16, 2016 that I thought was worth resharing.  The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival is tomorrow, Saturday, November 17th for the 27th Festival when the City becomes even more magical.  I’m also repeating my Hot Carrot Mold recipe. to include on your Thanksgiving Dinner menu….I always get raves on it…if there is any left it keeps well and freezes perfectly in individual portions…hope I get some to take home, fingers crossed



On Saturday, November 19th, BMO Harris Bank presents the 25th Annual Magnificent Mile Lights Festival.

Can that be possible?  Let’s take a brief look back even further to see where it all began. I was sitting in the office of the General Manager of Saks Fifth Avenue, Hal Clyne, in a meeting with the Display Director  (would now be called Visual Merchandising Director), Joe Kreis, discussing the upcoming Holiday season.  At the time, and for many years, I managed the Holiday Boutique which housed the best of the best of the Store’s merchandise that I personally edited and styled for the shop.  It started the day after Thanksgiving and went away on Christmas Eve.  Joe was very excited about new information he had just received.  He used a display company to buy props and have props made for the many windows we had on Michigan Avenue (the Store was then located on Michigan Avenue and Erie Street it moved to 700 North Michigan Avenue in 1990). The company was Silvestri.  Joe and Mr. Silvestri were fast friends and Mr. Silvestri had told him about a discovery he had made while in Italy.  Strings of tiny lights… At the time we had a lighted outline of a Christmas tree that went from the main floor to the fifth floor (the addition hadn’t been built). This tree was sold to Charles A. Stevens on State Street. What Joe wanted to do was festoon the elm trees in front of the Store with these lights….well the rest, as they say, is history, to say the least!  Hal said go for it although he hesitated about the cost if memory serves me correctly, each tree was around $250, but it might have been  less. The year, 1959!!!!


Obviously, this beautiful sight has not only grown in Chicago and covers all of Michigan Avenue trees but the bee lights are used all over the world.  While sitting in another meeting, this time with the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association, talking about the lighting of the trees and how you would walk out in the evening and the trees were all glowing.  It was suggested that something more special, more elaborate happen, that is how the Lights Festival happened…starting small and growing to the exceptional special event it is today.

Since Thanksgiving is next week I wanted to share a recipe that is tradition in the Ivon household.  Very easy and truly delicious.

From Nena’s recipe box

Hot Carrot Mold

Grease a ring mold well, preheat oven to 350.

Mix the following as listed:

1 cup Crisco (regular Crisco not buttered and must be Crisco do not substitute, don’t worry it doesn’t taste like Crisco!)

1 cup dark brown sugar

Add 2 eggs

2 cups grated carrots

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 cup flour sifted with 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1 teaspoon baking soda

Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Don’t overbake. Loosen around the center hole of the pan and around sides turn out onto a platter.

Note:  You can make the batter the day before serving and keep in the refrigerator warm to room temperature and bake.  Is great for leftovers…just heat until heated through.  Also freezes well.  I usually cut into individual servings if I freeze any leftovers.

Enjoy Turkey Day!!





October 13, 2018

Another year has flown by and I am now starting year three of NENASNOTES.  I must admit I haven’t been consistent of late, computer issues, other obligations, etc.  I plan to continue my same schedule with more tweaks.  I am asking the people I have profiled over the last two years to do a guest post on whatever subject they like.  I think their thoughts will be of interest to all of us.  I do like my Tuesdays posts, BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS, and will continue them and probably expand to an additional day.  This has led to the formation of NENASNOTES The Fashion Book Club a monthly gathering to discuss all manner of fashion books, featuring fascinating authors and a throughly engaged audience, I will do monthly posts on these books as well.  More recipes, more decor, more fashion….yes, all of those along with interesting personality profiles.  If you have something you would like me to discuss please let me know.  By now, if you follow me, you know I have a wide range of interests that I like to share with my readers.  I now also do two monthly posts for the Randolph Street Market blog, one on collection trends and one on fashion trends these are totally different from my NENASNOTES posts.  Do follow me there, on Instagram, (I’m having a blast there!) and Pinterest.  I am in the process of launching a sponsorship program with unique incentives based on level of funding.  So lots to look forward to…I do hope you will continue to join me in my ventures and do recommend NENASNOTES to your friends and please make comments, they are invaluable.  Here we go….welcome Year Three!



October 13, 2017

Here is what I wrote one year ago today when I launched NENASNOTES, as I begin my second year, my goals remain the same.  I have tweaked the daily themes a bit but the concept hasn’t changed. I will be adding new features and ask that you watch for an upcoming announcement of how you can supoort me and what incentives you can expect.  I hope you are enjoying my thoughts on the variety of lifestyle things that interest me…so I say, Happy Birthday NENASNOTES and I hope you, my followers, will continue to join me on a regular basis and invite your friends to have their morning coffee with us as well.

October 13, 2016

Well, here we go….I have been waiting to start my blog NENASNOTES for what seems like ages, actually, it has been ages!

I, therefore, feel it is necessary to give you my thoughts on what you can expect on what will become daily postings.

It began with the current trend of focusing on people reinventing themselves, through career and/or lifestyle changes.  I realized that there are so many of my friends and acquaintances whose diverse lives now are totally different from how they started.  First up were my many former models who were superstars in the myriad shows I produced during my lengthy career as Fashion and Special Director at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago.  Most, if not all, have totally changed careers and become successful with their new life choices.  You will learn their stories, reminiscences and photos from then and now.


I thought why not carry this further to my other friends and people I know who had fascinating stories to tell and was I correct in that assumption!  I began this process with a handful of people, which soon became many more, by doing an in person hour long taped conversational interview and Proust-like questionnaire.  Again, I asked for photos and this time a favorite recipe. I hope you will enjoy these posts as much as I am enjoying gathering them.  They are riveting.

These two groups of conversations will be my Monday posts, here is what I have planned for Tuesday through Friday:

Tuesday….Books, books, books.  I’m afraid I have a book fetish, especially fashion books. It seems to be my goal in life to own every fashion book printed!!! So we will start there.  I do read a lot, particularly historical fiction, I love fiction about “real” people, we will go that route as well.  Nothing like a good English mystery but don’t mind a “Cozy” once in awhile and can never miss Louis Penny’s newest (who doesn’t love Armand!).  So much to read so little time.29100F02-D395-45F5-8790-EB78839B8F4E



Wednesday….Miscellany day could be a great recipe, restaurant, movie, play….whatever strikes my fancy that week.



Thursday….Homes and Gardens, again tapping my friends and their eclectic styles, mostly self-decorated homes and brilliant gardens.  A glimpse at my tiny space as well.



Friday….Fashion Flashback.  I’ve worked with over 150 designers and fashion personalities through the years and want to share some of these experiences with you.  I’m sure those of you who know me thought the blog would be all about the “glamorous” fashion shows I produced, yes, there is that but the nitty gritty as well and only one day a week.

Nena, Pauline Trigere, Bill Blass
Nena, Pauline Trigere, Bill Blass

Here we go….I hope you will join me on my on reinvention.


1DD690DB-ACD7-45DD-B0F1-AF07759C35BDI have worn, shown, lived with, admired, Ralph Lauren’s creativity for all those 50 years. The excitement of this extraordinary exuberant extraganza was a once in a lifetime “happening”. From the venue, the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, to the pre-show reception (and the people watching), to the staging (perfection), to the presentation (featuring a diverse mix of 150 models and more people watching), to the finale (all models on the staircase with Ralph taking his finale bow-wave), to the formal sit down dinner (further people watching and a toast lead by Oprah!), WOW! For those of us not there in person, we have the modern experience of technology and can watch the evening streaming, via video feeds, still photos, the joyous postings, on all social media platforms, and can absorb this perfect event from beginning to end whenever we choose.  All I can say….I can’t wait to see what is in store for us in the ensuing years. Fashion is not dead, long live fashion…Bravo Ralph Lauren Bravo!!!


The staging.


Lets take a look at some of my favorites, I can’t show you every run, would love to, you can find many on line sources to show you the entire collection.  Here, then, in no particular order my likes….




71F04AD1-6716-4EC7-876F-7AA29DC422331E8B957B-9D94-4674-9F86-ACECF1330CEDNotice Chicago’s own, Chance The Rapper (in baseball cap) in the front row.


9F17458B-C27D-46F3-8135-BC36C04A5468431E9CE3-DD0F-4B12-8210-A05F7DCBDA8CLove Ralph in a typical outfit, tuxedo jacket with distressed jeans, modernity at its best!!! I think this is one of Jeffrey Banks’ fabulous photos of the evening.  See his Facebook postings for a incredible capture of the evening. An aside, Jeffrey was a sketch artist for Ralph back in the day. Two true American creators, long may they wave!!!!

Photos from Pinterest photo credits unknown



And so we begin my trend reports from the Spring 2019 Fashion Weeks, as always beginning with the New York market and Tom Ford’s collection.  In my opinion (the only one I can offer you) a perfectly edited collection for his followers, in this case he showed both women’s and men’s looks. Sexy, modern, wearable…wow, what a combination and no one does sexy clothes better. A muted color palette of mostly black, a Ford signature, blush and a bit of white. Leather with lace, tuxedo dressing, a trench coat we all will want, and exquisite gowns. Particularly love the embossed leathers, the starkness of leather tempered with lace, and my most favorite piece, the animal pattern with silk fringe long long…..genius!!!!  The mis-step, again in my opinion, the headwrap….didn’t work for me, I would have rather seen a close sleek garçon haircut. Make-up superb as usual…Tom Ford products, of course.  Here are some of my favorites.


CD0CE722-8E67-44B5-9371-E7F69CCC75BA7BCB7AAD-142A-4BDC-B505-D91E547F7DB0151F2920-4B9F-46DE-8FC2-1C12FDB02908B4BFEBA8-595A-4977-8902-7C16A4C4395EFeathers continue into Spring 2019.

646E7E22-E033-495A-93C1-6D3885E862B492631790-FE43-49EC-B081-072F7FC3B1BAMy diet begins now…..coveting this gown! WOW!!

All photos from Pinterest photo credit unknown.