Saturday, February 26, 2011

Musings in the Wind

It is not quite March and I have no desire to rush the seasons. But it has been so windy that I feel the Ides of March in my bones. I am sure Mother Nature has a snow or two in store for us still.

I receive so many warm memories from readers of this blog and lately from former staff members, that I am inspired to share others. I never wanted this journal to be a trip backward. But it seems that the past is definitely a prologue at times--as the recent post from Catherine Sieberling Pond reveals. She did indeed write her first story for Victoria and she has gone on to be a writer of books and many articles. Her recent book, The Pantry, is something to dip into--as one might in one's own pantry of recollections. We had a real pantry in the house I grew up in--a little room all its own--as well as a back stairs whose steps served as a kind of pantry space.

I am delighted to know of Catherine's book and her ongoing activities, and proud as punch that Victoria was her springboard. She also met the photographers for her book through her magazine connections. Bravo to all--and I am thankful that the magazine existed and continues to connect in such personal ways.

Thinking back, I am often reminded of the wonderful man who made it all possible. I speak, of course, of John Mack Carter. While I don't get to spend as much time with John as I used to when we worked together and the years following when a lunch at the 21 Club was such a highlight for me, I often rerun conversations in my mind as we talked about so many things. His insights were always a revelation.

Once, when John was introducing me, he said this: "As her boss I used to look over her shoulder, but now I hold her coat." I have held that close to my heart ever since. My husband once said that he thought I ought to publish our correspondence because it was always so interesting and often humorous. But the words remain between us.

I had an opportunity to salute John on his retirement. Many of the people spoke appropriately of his influence on their careers and his many accomplishments. I took another path to John. I will never forget a spunky fellow very early in the morning in Central Park, holding a megaphone to round up his staff to take part in The Race for the Cure to support research for breast cancer. He was the only magazine executive of his stature there and, of course, we had the biggest contingents. That was John, a champion of women's concerns and causes. That John Mack Carter was a force behind Victoria is no surprise.

And of course, "Mr.Carter" (as we called him) was the reason I became an avid tennis fan. He generously shared his seats every year at the U. S. Open and it was there that I adopted the young Pete Sampras. Generosity is not something that necessarily comes with publishing DNA.

There was a movement once upon a time to say that men should not edit women's magazines. It sounded as sexist to me then as it does now. People should edit the magazines they are qualified to do. John survived the assault on his qualifications, as well he should have. And it was he who saw the possibilities of a magazine like Victoria and looked over my shoulder long enough to have it come into being.

I'd be happy to hold his coat any day.

Perhaps the wind blows the dust from our thoughts. And let's bring back pantries and all their hidden delights.

Photos: Nancy and John at the launch party for Victoria in the garden at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum; Nancy and John at a Victoria event.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Adventures in Living for Hooker Furniture

My newest blog entry for Hooker furniture was posted today - Adventures in Living. Maybe it will provide you with some inspiration to help transform your home into an urban loft or Parisian apartment.

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Winter Musings

How lovely the snow is--especially when one doesn't have to brave the elements to get about!

There is something about being blanketed by white that brings about a sense of peace and calm. It is a time to enjoy the books that Christmas presents brought and brew up a tea to keep one company for an afternoon.

And so what thoughts has this time brought forth: Twenty-five years ago with a broken arm from a slip on an icy sidewalk in Ames, I was at work on a concept for a new magazine. It is a strange word, but in the magazine business then, a proposal in the shape of a magazine was called a "dummy."

I can't even recall how many times we changed things. And when I say we, I am talking about primarily three of us--the nucleus of the staff that was to become Victoria. We wanted to have a perfect statement for a magazine like no other that celebrated women's lives in all aspects. I had long felt that we were editing magazines to women's roles rather than to the things that had always been important to women and I believed would never change.

Ann and Bryan, the twosome of the threesome, were at my apartment for a birthday brunch for Bryan recently. New grandparents, they have gone on to other careers since leaving Victoria. Ann is an executive in a nursery school service in New York City after going back to school for graduate degrees in early childhood education. Bryan has taken his skills back to the Meredith Corporation, where we all three started out. How nice it was on brisk day to enjoy my husband's specialty--a ham, cheese, and potato gratin (with thanks to Julia Child)--have fireside time and think about how our lives have changed in this quarter of a century.

I am sorry to report that our wonderful Helen Killeen, who many readers may recall ran our office, has had some health concerns. During her tenure at Victoria, she took every reader concern to heart and tracked down all kinds of information, no matter how small the request. Victoria without Helen would be unthinkable in those years. Her nephew, Steve, who also worked for us through his school days, doing errands, working on photo shoots, and helping in the office, is now the dad of four! Helen is in rehab and we all send our love and wish her well.

Helen and Steve are just two examples of how our Victoria family grew over the years.

In my winter musings, I am very grateful for the creativity and dedication that so many brought to a project that started out with an idea.

I have just had a nice email exchange with Julian at Meg Rivers cakes in England. In an early issue, we visited Meg to learn of her wonderful bakery and shared the recipe for her almond tea cake with our readers. Julian has carried on running the bakery with Meg's recipes after her death some years ago. I have ordered cakes now and then, and recently got back to the tradition by having an assortment of their cakes--as mini cakes--for Valentine's Day gifts. How delightful it was to get the message that Julian was off to Chipping Campden to mail my cakes to me! We both have fingers crossed that they get to the US in a timely manner and in good shape.

I was inspired by the cottages at Chipping Campden for my recent blog for Hooker Furniture. I've been asked to suggest some wonderful "dream houses" and the very first inspiration I had was for an English country cottage. Sign on for the series--and maybe be inspired to create your own living adventure. Home is where we can make dreams come true, no matter what our geographical address.

It is a much smaller world in 2011 than it was in 1986. What we relied on magazines to do for us, now websites and blogs do, too. How very much our lives are enriched by so many wonderful talents coming from all over the world.