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.


  1. Nancy, that cake and that cottage is divine!!

  2. Hooray! A new post and a dandy one at that! I've wondered about those cakes and it is so wonderful to know that the legacy continues in her son. My best to Helen K., rehab is so tedious.
    I just stepped out of my house, rushing off to work the other day and was stopped in my tracks by the complete silence. No birds, no traffic, no noise at all...I was wrapped in winter, bow-tied with 2 feet of snow. It was a Victoria moment and I tried to soak it up as such. Thanks for sharing again, Nancy!

  3. I am so happy to see you here today. A very lovely post and the first house in Chipping Campden reminds me of a delicious cake. I have visited there and definitely is a beautiful little village. Thanks for the updates and I can't believe it has been 25 years since the inception of Victoria. I treasure each copy I have saved.

  4. Happy New Years Nancy,
    Glad to see you are back with us here in blogland! Love to see what our favorite editor is up too!
    Sure would love a slice of that yummy looking cake.
    Wishing you a wonderful Valentine's Day!
    Yours Sincerely,

  5. Happy New Year, Nancy. I missed your posts very much.

    Thank you for sharing the lovely Victoria memories!!

    I find it very unusual to hear that you and your staff, in the first year of the inception of Victoria, were actually worried about how the magazine would come out. Nancy, no matter what you did with the first issue of the magazine it would have been wonderful. And it was. When I look at the 1987 premier issue I think it is a masterpiece.

    And you say you made many changes before the final issue came out? I would love to hear what some of the original ideas were that you changed.

    All the best to Helen Kileen and hope she recovers soon.

    I remember Meg Ryan cakes in the magazine. I did not know Meg passed. How sad.


  6. Oh how very glad I am to see you post! I was very worried about you being ill or perhaps something worse.,-until I had read your recent entry to the Hooker furniture blog! When I read that--I finally knew that you must be o.k.!

    Todays entry of yours made my month,Nancy! Such a wonderful post from you!-Happy Valentines Day! Love,-Valery

  7. Hello again, Nancy. You were missed and we are happy to see you posting again.
    Sending you wishes for a Happy Valentine's Day!

    Mary Jane

  8. What a lovely post, Nancy! I am sorry to hear about Helen and will say a prayer for her. I do so enjoy hearing your reminiscences about the creation of Victoria. Thank you for taking the time to share with us!

  9. Happy Valentine' Day, Nancy! So good to see your post on your blog. We have much to look forward to in the future however I wanted to go back in time to those beautiful February issues of Victoria when you were at the helm. How gorgeous they all were and I have corresponded with some of the vendors that were featured in the magazine as well. For instance, Joan Ross of Forget Me Nots in Arlington Texas. I am wearing my beautiful heart charm bracelet that I bought from her. All because she was featured in your magazine! Anyway, thank you, Nancy, for staying in touch with all your old friends from then and new friends that are just discovering you! Will look forward to your next blog!

  10. What a lovely post Nancy. I often pull out my saved Victoria magazines when I need a lift. Know that, even after all these years, your work still inspires.

  11. Ruth in San FranciscoFebruary 18, 2011 at 10:46 AM

    Dear Nancy, when I lost my entire Victoria collection, I spent the time and energy to completely rebuild it from the Premiere issue forward. That's how much your Victoria continues to add to my life that I simply couldn't imagine living without a resource that brings me such joy, inspiration, and serenity! Even now when I spy a product in the marketplace it's so easy to tell whether the creator was a Victoria reader - never doubt that the influence of Victoria's staff was and continues to be great.

    This was such a lovely post, I'm absolutely inspired by the cottages (simply must visit in person), and hope that you're by a toasty fire with a tea tray in the midst of these Winter snows.

    Best wishes for Helen's full and speedy recovery!

  12. Hi Nancy,

    It is so very nice to find your blog. I used to work with Claire Whitcomb on the five or so articles and "Chimes" pieces I had in the original VICTORIA. And dear Helen, I hope she is feeling better, soon.

    Claire visited us in our New Hampshire home a few years ago and I was delighted to meet her, at last (alas, we no longer have the home and are living on a farm in Kentucky). Meanwhile, Sue Daley and Steve Gross, whom I met on a VICTORIA shoot, provided many wonderful photographs for my first book, THE PANTRY-ITS HISTORY and MODERN USES published by Gibbs Smith in 2007 [and available now at] .

    I will be forever grateful to you and VICTORIA for publishing my first article (on my years at the Gibson House in Boston as a resident guide) and for the fine fusion of the arts, beautiful places, literature, recipes and arm-chair escapism.

    All best, Catherine Seiberling Pond