Felice Varini Piano

Valentine’s Day

I woke up this morning to a very cheery “HAPPY VALENTINE”S DAY!” and a card which made my entire morning. Then I called my mother, who turns the ripe young age of 63 today, and wished her a great day. Then a close friend made a sizable donation to our favorite charity as just one part of an extremely generous wedding gift. Needless to say, I woke up feeling the love today.

People may decry valentine’s day and the “consumerist love” that it stands for, but it’s not about that at all. It’s about showing your love to the people around you. Giving your +1 an extra kiss or your friend an extra hug. It’s about giving the whole class store-bought valentines at school when you were little, and eating enough chocolate to make your stomach hurt. Now more than ever I feel a need to celebrate the things worth celebrating- and love is the most important thing there is.

So to all of you I wish the utmost love- from your families, your friends, your children, your spouses, your boyfriends or your latest Tinderella. Everyone deserves an extra little smoocher today, and I hope you all get that and more. Happy V Day from Maison Sheik to urrbody. With love

xoxo

Felice Varini Piano

The last week: Chicago and SF

Hi! Is this thing still on?

I’ve just returned from a little under a week in Chicago and San Francisco, the former for my father’s 70th birthday and the latter for some meetings which went pretty well.

(You don’t care about my meetings, I know this- but I felt the need to share).

And now I am back in the snowy tundra that is New York, thankfully working kicking off this morning working from home while the wind roars outside of my window. Thanks to a unique-to-New-York-problemo, our radiators are operating in overdrive and my apartment is a sauna. But I can’t open the balcony door lest a foot of snow blow into the apartment, so I am working half clothed today, which adds a certain je ne sai quoi to the day.

Some favorite moments from the last week:

  1. Presenting our gift to my Dad, which was 4 tickets to the New York Phil when they play Beethoven’s 9th in the spring. It has been his favorite piece since the dawn of time and we walked down the aisle to it together at my wedding and the stars have never aligned to see it in person. I am so thrilled to have he and my Mom in town for the weekend and to share what i hope will be an incredible night at Lincoln Center!!

  2. My nieces and nephews, always and forever. We have 8 (soon to be 9) and they are all an absolute dream. My God baby decided to wage war on my husband this weekend which was kind of hilarious, so there was alot of animated back and forth between them. Case in point: Her: “You not a good person. You not good”, Him: “I’m watching you” (as he pointed to his eyes and then to her, which was hysterical).

  3. After dinner at my brother’s house Friday night, the kids turned off the lights in the living room and turned up the dance music and had a full on disco. Of course, one by one we all joined in and danced, my Mom and Dad, my siblings and me. It was the perfect Friday night.

  4. My Mom’s food, as per usual. I swear it tastes better every time we go home. I must have eaten 25 kibbehs over the course of the weekend- NOT mad about it.

  5. Being home sitting in front of the fireplace- it was the perfect reset I needed after this crazy January that was so full of stress about our political situation. I was reminded that so long as I have my family, I have everything,

San Francisco was lovely too, albeit completely drowned in rain. I don’t see the outside of offices or restaurants anyhow when I’m there so I was kind of feeling the moody, dark vibe. We had a particularly awesome dinner at Hakkassan with a group of clients I have truly never loved more, so that was pretty clutch. Sometimes life gives you lemonade straight out.

On that note, I have to get back to it. All of my love and promise to come back with more pictures later (and a new layout soon because this one is horrific. Thanks for nothing WordPress.)

xoxo

 

 

Felice Varini Piano

Shallow Hal Tuesdays

Tuesdays are hands down the most dreadful day of the week and Tuesdays in January before a business trip to Europe are downright horrendito. I feel like chewing a mouthful of Nicorette gum and walking circles around the floor having a Jerry Maguire moment.

As such, I thought it would be apropos to share some of the more aesthetic and light concerns on my mind these days. What I’m loving and lusting after. Today’s obsession – tableware.

First- Herend Rothschild Bird with Blue Fishnet Dinnerware. Be still and look at these beauties. I will take a full set for a full party, and I don’t mean 12 place settings. As I reminisced with my old friend M this weekend- if you don’t have dinnerware for 24 (or 50?) like our moms do, you’re not ready to throw a real party. Never mind that it nets out to be the same price as a car; I only walk or take uber – surely that counts for something?!!. Classified: Dreamy AF.

Second, can we discuss this monogrammed Sasha Nicholas dinnerware? Southern girls tend to go overboard on the monogram which ends up looking a little insane, but I do love these as a salad dish to layer on top of your birds (see above). I’d get mine with our wedding monogram because I too have a little bit of the psycho in me. Don’t hate!

Finally, I’d layer all of these on these Matouk Placemats I’ve been eyeing. They exist just on the right side of this century to add a little modern touch.

If you are a member of the male species and have read this far, congratulations. As you suspected – we have dreamt up multiple ways to spend your money and ours, and the above is just the tip of the iceberg. And if you are a lady, I hope you enjoyed a trip through the dinner party of my dreams. Happy Tuesday you lovely things. Onward and upward.

xo

Ms. Sheiky

Fire

While the world burns.

Yesterday was Blue Monday, otherwise known as the most depressing day of the year. The day is a calculation of a number of factors, including the weather, days since the holidays, aggregate debt levels, time since Christmas and time since we failed our resolutions.  It is also the day where people feel the loneliest. It also marks the beginning of Obama’s last week as president, the week our hope came to die, the beginning of the rise of our very own Reich. It is the week before major meetings I am running in London and a week after returning from another long haul to SF. Needless to say, yesterday was the culmination of a very intense week. All of this to say I apologize for my absence.

I wanted to write today about something that has been on my mind this weekend, and that is the concept of feeling known.

Two years ago, I was going through a catastrophic time at work – a massive initiative I had built with my own hands was unapologetically torn out of my hands and handed to a colleague with an uncomfortably close relationship with our CEO.  I had to stand on stage before the entire company and peacefully transition it to her; needless to say I had never felt more humiliated, distraught or betrayed in my entire life. Everyone around me tried and failed at their sympathy; they would never know what it felt like to have something torn from your because you were seen as too defiant, too vocal, too much of an individual working in what amounted to a dictatorship. I did the only thing I could do and booked tickets to spend a week in Dubai with my dearest friends. And over dinner there as I was recounting what had happened and my utter despair, my friend J turned to me, surprised. “Your intelligence and your career are the least defining things about you,” he said, which was a revelation to me. “The people in your life love you because you are full of life- always easy to laugh and eager to explore and eager to dance and enjoy. And that energy is electric and addictive  to those around you. That is what you need to remember.” And I remember the tears rolling down my cheeks through the smiles- the thank yous- because I always reduce myself to the most common denominator. I don’t see who I am or how my friends or family view me, and it is more often than not the cause of my despair. I don’t have to be the smartest all the time, and no one cares if I am anyway. That was incredibly freeing for me.

Another moment that I will never forget in my entire life was my best friend’s speech at our Rehearsal Dinner this August. She spoke of my contradictions- my old soul and young heart, my love for classical music and Kanye, celebrated literature and celebrity gossip alike, my love for travel and home, my adoration to my nieces and nephews and my cutting words and enveloping hugs. I was blown away by her ability to describe me; she made me feel more known than I ever have in my life. To a child who grows up as a “Third Culture Kid”- always straddling two countries, two value systems, two cultures and sets of expectations and never fitting into one or the other, having someone understand and appreciate your contradictions and embrace them is the ultimate validation.

I am reflecting on these instances because this weekend the opposite happened. I was having dinner with someone very close to me, and we were talking about regrets. And I told him one of my largest regrets- an instance I think about all the time despite its seeming insignificance- involving my Father and an umbrella. My father was visiting me in New York, and it was raining out, and he was trying to open one of the cheap bodega umbrellas I had available. And after what seemed to me an interminable amount of time struggling with it (realistically perhaps only a few moments) I yanked it out of his hand, just in time for its sharp edge to slice his finger. I beat myself up about this instance all the time – how could I disrespect my father like this and have caused him pain? I recounted this story to this person with tears in my eyes, so deep was my self disgust. And he replied “Well, you’re always like that.” And something inside of me died a little. Because for all of my good moments, for the innumerable times I showed my parents and friends and colleagues deference and respect, it was this instance that defined me. My impatience, my brutality, my disregard for others. That’s all he could see; maybe all he ever would ever see. And I felt deeply lost and out to sea in that moment, and I couldn’t recover. I am a terrible person after all, I thought. A cruel person, entitled, a failure. If this person who is so close to me feels that way, it is unequivocally true.

And that’s the state I went into yesterday in. I took myself uptown to the D. Porthault sale, and surrounded by Upper East Side wives fighting over 1200 sets of hand-wash-only sheets, I cried. I dumped my haul and ran, took myself to lunch at Bloomingdales, surrounded by old women- all alone, all eating their salads in silence. That will be me, I thought. That is me, today. A sea of unknowns. Of souls yearning to be held and understood, of ones whose time had passed. Maybe in the next life, I thought.

Today is a new day, and though I never though that work would provide a welcome respite from anything, lately it has been the case, whether I am escaping politics or anything, and I am supremely grateful for it. It is something I can dive into that is mine, that has of late been such a wonderful thing full of opportunity and kind recognition, and I’m happy to have this thing to lean on. Maybe I can allow it to define me when I am tired of being defined wrongly.

Felice Varini Piano

A Snowy Weekend in the Village.

    

What did you get up to this weekend? Friday night we went for dinner at the LIbrary at the Public Theatre, which I became a Partner of earlier this year in a successful attempt to get opening night tickets to Shakespeare in the Park, only to never return for an actual show. So dinner was a pretty good compromise and we feasted on fish and chips which was somehow perfect for how frigid of a night it was and how cozy it was indoors at the theatre.

I had pretty grand aspirations of Saturday which involved going to the New Museum to see the final weekend of the Pipolotti’s Rist exhibition, but faced with a snowstorm that came out of nowhere and no one to go with, I opted not to, which I now regret. I often don’t mind going to museum’s alone but it is infinitely more enjoyable to go with someone. I decided to turn the snowstorm into lemonade though and invite over friends for a rib sticking dinner of Yotam Ottolenghi’s Roasted Cauliflower and Hazelnut salad and a gorgeous Lamb and Date Tagine. Followed by ice cream sundaes and a rousing game of Apples to Apples, because we are officially not in our 20s anymore.

Sunday we went to see Manchester by the Sea at the Angelika, which is incredible if not the most depressing movie of the year. But it’s awards season and I get really into seeing all of the nominated movies, so M was nice enough to surprise me with tickets and we snuck in lunch and watched it Sunday afternoon.

Today I am off to San Francisco for a few days of meetings, and I’m not sad at all about going back to California. I hope you’re all staying warm wherever you are and I will post from there shortly!

xoxox

Miss Sheiky

Felice Varini Piano

Throwbacks.

 Childhood

I’ve been feeling pretty nostalgic for childhood this week, partially fueled by the joy I felt shutting off my brain over the last 2 weeks, and partially due to a few things I have been listening to and watching. For anyone else with an inkling to take a walk down memory lane, read on….

The first was the Podcast “Kid Logic” from this American Life, a podcast that I listen to frequently on my daily walk to work. This episode chronicles stories of kids using perfectly logical arguments to arrive at laughably inaccurate conclusions. All of the examples were wonderful, but one in particular hit home, which told the story of a woman who, long into adulthood, pronounced the sign reading “Child Xing” as “Child Zing.” This is something I literally still do, so it spoke to me. Give the podcast a listen, if for nothing else than to get a little laugh in at my expense; it is hilarious and heartwarming and excellent.

The second is the CNN series “The Eighties” which we discovered on Netflix last night. This docuseries produced by Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman chronicles the events and popular culture of the United States during the 1980s, including but not limited to the rise of Television, Reaganism, the fight against Aids, the Fall of the Berlin Wall, the Tech Boom, and the embrace of Greed. It is  absurdly good so far. I found myself singing along with all the sitcom theme songs and laughing at Alex P Keaton and howling I Want my MTV! at the TV.  I can’t wait to dive into Episode 2 on the Reagan Years tonight.

If I continue on this path, I will be wearing homemade sweaters with lipstick pails on them and sporting a Ramona Quimby haircut in no time. I’ll be running through sprinklers and riding my bike everywhere.

It was a better time frankly, a simpler one where I didn’t stare at a screen all day. And while we all have grow and evolve; it’s nice to know we can step back into those worlds momentarily and recapture the moment when time calls for it.

Felice Varini Piano

On never buying pasta sauce again

Revelations

I’ve been cooking a lot lately which is further testament to the fact that I am superwoman. One of my more favorite discoveries has been the New York Times Cooking SectionI highly recommend signing up for their daily newsletter which takes the decision fatigue out of what to cook and make me want to get back in the kitchen more often than not. It’s also what led me to discover Marcella Hazan and her incredible pasta sauces. We recently had a few friends to dinner and I made her Bolognese which is exceptionally rich and delicious, and on New Year’s eve I made her tomato sauce which transported us straight back to Italy. The latter is the easiest recipe I have legitimately ever made so I am going to share it here in hopes of putting Ragu out of business.

(Per the NYT)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups tomatoes, in addition to their juices (for example, a 28-ounce can of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes)

  • 5 tablespoons butter

  • 1 onion, peeled and cut in half

  • Salt

PREPARATION

  1. Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt.

  2. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with a spoon. Add salt as needed.

  3. Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta. This recipe makes enough sauce for a pound of pasta.

That’s it. I saved the onion which was absurdly tasty and munched on it while I was preparing other things (I am imminently kissable), and also took an immersion blender to the pasta until it had the consistency of a chunky vodka sauce. Because I’m smoove like dat.

There you go- the best meal on earth. Double the portions, you’re going to need it.

 

Felice Varini Piano

California.

We just got back from Los Angeles yesterday and it was honestly one of the most relaxing, joyful, wonderful trips in recent memory. We absolutely love LA, and every trip is a little different. But this is our 3rd time celebrating the New Year there and it is the best way to unwind from the intensity of the Holiday Season and start the New Year feeling refreshed.

A few of the many highlights from our trip:

1. The View from our terrace at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills. It, and the hotel, were absolutely heavenly. Our first morning, we had breakfast set up with the french doors open and it was unbelievable.

 

2. The pool at the hotel, which we frequented every day while the weather was gorgeous, ordering up Diet Cokes and quinoa salads and feeling like a million bucks. There was an open air gym to the right as well that was so lovely, working out with the breeze coming through was as close to amazing as any workout could possibly be.

3.  Christmas decorations at the hotel, which were absolutely gorgeous. Lots of white hydrangeas, gold ornaments, and lights as far as the eye could see. It was really unique and so gorgeous.

4. Afternoon walks around Beverly Hills (after we had our fill of the pool), which is absurdly beautiful and pristine and basically felt like Little Arabia given how few Americans and how very many Arabs were there. I’ll take it.

5. The greatest photography gallery, La Mouche, on Beverly Drive. It made me want a house with tons of big white walls to fill with their incredible photographs.

6. The best Bat Mitzvah gift I’v ever seen, for the special little lady in your life. Spotted at Kitross on Robertson Boulevard.

7. The most incredible interiors store I’ve ever seen in my life; I wanted to spend hours here and it took me straight back to the Amalfi coast. And other promising interiors in Venice.

 

 

8. Returning to the scene of our engagement exactly 1 year later, on the Palisades Park. We will never, ever, forget how incredible that day was.

9. Spending the weekend with our dear friends in Santa Monica, ringing in the New Year with a massive feast that we made from scratch. We started the night with a variety of cheeses, moved onto caviar and blinis with creme freche and shrimp cocktail, followed by fresh pasta with homemade tomato sauce, grilled steak with smashed potatoes and lemony dijon salad, and the piece de resistance: flourless chocolate cake. It was the most epic dinner of all time, and we enjoyed every bite of it over the course of the 4 hours we spent ingesting it, alternately warming up around the fire place and returning to the table for our next course.

10. Returning to Venice to walk the canals and our pleasant surprise at how much they had refilled since the drought; this time last year they were almost completely dried up. A great reminder of how precarious our environment is and how important it is to conserve the resources we have. Also a reminder of how much we want one of those insane houses.

 

11. The beaches of Santa Monica (1) and Malibu (2- Westward Beach). New Years day at Westward Beach was a particular treat; we took a beautiful hike up the cliffs and then came back down to the most beautiful day on the beach. My husband and friend Z from business school also did a polar bear’s swim in the icy pacific, while Z’s wife and I looked on from our sunny and warm blankets. It was the perfect way to kick off the new year. Stopping at the Reel Inn for fish tacos on the way back was icing on the cake.

     

And with those wonderful memories and our quickly diminishing tans- we bid farewell to 2016 and California, and bid hello to 2017 and all of you in this New Year! I hope you all had an incredible final few weeks of the New Year, and a great start to what is sure to be- at the least- a very interesting one.

With love,

N

Felice Varini Piano

Ten Years in NYC- #s 3

3. Uptown at christmas

Given it’s Christmas Eve, I’d be remiss not to note my abiding and borderline obsessive love up Christmas and one of my top 10 favorite things about New York- our annual pilgrimage to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

New York, like Chicago, really does Christmas exquisitely. The streets are decked with lights and the sidewalks filled with Christmas trees being sold by the Christmas tree vendors, and everywhere there is a feeling of excitement and joy. But my absolute favorite journey in New York is the one to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Yes, it is crowded and filled with tourists, but that is also what is so incredibly magical about it. We live in a place everyone else dreams about one day seeing, and we make it worth their while with the most fantastic tree any city has ever seen.

For years I went either alone or with friends or colleagues; it was always an incredible time. Now that I’m married, my husband- if not, happily, then with all the enthusiasm he can muster- makes it a special day to remember. Last year, we started with dinner at the Peninsula, followed by a stroll down to the tree,  where we we knocked dead in our tracks by the musical lightshow Saks put on across the way. Afterward, we took a brisk walk up the Palace to see their tree, which is smaller but no less gorgeous. This year’s was a daytime affair and considerably more crowded, but it was absolutely breathtaking and a reminder of just how incredible New York is at this time of year.

The Rockefeller tree is a longstanding tradition in New York, dating to 1931. I found this picture of the first tree erected there with the accompanying text by Time, which is absolutely fascinating.

“Today it’s a multimillion-dollar extravaganza that attracts thousands of tourists every year, but the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree hasn’t always been so glamorous. On Christmas Eve 1931, with the nation mired in the Great Depression, a group of construction workers erected a 20-ft. tree on the muddy site of what would become one of the city’s greatest architectural and commercial monuments. Despite their grim faces, the men had cause to celebrate. Unlike most of their colleagues, they were about to get paid. (Notice the wooden crate at the foot of the tree and the clerk behind it dispensing checks.) Two years later, a Rockefeller Center publicist organized the first official tree-lighting ceremony.”

Humbler beginnings indeed. Other notable mentions of the tree’s history:

 

  • In 1942, Rockefeller Center unveiled 3 small trees versus one large one, in patriotic red, white ad blue. These trees were the first to be replanted after the holiday season.

  • In 1944, keeping with wartime blackout regulations, the trees at Rock center, like every other tree in the city, were mandated to remain unlit. After the war’s end in 1945, organizers  made up for previous years of darkness by using six ultraviolet light projectors to make all 700 fluorescent globes on that year’s tree appear to glow in the dark.

  • Finally, Rockefeller Center recycled its first Christmas Tree in 1971, turning it into 30 three bushel bags of mulch for the nature trails of upper Manhattan.

  • In 2005, the wood from the Rockefeller Center tree was used to make door frames for Habitat for Humanity homes in New York, Louisiana, India and Brazil!

I love this beautiful time of the year and no other emblem of this season is so clearly marked in my memory or in the city’s than this beautiful tree. It’s such a lovely experience to go and see it and a great excuse to get uptown and feel the vitality of the city at Christmas.

And with that, the merriest of Christmases to all of you! I will be back after the holiday to finish this trip down memory lane, and share some more immediate memories of our time in Boston (where we are currently) and LA, where we are thrilled to be headed on Monday!

Love to all of you (and Joy to the world),

Ms. Maison

 

Felice Varini Piano

Ten Years in NYC – #2

pink elephant

If I had to think of one place that was a constant in our first few years in New York, it was this place. This is apparently what it looked like when well lit, which is news to me. But when I found this photo it all came back: the long hallway that was just long enough for you to shed your layers before your GRAND APPEARANCE, the entre into the thumping club, clearing the bystanders off your table and feeling subsequently important for no reason, and then getting down to the business of fun. I all of a sudden remembered our regular tables, and the tables we got when celebrating birthdays (pictured at bottom). Through some sort of muscle memory I recall it’s hallways, grooves and curves.

Before the 27th street location there was another location further south in Chelsea and not to worry, we frequented that place every weekend too. This was our Central Perk, our Studio 54, our gym and our church all rolled up into one. We absolutely lived there, which is questionable given we made no money whatsoever (many thanks due to our guy friends for that one. You know who you are).

It was a circus in the best way, and there were always stories being made. By the time the smoke machine blared it’s cold steam onto the dancefloor (timed exactly with some insane techno crescendo), at least 3 members of your party would be making out with total strangers, one would be slumped on against a speaker trying to talk himself into hitting on a girl, another would be chucking ice at the waitress to get her attention. And always, about 4 or 5 of us in teetering heels, dancing to our hearts content on the table. We celebrated multiple birthdays there, and multiple breakups too. When you brought a +1 into the pink crew, everyone knew it was surrious. Conversely, upon being invited into the crew, they never dated us for long. But that’s neither here nor there, is it?

Bottom line, there was nothing better than dancing the night away with your best friends to great music in a great place. We had that at Pink every night and I will never forget that crazy phase of our lives where having fun was the only achievement worth having.

Last night, one of our ranks came back into town from Paris and I put on a dinner for her. We reminisced about our nights at Pink; she was an assistant at Vogue at the time and often had a black car waiting out front for her. We thought it was all so glamorous! We were also so full of ourselves, but looking back, it was.

Now we are spread all over the world, our little crew. London, Paris, New York, Jordan, Dubai, and Peru. But back then we had the distinct joy of spending every night together, and we knew exactly how good we had it. We know now it didn’t matter where we were; it could have been anywhere. But for those years in the aughts, it was Pink, and it was ours.

To Pink. I never clubbed another club as much or since. And it’s probably best that way.