gooollysandra

Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

“Life pushes us forward”

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Nothing is an end in itself and therefore nothing is a source of complete rest. Everything is a stimulus to new wishes, a source of new uneasiness which longs for new satisfaction in the next and again the next thing. Life pushes us forward. 

Hugo Munsterberg

Hugo Munsterberg was a German-American psychologist active in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s who also contributed to film theory, which is how I know him. I studied film in graduate school and we read his book, The Photoplay: A Psychological Study, in a history of cinema class. In looking at this quote, it can obviously apply to life more broadly and not specifically only to film. In fact, not knowing that it’s part of film theory, one probably wouldn’t even relate it to film at all. Either way, I loooooveeee this quote and identify with it so deeply because of my attachment to existentialism. If this isn’t the most fundamental truth of our existence, I don’t know what is. It’s so true though, right? We never seem to be happy or satisfied with our current situation. And even when we are, we worry about what we’re missing – like if we’re too happy or when it might end because it can’t possibly last forever…we can’t possibly be that happy. On the other hand, when we are dissatisfied, we have no choice but to move forward, even if we’re not necessarily moving in a direction that brings us more satisfaction. We’re always looking forward with both skepticism and hope.

 

 

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Space & identity

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My way of expressing myself is to build my own universe, and in doing so, he added, I create my own self.

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I really enjoyed this article by Tom Delevan about Oliver Gustav‘s apartment in Copenhagen in the March edition of The New York Times Style Magazine. I was initially drawn to it for a couple of reasons – the gray color palette, which happens to be one of my favorites; and not necessarily for interior spaces, but more so for clothing. I seem to have an infinite supply of gray sweaters and I’m only in my 20s. Gray is not a drab grandma sweater! I was also drawn to the article for its location. I have had a fascination with Scandinavia for a while now, so my interest is definitely peaked whenever I come across something related to that cold, dark, dreary, but comfortable and cozy part of the world (or at least this is how I picture it).

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Gustav is a creative based in Copenhagen and New York who works with art and interiors, and his apartment in Copenhagen reflects his passion for both. Reading about the historic structure (built in 1734!) was fascinating because of its eccentricities since it’s so old. The minimalist design and subdued color scheme is evident in the pictures, but what struck me more were Gustav’s thoughts about his space – that in creating the space around him he concurrently creates himself. I can completely identify with this, since I too find great parallels between my space and myself. I also admire his love of collecting because I also like to collect (but on a much smaller scale of course) and I have boxes of things in the attic that I’ve gotten over the years that I’m just waiting to find the right spot for.

I have a love affair with things…I just want a beautiful life.

While this may sound superficial and materialistic, I do think there is something to be said for having a certain eye and taste for things when it’s connected to a deeper cultural or intellectual interest, which it is for me and I’m sure for Gustav as well.

Delevan, the author of the article, is a very talented interior designer in his own right, which is beautifully exemplified on his website. Just so clean and effortless…take a look!

 

Gratitude

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I was reading the fall edition of The Magnolia Journal, which is themed “Gratitude” for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, and it came at a very apropos time in my life since I’ve recently received some medical news that has been a bit of a shock and definitely not welcome. When things like this happen it is so easy to fixate our minds on that one facet of our lives and forget about all the things we should actually be grateful for.  So I am mindfully trying to make an effort to appreciate the positives in the face of adversity, with a little help from Joanna Gaines.

I am, of course, a fan of the show, along with the millions of others who have been inspired by the stunning transformations that she, Chip, and their team churn out season after season. And not to mention the effervescent love between Chip and Jo…I mean, will we all be lucky enough to find that kind of love?? One can only hope!

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In her article on gratitude, Joanna outlines some basic everyday activities in which she has found a sense of pleasure, and even comfort, that I can identify with. Cooking for her family is one. While I don’t have a family of my own, I did enjoy cooking for my parents when I lived at home. I also like cooking with/for friends. I even like cooking just for myself, even though it can be hard to sit down and eat by yourself after putting love and energy into crafting a nice meal. There’s something about it that just feels unnatural…a good meal is definitely better when in the company of others. Cooking can feel therapeutic and productive, not to mention its visual and palatal benefits that result from the finished product.

Driving is another thing Joanna mentions as being a source of relaxation for her, and I can absolutely relate to this one. I don’t always love driving around town when I have to deal with traffic and the constant stop and go, but even then it can be nice to just be in my own head space for a while and listen to music. I LOVED driving when I lived in Williamstown, MA in the Berkshires because every view was just so darn beautiful. The Berkshires are not big mountains, in fact I think they may technically be considered hills, but they are majestic nonetheless. I found any excuse to drive to surrounding towns simply for the scenic drive. I remember driving 45 minutes to the nearest Starbucks one fall evening to get my first pumpkin spice latte of the season. When you have just the right tunes going while on a scenic drive, you can be transported to another place. I don’t have a car now that I live in Chicago and I have to say I do miss driving. But I certainly wouldn’t want to drive in Chicago traffic…

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Gardening and laundry, a couple other activities Joanna mentions as bringing her solace, I haven’t quite mastered. I don’t like getting dirty or coming across the unexpected worm, and I find laundry to be quite tedious. BUT, I found her article so helpful in serving as a reminder to look for joy in little things we do every day and to be grateful that we are even able to do them in the first place. Some other things I would add to the list of things to be grateful for (aside from the obvious family & friends), are random encounters we have everyday – like witnessing two strangers on the subway trying to make a genuine connection, or seeing two people on the street laughing together and wondering what’s so funny. These encounters might not directly pertain to us, but they remind us of the connectedness between people and the importance of these connections, because we are all linked in some way. Not only that, these encounters remind us of our place in this web of connections and that our place is so small (which can be both scary and comforting). And that there are far more devastating issues than those we face, which is humbling. I am constantly reminded of this in Chicago where homeless people lining the streets is a sight on practically every corner and L ride; or take the recent weather-related tragedies that have devastated peoples’ lives… We should also be grateful that we were born into privileged circumstances, all things considered. And taking a look back at all that we’ve accomplished and realizing – damn, how did I do all that?? – is a good opportunity to recognize our worth.

We have to try to remind ourselves that somehow everything will be OK even when it’s hard to see any good in a situation. Things have a way of working themselves out that is usually impossible to understand while we’re on the struggle bus. Especially when we’re faced with an impending obstacle, or a potentially life-altering development, we have to try to remember that there are so many things for which to be grateful regardless.

 

Interiors

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I have a new page on Interiors, which is a little passion of mine that I’ve been trying to pursue. Check it out for tips on renovating, some design projects I’ve started working on, and inspiration.

 

 

The art of dancing

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It’s no secret to those who know me that I don’t like dancing. For whatever reason it’s just never been something I’ve felt comfortable with or enjoyed. Perhaps the fact that my parents had no dancing at their wedding reception could explain it… (sounds like a boring reception). I randomly came across this girl on YouTube when I was looking for music videos of Despacito (definitely a guilty pleasure and yes I have looked up a translation of the lyrics) and I can’t stop watching her videos! She and her brother have a strong YouTube presence with millions of views and followers. I think this mashup is one of their best!

If only I had an older brother like this to teach me how to dance!

I know I’m obsessed, but just one more…

 

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesen – Spring Green, WI

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My parents and I took a mini summer vacation a couple weeks ago to Spring Green, WI to see Frank Lloyd Wright‘s Taliesen. The complex consists of his home and studio, as well as some boarding residences for students in his architecture school. We like to see as many FLW houses as we can because my dad is an architect and teaches architecture, and my mom and I are art lovers. I also did an internship with the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust in Chicago, so it’s always interesting for all of us. After having seen many of his homes in the Chicago area, what struck me about Taliesen was the beautiful setting in the hilly Wisconsin countryside. The integration between interior living space and the natural world that surrounds it outside, which is a central design concept for FLW, is very present at Taliesen. From the courtyard-like feel in front of the entrance to the house (perhaps inspired by his trip to Italy), to the wall of windows and doors opening out to a balcony on the other side of the house, which overlooks a series of hills, the beautiful Wisconsin countryside setting is very much felt both within and outside the house.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Asian influence also makes a statement in both the home and studio, as large Japanese silk tapestries take center stage on various walls. The room I liked the most was the living room because it felt so spacious with open space in the center of the room and built-in seating/benches along the walls around the periphery of the room. Apparently FLW had dinner parties every Friday night, complete with musical entertainment (for which he designed a music stand that could accommodate three musicians). He also designated a chair for his daughter who played the harp. His affinity for his daughter is also evident in her “little apartment” upstairs, which is accessed either through a lofty space above the bedroom he shared with his wife, or by its own separate staircase off the great room. The intention behind this was that she could perform puppet shows for him and his wife anytime she wanted.

There are different tours that one can take at Taliesen and the one we took was two hours long. Very comprehensive! We had a sweet and knowledgeable tour guide, but my favorite part may have been the resident cat who followed us around for part of the tour 🙂 I leave you with some wise words to live by from good ol’ FLW himself.

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“But the thing about a great beauty is that no matter its age or condition, it could still turn and give you that look and send the heart aflutter.”

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“I looked around at the stately villa, the murmuring fountains and, yes, even at the overgrown grass. Rome had its issues. The degradation was real. But the thing about a great beauty is that no matter its age or condition, it could still turn and give you that look and send the heart aflutter.”

I have to remind myself to admire the beauty in my surroundings, even if it’s not always initially apparent to me. I also have to be reminded to allow myself to be pleasantly surprised by the beauty that I might encounter unexpectedly. This New York Times article about Rome by Jason Horowitz resonates with me since I was born in Rome and lived there for the first eight years of my life. But I have to say, in disagreement with the author, I always found it beautiful and never wanted to leave. Rome was the best playground a child could ask for. But I will say, now that I live in Chicago, IL, I resonate with the author’s notion that we must seek to see the beauty even in the chaos or dilapidation that’s around us. I love Chicago as a city for all that it has to offer, but at the same time, the city just gets me down on a daily basis. Relying on public transportation for your commute isn’t easy, especially in the dead of winter. The hustle bustle lifestyle with everyone scurrying around in a hurry and forgetting to be nice to one another just isn’t for me. I find myself craving a much more laid-back kind of life. The architecture downtown juxtaposed next to Lake Michigan is beautiful, but other parts of the city that tourists don’t see where the average Chicagoean actually lives can be dirty and graffiti-stricken. So, faced with all this unpleasantness of city life, I often struggle to find the beauty that I once so admired about Chicago.

Horowitz’s evaluation of various neighborhoods in Rome as he searched for an apartment all over the city reminded me to try to appreciate the little intricacies and charms that each neighborhood of Chicago holds, especially since I don’t get to see them everyday. I like how different each neighborhood is and how diverse the city is. So maybe what I need to do, taking a lesson from Horowitz, is take the time to visit different neighborhoods, as he explored Rome, and experience each one for the unique things it has to offer. And maybe I just need to take a harder look at the small things in my everyday encounters with the city to remind myself what makes Chicago the beloved city that it is by so many.

 

 

A little voyage to Paris

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“Three Perfect Days in Paris” by Boyd Farrow

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I was on a plane last week, one of my least favorite places to be since flying makes me anxious, but this article about Paris that I came across in the Hemispheres magazine made it much more enjoyable. And although flying makes me nervous I have to say I love watching the landing as we’re approaching the destination and I don’t think it’s necessarily solely because I know I’ll soon be safely on the ground; it’s just such a cool view from up there. Anyway, I was completely engrossed in this article and the flight was more pleasant because of it. I went to Paris one summer when I was in high school and it is every bit as magical as Boyd Farrow recounts in his travelogue. It definitely transported me back to my visit there and makes me want to go back to go to some of the places he mentions. And how about the photographs…I especially like the one of the three Parisians basking in the light of their beautiful city. They look like characters from a French movie (Jules et Jim by François Truffaut,  The Dreamers by Bernardo Bertolucci, and Band of Outsiders by Jean-Luc Godard come to mind). I’m just waiting for them to break into that infamous dance scene at the cafe in Band of Outsiders. 

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These are some of my favorite quotes from the article to give you a sampling of the delight that’s in store for you:

“I sit down with my giant cheese and watch as people file in and light votives or stealthily angle their phones for the ultimate shot: a selfie with Jesus.”

“By the time we leave, I’m so relaxed I hail a cab standing in the middle of the street. The driver looks terrified. Now, if I could only remember where I put my room key.”

“Everywhere here has a real community feel. You tend to keep an eye on your neighbors’ kids; you know your butcher, baker, and florist. In most big cities, people don’t live like that anymore.”

“In Jacques Genin’s showroom-size chocolate shop on lively Rue de Turenne, a loved-up couple agonizes over a chocolate display as if choosing an engagement ring. I’m agonizing too, over how many kirsch caramels I dare take from the sample jar.”

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And I just love the way the article ends, tying in the iconic kiss photograph by Robert Doisneau. So romantic…

“As I thread my way through the crowd, a young Frenchwoman bumps into me, spilling wine down my shirt. Being English, I apologize. She smiles, kisses my cheek, and disappears. Okay, so it’s not a Robert Doisneau moment, but it’s not a bad way to say goodnight to the city—the Eiffel Tower to the west, its sparkling light show reminding us that the clock has just struck 12.”

I’ll stop here so that you actually read the full article because it’s such a treat! Thank you, Boyd, for transporting us to the magic that is Paris.

 

The Devil’s Mistress

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The Gene Siskel Film Center is currently running a Czech Film Festival, which is exciting for me because my mom is Czech. The other night I went to see The Devil’s Mistress, which is a true story about a Czech actress who goes to work in Germany and has an affair with Hitler’s right-hand man, Joseph Goebbels. Hitler’s character is, of course, frightening and awkward, but well-played. The movie is melodramatic, but the starlet, played by Tatiana Pauhofová, is stunning and charming. Her flirtatious spirit is disturbing at times, as she knows she can use it to get what she wants, and the way she falls in love with Goebbels is shocking given his political affiliation and stature. I have to say I much prefer the actor she has a passionate affair with who she leaves for Goebbels, but the heart wants what it wants I guess…

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The setting of all the scenes is beautiful, as well as the scenery, especially the modern house Lida buys for her parents. All based on true events, it was an interesting historical lesson for me, in addition to being entertaining and visually engaging. Hearing the Czech language was so nostalgic for me and I was surprised by how many words I could understand based on what I’ve picked up listening to my mom speak to my grandparents over the years. I only wish there had been a little less dialogue in German and a little more in Czech!

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Healthy eating

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I moved to Chicago six months ago and I’ve lived in three different apartments since I’ve been here. The first one was an Air B&B, so the kitchen was not really my own to use. The second apartment was a sublease for three months, and the other two people in the apartment had lived there for a few years before I moved in, so I almost felt like an intruder on their space. Again, I did not use the kitchen frequently to cook meals for myself. I moved to a third apartment at the beginning of the summer, and thankfully, it feels a lot more like my own place. SO, I’ve started cooking again after a hiatus and many nights of unhealthy (although tasty) microwave meals.

I’m not a super adventurous cook, despite loving flipping through cookbooks to get ideas. One of my favorite things to make is simply pasta, along with my own sauce that usually includes vegetables or seafood. I mean I did grow up in Italy after all, so I think having a love for pasta (even though it’s a carbs guzzler) is perfectly understandable and acceptable!

This weekend I made pasta with zucchini and swiss chard. In addition to its light and fresh taste, it was a feast for the eyes because I think vegetables are just so darn pretty. It was a perfect little summer meal if you ask me 🙂