gooollysandra

Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

“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 🙂

 

 

Paris Can Wait

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Can Paris wait? I think most of us would agree it cannot. This consensus that I’m assuming is shared among those in the plot of the new movie starring Diane Lane, Paris Can Wait. Reminiscent of another travelogue starring Lane, the popular Under the Tuscan Sun, this genre really seems to suite her well. She is a classic beauty and there is a carefree, sexy ease about her that makes her the perfect travel companion, even if only through a screen. You hardly see any shots of Paris but at the very end because the movie traces the fragmented journey to Paris, but the places they stop along the way are points of interest in their own right. Lane’s trip to Paris is not with her husband, as one might imagine, but with her husband’s business partner who happens to be a Frenchman, played by Arnaud Viard. Need I say more about the fact that he’s a Frenchman and all the stereotypes that go along with that…he is charming, flirtatious, spontaneous, a womanizer, and let’s just admit, a little selfish. Despite all this, there is a genuine connection between him and Lane, which makes her feel appreciated and desired in a way that she hasn’t felt by her husband in a long time. Classic…

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The movie is full of scenes of delectable food and artistic shots of whatever Lane sees that she’d like to capture with her old school digital camera. She certainly does have an eye for composition of the unique things she comes across on her trip. There are sad moments as you learn more about Lane’s life, and there are funny moments as she saves the day when their car breaks down on the way to Paris. What I particularly liked was her relationship with her daughter (who we never actually see) because it reminds me of my relationship with my parents – we share the same name, we are both only children, and we are both very close to our parents.

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The movie definitely accomplishes evoking travel envy, as I left wanting to take a similar trip, even full of all the obstacles. I also love Lane’s summery linen outfit (seen in all three of these pictures), as well as her seductive evening dresses. Usually Paris can’t wait, but I suppose it can if it means going on a spontaneous adventure like this one.

Ibexx – “Static”

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I recently randomly came across this video by Ibexx through a friend in my Facebook newsfeed and I have had it stuck in my head ever since I first watched it! As far as I can tell, this is the only solo song she currently has out, but I CANNOT wait for more from where this came from. She is featured on “Uneven Ground” by Winnetka on the EP entitled This Place (which I also just randomly discovered by looking this girl up and recommend you check out). Her voice is angelic and soothing, and I love the way this beat and melody work together. Not to mention the interesting artistic direction of the video…let’s hope there’s more coming our way!

Hurray for the Riff Raff

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I recently saw Hurray for the Riff Raff perform at Thalia Hall in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago and it was such a treat. I went because my friend had an extra ticket and I decided to go after watching 5 minutes of a YouTube video of one of their performances. I wasn’t too familiar with their music but I wanted to go with my friend and I really didn’t know what I was in for. It was one of those things that you don’t expect anything from and then it surprises you with an amazing experience that just makes you feel connected to yourself. Not to mention how hot the lead singer, Alynda Segarra, of Puerto Rican roots is…and I don’t mean just physically – I mean certainly, that’s a given; but she has a presence on stage that commands the attention and respect of the audience and connects with them through her voice, which is perfect for the bluesy, old school sound of the band. Their new album, The Navigator, has a political message that is all too crucial right now given our political climate. If you don’t know Hurray for the Riff Raff, you should absolutely give them a listen if you want something inspiring and soothing.

The venue, Thalia Hall, has a very cool hipster, vintage vibe complete with a a restaurant and separate bar. Originally built as an opera house, it now hosts concerts and events.

After the concert we went to La Vaca, which is just down a little ways from Thalia Hall, which has a very lively atmosphere and some seriously tasty margaritas!

“In Search of the Eclectic”

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I came across this article through Chicago Gallery News because I like to keep up with what’s going on in the art scene in Chicago, and while this piece is more about a private collection than a gallery open to the public, Sally Schwartz‘s collecting, or ahem, hoarding habit, reminds me a little bit of myself. Schwartz runs the Randolph St Market Festival, which is a monthly flea market that features hundreds of local Chicago vendors and artisans. So constantly being around all these treasures is right up her alley.

I’ve also gone antiquing with my parents over the years and have developed an interest in collecting unique, interesting items as I see them, rather than waiting to buy things when I need them. This has resulted in several boxes of random things that I’m storing in my parents’ attic, probably much to their dismay. But I blame them for instilling this love for antiquing in me!

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I enjoyed how the article illustrates Schwartz and her husband bringing their collections together, even though they are so different – hers comprised of older vintage pieces and his of newer modern pieces. I can also identify with the fact that while their children are intrigued by their collections, they claim they’ll get rid of everything one day. I sometimes get frustrated by the sheer volume of things my parents collect and dream about the burden that would be lifted if I got rid of everything; but, on the other hand, there are so many stories tied to the pieces and sentimental value connected to them, that I may end up holding on them 🙂 Just as Schwartz is holding on to her collection in case the kids change their minds. How about these photos of their collection…dreamy!

“Big Little Lies”

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I’m only one of the millions who was obsessed with the all too short mini-series of Big Little Lies on HBO, but I have to say something about it because I haven’t been this hooked on a TV show in a long time. I watched it religiously every week with a friend and I looked forward to those nights like Christmas morning. The opening credits/intro alone should give you an idea of its dramatic yet somehow relaxing and calming aura – as if the characters are caught up in this ring of drama, yet they’re far too cool for it. It radiates that laid back California vibe (coming from someone who’s never been to California…), but the repeated, endless ocean views these women are lucky enough to have outside their kitchen windows only perpetuates this vibe. How then, do they manage to look so effortlessly and seamless put together? Well, not all the of the characters embody this chill, glam look, but those who do certainly pull it off with grace. And how about that soundtrack…and the cutest kids!

The show is dark. Starting off with the rather serious drama between the kids, then proceeding to the drama between the adults, which is even more serious, it is a thriller that keeps you guessing until the very last second of the seventh episode. Literally. The rumors of a potential second season, or the making of another mini-series based on a Liane Moriarty book are everywhere, but I guess the outcome remains to be seen. We can only hope and pray that it comes true!

The importance of the space around us

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This might not be true for everyone, but I have noticed that the space around me has a direct correlation to my mood, general attitude, perception, and approach to life. This has been true ever since I was little, and my earliest recollection of having an interest in the space around me is from when I was in grade school. A friend and I carpooled a couple times a week after school, spending one afternoon at my house and one afternoon at hers, and our favorite past time was rearranging each other’s rooms. I loved exploring the various possibilities of the use of our space not only for functionality by moving the bed here or the dresser there, but also for the feel and charm of different ways things could be decorated and arranged. I remember our parents getting mad that we were moving such heavy furniture at a young age, and perhaps someday in the future I’ll pay for those childhood play dates, but I reflect back on them with fondness.

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My bedroom in Massachusetts in the house that I renovated

It’s important for me to create a space for myself that I can truly feel inspired in. And what I mean by feel inspired in is just that feeling of home and of yourself – I think our space is an extension of ourselves and when it clearly and cohesively reflects who we are, it is most comfortable. This can be achieved in the smallest details that when put together result in an amalgamation of all the little moments and pieces and feelings that make up who we are. These can be things like small plants on the windowsill, your favorite blanket on your bed that you like to curl up in and read a book or watch Netflix, a light fixture that creates the perfect ambience, your most influential books stacked on your desk, pictures of your favorite memories in your bookcase, that childhood stuffed animal that you can’t bear to part with sitting on your nightstand, your most-worn necklaces draped on your dresser, etc. I mean the list could go on, and you can always rearrange and replace things as they no longer do anything for you.

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My desk area in the apartment I lived in during graduate school

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My current apartment

I have loved decorating and redecorating my childhood bedroom at home, the numerous dorm rooms I’ve lived in, and the various houses and apartments I’ve lived in since college. It’s a continual process for me that’s never complete, and it’s also something I look forward to working on in my spare time; whether it’s going to cute boutiques on the hunt for the perfect pillows to finish off a space, or going to tile and granite stores to pick out samples for larger projects, it’s my favorite past time that never ceases to inspire me.