gooollysandra

Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

About gooollysandra

When thinking about how to describe myself, I find it hard to say exactly what defines me. I think we are always evolving and changing, creating ourselves and growing into ourselves. So it is not easy to have a clear-cut definition of who one is in one instance that can apply at all times, because we are never the same. We are always changing.

The connections between

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Every motion in the world taken separately was calculated and purposeful, but, taken together, they were spontaneously intoxicated with the general stream of life which united them all.

Doctor Zhivago

I’ve had a special place in my heart for Russian literature ever since I took a Russian literature class my freshman year of college, which I kind of fell into by accident and it turned out to be one of the best things that’s happened to me. I needed to fulfill a writing credit, as well as a philosophy credit, and there happened to be two classes taught in tandem, an introduction to philosophy and Russian literature (which fulfilled the writing credit), so I took advantage of killing two birds with one stone. They were both taught by incredibly smart, kind, and genuine women who I admire dearly. I also happen to have known them since I was a child because they were friends with my parents, which made having them as professors extra special. It was because of this class and how inspired I was by the philosophy professor that I went on to major in philosophy and took most of my classes with her. She really became like a mentor to me.

In the Russian literature portion of the class we read Fathers & Sons by Ivan Turgenev, short stories by Nikolai Gogol, A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov, Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and of course Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. We didn’t read Doctor Zhivago, but it’s something I’ve been reading on my own after watching the 2002 TV Mini-series and loving it. It’s definitely become one of my favorite things to watch around Christmas time; not that it’s particular festive, but there’s something about the wintry atmosphere that it makes it feel appropriate to watch around the holidays. I don’t read nearly enough anymore, but thinking back on these classes inspires me to cuddle up on a cold day and get lost in a book for the afternoon.

I love this quote because for me it summarizes how I feel about the string of events that make up our lives. I don’t think of these events as isolated from one another, but rather very connected in a way that we might not be able to grasp. I often wonder why related things seem to pop up around the same time and I find it hard to believe that it’s just a coincidence. So I have to believe that the way things line up in life is tremendously important and somewhat out of our hands.

 

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McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

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Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV is absolutely a staple of Thanksgiving at my house. This year, since I live in Chicago,  I went to the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade downtown on State Street. I was sad to miss watching the Macy’s parade on TV, but I was also excited about seeing a parade in person. The parade in Chicago is obviously on a much smaller scale than the one in New York, but it still felt very festive.

It was also very different. Rather than big floats and balloons, the Chicago parade focuses on diversity and inclusion by representing various ethnic groups complete with authentic costumes and music from their cultures. I didn’t see the whole parade, but the countries I saw represented were Bolivia, China, Thailand, Mexico, and the Punjab region of India (and I’m sure there were others). I really admired the Bolivian costumes because they wore these interesting wooden clog-type sandals with some kind of bells that made a nice sound.

There were of course many high school marching bands, tap dancers, and cheer squads. There weren’t too many musical performers though, as there are in the Macy’s parade. The one disappointment was how anti-climactic Santa’s arrival was. There wasn’t any music accompanying his sleigh and there just wasn’t a lot of excitement among the crowd when he finally did arrive. I think one thing that makes the Macy’s parade so fun to watch are the commentators from The Today Show with their witty and dynamic narratives. So maybe Santa’s arrival was disappointing because there was no big announcement or tale about his gift-giving to all the boys and girls around the world.

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Houston, TX

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I went to Houston last weekend for a good friend’s wedding and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it, since people have told me that it’s not the nicest city. Granted there may be other factors that play into my favorable impression given that I was there with close friends and for a happy occasion, but there’s something about that southern hospitality that just feels so welcoming. I had a similar feeling when I visited Atlanta and New Orleans, so I think I just like the south. People seem so much more laid back and relaxed than in the Midwest, or at least more so than in Chicago. The weather at this time of the year was amazing, of course, but I’m not sure I’d be saying the same thing if I went there in August…

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The downtown has a sweet little park called Discovery Green, which was nice because it wasn’t crowded. It was so relaxing to have beautiful green space in the middle of a big city and not feel claustrophobic with lots of people around. The Museum District is convenient if you’re a museum-goer like I am because they are all clumped together and you can easily walk from one to another. Some of them are even free! Near the Museum District are Hermann Park and Rice University. Hermann Park is huge and it includes the Houston Zoo, which I wanted to go to but I definitely didn’t have enough time. I did make it to the Museum of Fine Arts, which has an impressively varied collection and is housed in a magnificent modern space. The art lover in me always wants to go to the primary art museum when I visit a new city. I also took a stroll around Rice University and I was blown away by how beautiful it is. It’s full of Romanesques architecture, which feels very Spanish-inspired and Mediterranean. The architecture, combined with the cypress trees scattered about, made me feel like I was in Italy. Speaking of trees, there were palm trees everywhere – something I’m definitely not used to seeing and I loved it!

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We had an authentic Mexican brunch at Chuchara in Midtown the morning after the wedding, which featured cuisine from Mexico City. I know it was authentic because the groom is from Mexico City and he had great recommendations of specific things to order. I got a Café de Olla (Mexican coffee with cinnamon and chocolate), which I loved! It also came in a really cute terra cotta pitcher that I wanted to take home with me.

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My friend explained that Midtown is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Houston, which makes sense given its narrow streets. The restaurant is situated in what seems like a residential area, which gives it a very homey feel. This is the area that reminded me most of New Orleans.

My visit to Houston was a good introduction to Texas, with the help of a friendly and knowledgeable tour guide (my friend)!

Love is a beautiful thing when you have it. Chase after it and don’t let it go.

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Southwest chic

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There is something about the southwest that is calling my name and I can’t exactly put my finger on it. I’ve never been to a desert, and part of me pictures a bunch of creepy crawly things, but the other part of me pictures a picturesque vastness of land with beautiful shrubbery and endless sunsets. So I suppose it could be the exotic nature of the southwest that appeals to me since I’ve never been there.

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This modern house in Arizona featured in The New York Times Style Magazine definitely captured my heart, which, let’s be honest, isn’t hard to do when it comes to architecture and interior spaces. I don’t say this to minimize it at all; I simply mean that exteriors and interiors broadly speaking really do something for my soul. I like the natural elements of this ranch-style house, with the wooden ceilings, the simple fireplaces, and expansive windows connecting the outdoors to the interior. Just imagine those views… I like the sparsity of the furniture, which draws your focus more towards the space rather than the things that are in it. The mix of contemporary furniture with authentic antique pieces is also right up my alley.

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My dad is in Albuquerque, NM for a conference right now and he keeps sending me pictures of things he’s seeing, which is making me pretty green with envy.

Open House Chicago 2017

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Open House Chicago is this wonderful annual two-day weekend event where about 200 sites around the city are open and free to the public. It takes place in October and I went for the first time this year. Although we’ve been blessed with beautiful weather fairly late into the Fall, the Open House weekend was cold and rainy. I did my research on all the sites that were of interest to me the week leading up to Open House and I a long double-sided list of sites I wanted to visit. Sadly I only made it to 8. The sites are all over the city and I mostly made it to the sites I wanted to see downtown and in Logan Square, since that’s where I live and they were very easy to get to. The thing about Chicago is that it’s a big city and it’s not the easiest to get to different neighborhoods without a car, especially if they’re far out from downtown. Chicago does have a good public transportation system, but if you have to transfer between L lines, it can take quite a long time to get to where you’re trying to go.

The Robey

My first stop was The Robey in Wicker Park, which is a new chic hipster hotel in the Northwest Tower at the six corners intersection. It houses a hotel, restaurant, a lounge/coffee shop, and two rooftop bars, one on the 6th floor and one on the 13th. The 6th floor rooftop even has a small pool (a very small pool) but both offer nice views of the city. And I loved the feel of the lounge/coffee shop on the 2nd floor. It’s definitely a cool place to bring a laptop and do some work, with a nice little view of Wicker Park.

Then I made my way downtown and my first stop was the London House, but due to the long line I just missed the cutoff to get in. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to go there for a drink sometime to take in those sweeping views of the Chicago River and the magnificent mile. So then I went to the Hard Rock Hotel in the Art Deco Carbide & Carbon Building, which was beautiful, but not much of it was open for the tour.

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Carbide & Carbon Building – Hard Rock Hotel

Next was the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist designed by Harry Weese. The church is a prominent structure along the Chicago River with a unique circular Mid-century Modern design. The interior is laden with concrete supports and ceilings, Italian travertine walls, carpet, and velvet seats. Most of the building is taken up by an expansive semicircular room where their services take place, with a massive organ as its focal point.

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Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist

I made my way down LaSalle Street to City Hall where I got to sit in the room where the city council holds their meetings, which was a very cool experience! These meetings are open to the public and I wish I could go to one but they are always held while I’m at work. Then I went to the Federal Reserve Bank, which has a beautiful lobby and a money museum. I learned that it’s the oldest running Federal Reserve Bank in the country, which was surprising to me. I assumed the Federal Reserve Bank in New York would have been the first. The Wintrust Bank, which is right across the street, has an even more beautiful lobby if you ask me. It was truly stunning and I especially liked the Art Nouveau paintings in the frieze, lining the walls in the center of the lobby. I also got the see the vault in the basement, which was a bit eerie and smelled like old paper.

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Wintrust Bank

My last stop downtown was the Chicago Board of Trade building. It’s one of my favorite buildings in Chicago, but after being inside I have to say that I prefer it on the outside. The Art Deco lobby is very stylish, but it’s too dark and stark for me. It just doesn’t have a warm and inviting feeling; I found it to be cold and intimidating. The exterior, however, watches over the city with an earnest eye at the end of LaSalle Street. I always love when I’m on Wacker Drive and I look down LaSalle and see her comforting presence. The statue standing on top of the building is the goddess Ceres sculpted by John Storrs in the Art Deco style. I didn’t know this, but apparently the statue is faceless.

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Chicago Board of Trade

If the weather hadn’t been so blustery that day I might have made it to more sites in other neighborhoods. But it’s also hard to take everything in and appreciate it all, so maybe keeping the list of sites to see on the shorter side is the best course of action. There is always next year’s Open House to see more!

 

“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.

 

 

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.