gooollysandra

Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

Category Archives: Photography

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)!

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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.

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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!

 

“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.

 

 

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 🙂

 

 

Photographer William Eggleston

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I studied photographer William Eggleston in a Photography class in graduate school, and this line from the New York Times Style Magazine featuring The Greats, including William Eggleston, resonated with me as I was reminded of his work:

Eggleston’s images can trick you if you’re not careful. You have to look at them, then you have to look again and then keep looking until the reason he took the picture kind of clicks in your chest. 

The aesthetic value of the photograph might not be immediately apparent, but after looking at it, taking your eyes off it, and looking again, the photograph may start to move you in some way; and it may move you in different ways each time you look at it.

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Christmas cheer 2016

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Santa babe

Scandinavian mantel decorations

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What a cute couple

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Slouched in slumber after Christmas dinner (btw, our cats love cuddling with these bears…it’s hilarious!)

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Our Christmas tree decorated with ornaments from all over the world

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Swedish horses skirting the tree

“Picture, if you will, Spain”

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To be a traveler  in the 21st century is to sometimes feel a sense of loss even before one leaves the house: The planet has been mapped with such an oppressive exactitude that it can often seem as if we’re living at a time when everything is knowable.

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This quote from a piece in the November issue of The New York Times Style Magazine struck me for its accuracy, but also its sadness. Social media, especially the rise of Instagram, allows people to snap and post pictures like it’s their job (myself included, I must say). While this gives individuals a great amount of creative freedom and allows their viewers to share in their experiences and see things they might not otherwise be able to see, it also robs people of having unique experiences of their own because they’ve already seen these amazing things and shared in your experience before having their own.

Musings from a recent New York Times Style Magazine

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Perusing through The New York Times Style Magazine is always treat for someone like me who loves all things related to aesthetics. These are some of the pieces and design ads that I most enjoyed in the September 25, 2016 issue!

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Marianna Kennedy

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Gan Rugs – design from Spain

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Cabins in the Woods

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Artists in Postwar France

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Bover lights from Barcelona

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Ikea Forever

 

Interiors

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Ever since I was little I can remember spending afternoons with friends after school rearranging the furniture in our bedrooms. I suppose I should have known then to pursue a career in Interior Design, but alas, I studied other things in college when I thought I wanted a life in academia. Now, after going to grad school for the humanities, I am finally realizing that I do indeed want to follow my dream of working with interior spaces in some way. Without having a degree in Interior Design, I am looking for other ways to gain experience in the field to start, namely the retail side of design, and then maybe eventually  become certified in design. Meanwhile, I am teaching myself on how to use the popular Google modeling program, SketchUp, which is a lot of fun!

Several years ago when I was in college, I set out to photographically capture the way that I had decorated my childhood bedroom at the time. Here are some snippets from that time in my life, which I think only reinforce my love of interior spaces and what one can do to crete them, fill them, decorate them, and enjoy them.

Christmas 2015

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Not unlike others, Christmas is one of my favorite holidays – not because of all the presents, but because of the opportunity to decorate the house with cherished decorations – both ones that have been in the family for generations, as well as new ones picked up every year to add to the collection. Let’s not forget the scent of fir trees that permeates the house, from the actual tree and candles prominently placed in every room. These are just some of my favorite decorations from this year, because Christmas doesn’t have to be over quite yet!