Archive for the ‘Art and Culture’ Category

I really like all colors — they all have a certain dynamic in their own rite. I have, however, always favored purple since I was a little girl.


Like all colors, I love all their shades. Purple is no exception. I hope today’s instagram post shows that. Also, the train that takes me to my home sweet home is via the purple line…so, it kind of just came together for me today. Enjoy and please play along. Tomorrow’s prompt is: “busy”.

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I saw the recent travel theme and the word “gaudy” came up. I decided to share, but not because I have an adversity to the gaudy, but a secret admiration for it. Particularly with what I am going to share with you. I think it takes a lot of cojones to be “gaudy”.

In Chicago, there are two major events that I believe, specifically, call for the gaudiest costumes of them all. The annual Pride parade celebrates diversity, particularly in the Boystown neighborhood, and for which has become the unofficial gay and lesbian yearly hurrah of Chicago. Pride is also about being proud of who you are or who your friends are. People all over the city, gay, straight, etc. all come to the parade to support themselves or friends or both. Why people dress up so obnoxiously, I’m not entirely sure. I think it is fun, radical,  and like Bonnie Raitt says, “Let’s give ’em something to talk about.” People are going to talk regardless — especially regarding homosexuality. Why not make it worth everyone’s while, right?

The second event is the annual Halloween Parade (hosted in the same neighborhood). It is the same elaborate, “gaudy” garb but 30-40 degree cooler than the July Pride Parade. I have on several occasions heard people start planning for the next year before the event is even over. If you can come up with a creative get-up, not only are you in the running for best costume, but people from all over the world (this being Chicago and all) want to take pictures of you and with you. It is a rush if you can cross that threshold.

To give you an idea of what these parades look like, here are some of my favorite snapshots:

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This week’s poll on the Daily Post was about which we preferred as readers:

1.) Your Kindles, Tablets, or iPads: “ebooks — you can get new books in a flash and bring multiple reads with you everywhere you go.”


2.) Old fashioned books. “Paperback — nothing beats opening up a brand new book or rummaging through a bookstore.”

I have more to mull over before I post for the week, but for now, here’s a guy I really like who doesn’t publish for companies that deal in the electronic book industry. He’s got some larger ideas in general, andI think there’re some gems in here to consider. 🙂 My friends, I give you Mr. Sherman Alexie. Enjoy!

**UPDATE 2/10/13**

So, I promised I would offer my OWN thoughts on this debate. To be fair, I own a Kindle Fire. When I first bough it, I found it replacing my computer for more recreational purposes (i.e. Apps — Facebook, Words With Friends, Pinterest, etc.) I did not use it for reading. I downloaded some free classics thinking that I would find more reasons to read more and delve into the classics because now I didn’t have an excuse. Not so much. In fact, I still prefer to hold a physical book, and wouldn’t have caved except that the Hunger Games trilogy was on a “forever” waiting list at the library, and for some reason, I haven’t figured out how to “rent” via a digital eReader. So I bought all three books, and was done reading all three books in three days. Devoured!

I also bought them because they were “on sale”. Digital words, on sale…that still blows my mind. Who does my money support when I purchase digital words? I suppose I pay into a large corporate conglomerate that dictates where I can purchase said titles from. But what if my Kindle didn’t work with the corporate conglomerate that hosts my “to read” titles? It becomes a bit too selective and elitist for my taste. In a way I am forced (I know, there are hundreds of thousands of titles to choose from, but still…) to choose from a list. But I pay a corporation. What artist am I supporting by purchasing an eBook? These large companies can essentially set the price and list for what they believe is my taste…or are they essentially setting that, too?

Sherman Alexis said something poignant in his “rant” above that resonated with me. More or less, “these companies are going to favor a certain kind of book.” There isn’t going to be a publisher, but a company asking for a certain type of book. I believe that this is true because some many people have access to what is trending. If Hunger Games is so popular, will we see a spike in literature like this trilogy? What inventive will writers have to create new genres and foster their creativity or their own ideas?

I think about Apps like Spotify, for instance. When I am creating a playlist, I tend to favor music that I liked when I was growing up, and less about what’s “new”, because there is an element of original sound that I am looking for and have a hard time having someone, or something (i.e. Spotify, the App) tell me what I might like. It takes away the ingenuity and musicianship of an artist’s work, I think.

But, again, I have  Kindle. I bought it because I felt that I might be able to find digital copies cheaper than the bookstore prices for my classes, or that I might even be able to download them for free from the library (still working on that). When I’m in a fix and want to keep up with pop culture, I appreciate the immediacy of being able to download a book and finish it in a day. 🙂

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Today we decided to take advantage of the unseasonably warm winter day by going downtown. AFTER the Packers game of course. So, while it was still relatively early, it was starting to get dark by the time we left. I hadn’t really thought about the photo challenge, but of course, it’s not hard to be inspired in downtown Chicago. Millennium Park has a large sculpture called Cloud Gate, but what most people call “The Bean” since it is shaped liked a really large bean. It is a stunning piece, and strategically located on Michigan Avenue where it reflects the skyline that looks down upon it. Below Cloud Gate, there is an ice skating rink that just so happened to pull out the zamboni to clean the ice when we arrived. The clean, smooth ice picked and distorted all kinds of light.  At Macy’s, on State St., windows reflected the shopping experience around us in the famous Marshall Field windows. Finally, we walked over the Chicago River to the Magnificent Mile (just to pretend we were rich — and which ended VERY early), I was able to pick up the reflections of buildings on the river. Enjoy!

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With all big cities, skylines are a staple of creating a world renowned center stage. I grew up in a city, that by “world renowned” standards is fairly small. Milwaukee has its own skyscrapers, but it is hardly trying, I think, to become a world-class city. I suppose “trying” isn’t quite the word so much as I don’t think it is fighting to edge its way into that realm. It is a city of blue collar workers with white collar office buildings, and there seems to be a balance of both on its city scape — content on its roots while maintaining a “clean” and freshly designed cityscape. Currently, the cityscape that is really emerging is in the freeway which is routing courses in three different directions through or around the downtown area. This is perhaps the beginning of an invitation — offering the city as respite for anyone traveling through the midwest to a higher latitude. Milwaukee is charming, why not stay awhile?

By contrast, Chicago IS trying to be that city. Some of you may recall that she bid on a little thing called the Olympics a couple of years ago, and of course they would love to have a world class city…again.  It is the setting for the World Fair in 1893 and 1933, and gives the illusion of progress (I think, at a rapid pace). Without going into my take on the politics of hosting the olympics…I’m not sure I want this post to go there, I did want to share that I think Chicago takes great pains in creating a well developed city scape. It is very intentional, and has lovely architecture as well as deliberately placed buildings and transit. For instance, (and I apologize that I don’t have a picture for this one) there is a section of the Red Line el track that curves east with the direction of lake if you are going south (it is the el track most close to the lake). There are high rise apartment buildings that are also settled very close to the lake, and they also have a curvature that looks like it is rounding out the curve of the el track. See? Deliberate.

What I think is so cool about cityscapes, because most big cities (at least the ones in my life) are all on water. The binary line between nature (i.e. Lake Michigan) and the man-made is crisp — just like the fine but present line of a back drop on the floor of a stage. Suddenly, you are aware of the shades and outlines of buildings, or perhaps you flirt with a cloud or the sun winking at its reflection in a building instead. I find that these are what I’m looking for most lately as we continue to build. Construction seems to be at an all time high, so I dance with the fog, the wind, the “unruly” fall leaves just to be absorbed by nature for a minute. The contrast is so completely different — and so intriguing!

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“The word death is not pronounced in New York, in Paris, in London, because it burns the lips. The Mexican, in contrast, is familiar with death, jokes about it, caresses it; it is one of his favorite toys and most stedfast love.” — Octavio Paz

Chicago is home to a large latino population, and I am especially grateful for the friends and family I have that have shown me and allowed me to participate in their celebrations (year round).

I am fascinated with Dia de los Muertos in particular, because it is a foreign concept to me — celebrating death. Correction, celebrating life? Perhaps, auspicious or whatever, it is a chance to reflect on our loved ones, and allow them to surface as we become cognizant of their presence in our hearts and minds. In remembrance, we bring them to life, no?

Visually, this day is also stunning. On the ofrenda (some call it an altar, but it is an offering — literally), candles flicker against family photos, symbolism is rife in the brightness of the flowers, the glass of water for traveling souls, the salt for the religious or for cleansing…it is beautiful. It is also sentimental — filled with things that remind us of our loved ones; things they loved in life.

The National Museum of Mexican Art in  Chicago also has an annual gallery dedicated to the art of the ofrenda and “calaveras ” which are lively, likable skeletons engaging in earthly activities. They poke fun and jest at the dead in what I find to be a more heartwarming than mean-spirited jest, for in death, we are all calaveras — from the very poor to the very rich, the young to the old, etc. In the art of calaveras, skeletons take center stage and range in ages and class. A baby represented in a cradle, for instance, isn’t meant to poke fun at her death, but give her life in her death. To honor her as though she were alive in spirit. It is bittersweet.

The fun part, I think, can most be seen in the rich socialite, who may be garbed in fine apparel in life (and also in death), but even she, too, is a calavera at the end. We’re all skeletons on the inside. Here, the socialite seems somewhat ridiculous if not just humorous. Perhaps that’s why I love the representation of the calavera. It is silly to see a skeleton wearing a hat, dancing while holding an accordion  etc. etc.

In the gallery below, I have a few pictures from the museum and my own personal ofrenda. Enjoy!

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We ate the last of the pie I made (I probably ate more of it than my boyfriend). I can’t help it, it’s my favorite kind. So, before there were protests, I set out to buy more pie pumpkins. Because friends, I make mine from scratch. I just learned how to make them last year, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I actually prefer it now and I can’t imagine eating pumpkin pie any other way. I will post my recipe with pictures as soon as I get to making it. It has been too hot these past few days to get the oven up and going. Actually, it has been unseasonable warm in Chicago…like 80 degrees! I can’t say that I don’t appreciate the silver lining to global warming, or in the words of Tina Fey, “God hugging us a little closer” — LOL! I have been able to sit outside on my porch in the middle of October, have the windows open, and dry a load of laundry on the wash line. This just make turning the oven on seem like a chore. That makes baking not fun like I’d prefer it to be.

Yesterday was also a perfect day to go outside and enjoy the weather. Prior to yesterday, the weather was miserably wet with rain. Plus all clouds — all day. Boo. I’ll take sunshine when I can get it, and I’m like night and day when I do or don’t. Being fall, and unseasonably warm, everything was like a dying ember  — from all the oranges in pumpkins and the deep reds in some of the bushes (I wish I knew what the name of it was but there is a shrub that has BRIGHT red leaves) —  to the warmth of the day glowing with the afternoon sunshine, and then slowly dying out as the sun set. Freaking amazing. I’m in love with fall.












Creepy mummy — halloween is in the air!












I decided to give you a little tour of my day since I made it a point to go to the pumpkin patch. I actually went to a place that is in the city — it has been there for awhile, and for the life of me, I never knew the name of it. Until yesterday. Apparently it is a small piece of land rented (or owned — I’m not sure) by a guy named George. I love it because I didn’t have to go out of the city, and because it is also a kitsch Chicago experience. Imagine, big city, tons of building everywhere, people living on top of each other, cars driving within 50 feet of you on a busy main road, very urban — “Pumpkin patch” isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind, but there are some in the city, and they take on spaces in the middle of city blocks between condos, or in front of a trailer that is about 100 yards from the lake. Yes, imagination is needed for this, and I’m glad that someone else decided that this was a good idea.

George’s patch is on the North side and is the one in front of a trailer about 100 yards in front of the lake. Don’t believe me about the trailer? Here. 🙂 I did try to get a picture of it, but I felt shy about asking, and didn’t want to take it without asking. He seemed like a pretty straight shooter when it came to buying a pumpkin from him. I was in and out of there in 10 minutes max. But, he’s local, and I’d rather see him there than a new building or some other “new” restaurant. Some things should just be left alone. Maybe that’s why I didn’t take a picture. Maybe I felt like George is a pumpkin man — a business man who doesn’t need tons of social media to rep his product. Taking the picture seemed to be making an alluring commodity out of something that doesn’t need it. The proof is in the pie on this place. (And actually — last year I bought 5 pie pumpkins and each pie turned out.) But that said, it is worth mentioning and encouraging you to go and check him out — especially if you live on the North side of the city.

George’s Pumpkin Patch is located at: 7313-7315 N. Sheridan Rd. Chicago, IL 60626

Gourds, in front of the trailer, and George off to the left. Not a great picture — but there is proof! 🙂











Some things to consider:

  • Prices run a bit higher than they would at a patch out of the city (but imagine the money you’re saving on gas! 🙂
  • The place is small, so it doesn’t have a million silly halloween things, BUT you can find pie pumpkins, jack-o-lantern type pumpkins, and an assortment of gourds. Think basics.
  • The patch is on Sheridan Road, so watch the children if you bring them along to pick the perfect pumpkin as traffic is a probable risk factor.
  • You can generally find parking, but getting closer to Halloween weekend, it might be harder.
  • George’s is right around the corner from a few public beaches, so if the weather is still warm, go take a relaxing walk or soak in the view of beautiful Lake Michigan. It might change your world. It changes mine every time I go. 🙂
  • Sheridan Road is your major connection to East Evanston which has lots of restaurants to get acquainted with…or you could go South on Sheridan and take in a movie at the New 400 Theater, or grab something warm to drink at any number of local cafes (I like the Growling Rabbit), stroll around Loyola’s campus, etc. etc.

If you don’t get a pumpkin this weekend for halloween (This weekend is supposed to be miserable.) remember that Thanksgiving is still around the corner. I’ll try to post my recipe soon so that you can have bragging rights, too. (It really is pretty easy.)

As I mentioned, with the storm coming off of Cuba this week, we’re due for a wet, miserable two days. It’s the kind of  curl up with a movie weekend. I think that sounds perfect, and better for making pie, carving pumpkins, and toasting seeds. I’m sure I’ll have pictures, but until then, here’s what they looks like pre-festivities:











Mmmm, pie.










What are your halloween weekend plans?


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Hey everyone!

So…I was trying really hard (too hard I think) to see if I had any pictures that matched the weekly photo challenge. Turns out I have WAY more than I thought. What I didn’t realize before going through my collection is how much I like the idea of a silhouette. Sometimes it is about shadow and lighting, but it’s also about how those things or people who aren’t catching the light play a role in the picture. It comes across as almost secondary. I will share my gallery with you momentarily, but for instance, there is a photo of me in Acapulco. I am taking a picture with my boyfriend’s family against the sun set. If it was simply a bad choice on the part of the photographer, then we didn’t show so well, but the sunset was amazing. The sunset became the main focus…and really, I think subconsciously  that’s what we really wanted to capture. Not our bodies, but our bodies in this amazing shot! The shadows created are also deeply amazing. I have another photo of just the sunset. The waves on the ocean are stunning. The clouds are magnified and dynamic.

I also realized, that when I studied literature, I loved the play of light and dark imagery. Each seems to intensify the other. Even in the brightest of days we can find the dark, we don’t realize the dark, or expect the suddenness of it sometimes. Like life, things change. We realize our mortality the way we see a tree in the fall, it’s bare banches naked in the spotlight of a setting sun. In the dark we look for light. During my trip to Acapulco, I remember looking out to the ocean. During the day is is already immensely big, but at night it is wondrously scary. To the imagination, it is an invitation for your wildest monsters to reach out with a giant hand and pull you into the abyss!

As an artist…or at least one who appreciates art, silhouette is also a collaborative bricolage of images and shadows. I am smitten. Here are some of my photos.

The pictures range from the snowstorm in Chicago (February 2nd 2011. All winter it did not snow. It was like Old Man winter was trying to hold back a sneeze, and then, out of nowhere, Chicago finds itself under 2 feet of snow) To Navy Pier in black and white.)It was a winter day — just before Christmas. The sun was bright, and then rapidly became darker because the days were shorter.) Then there are some of NYC in black and white. This time around I actually spent a bit more time walking through Central Park, as well as completely crossing over the Brooklyn Bridge. There are also some of Grand Central Station which has such lovely architecture! What I love about these photos are the way buildings creep up in shadows EVERYWHERE! Lastly (my favorite!) Acapulco. I like these because they have samples of darkness in daylight, and light in the darkness.

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Once a month on Sunday, the River East Arts Center opens itself up to an artisan, local (mostly), and yummy event called Dose Market.

I got the chance to work (yes! it was such a good feeling!) at a booth marketing a product called Fresh Ginger Ale by Bruce Cost. It’s made in Brooklyn and has recently picked up some more distribution in Chicago. That said, it wasn’t a super complicated connection in how I got to do this, but having friends in the right places made it possible to meet the product up close and personal. For that reason, I was really excited to learn about this yummy beverage and talk about it a little bit here.

Fresh Ginger Ale uses actual piece of ginger by infusing it in the carbonated goodness. This is different from other ginger ale products that use oils or flavoring. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of Seagrams! This was just different….and delicious. It’s spicy and sweet (and sometimes fruity depending on what flavor you get.) The best part about marketing this product was watching people who were “gung-ho” and skeptical about ginger ale alike seem satisfied with the taste. It is good, and if you’re interested (and in Chicago) you can purchase it at these places:

Fox and Obel
Southport Grocery
Goddess and Grocer

Of course you can check their website to see where their distribute near to you. They are on the west coast as well, and in restaurants like Wao Bao and Big Bowl.

ALSO…since I don’t want to make this just about plugging a (great) product because that was my job (and I do believe it’s good), I did walk around, and I have to report that there are many high quality booths worth checking out. Here are some of my favorites:

Knit 1  of course for my yarn obsession!
Starlounge Coffee Bar was next to us, and I couldn’t help but swoon over the smell of ground coffee, the spiced apple cider they were brewing, and the sweet carmel-y smell of steaming milk. Yum….
And finally, before I left, I had to pick up pie from The Sugar Path in Geneva,IL. I didn’t think pie could get any better, but their apple mini was an incredible treat for me and my boo after dinner last night. I usually love apple pie ala mode, or warmed up, but this was perfect just as it was: firm, flaky on the outside, and moist and delicious on the inside. Mmmmm.

One of the more memorable Sundays as of late. How about you?

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On Friday, I went to the Art Institute of Chicago with my friend K. It has been several years since I’ve been to the Art Institute (probably close to 10), and this was quite a different experience from my last go.

I have gone to art museums before. As a kid, I went on field trip to the Milwaukee Art Museum at least twice a year in elementary school. I understand that it is something to be appreciated, and that a lot of it is beautiful. In Saint Louis (which I totally recommend people to go to if you get the chance — it’s always free, and has SO MUCH art to look at), I saw a lof of similar things as I did in this exhibit but didn’t look at the pieces as art so much as I did as relics. I suppose they could be considered the same thing, sure, but this felt different. Friday when I went to the museum, the Sitting Buddha was absolutely magnetizing.

I don’t know if you can sense it just from the picture, but his presence in the gallery emitted an energy that I just could not let go of. I wanted to touch him and absorb the Nirvana that his position was trying to achieve. Now, I just talked with a friend about how I didn’t think Nirvana could be achieved (and certainly it would take a lot more concentration that what I was giving), but there was a sense of peace just looking at him. And, alas, museum means no touching. I hope the picture resonates with you in some fashion the way looking at him did with me. Everything about his shape, size, the stone, was just beautiful. The details are still remarkably intact, and I’m in awe…simply in awe.

Some others that intrigued me:

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Cassandra Buchholz

Professional Educator and Youth Specialist

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