This and that

Holidays are here so time for exploring.  We’re finally taking time to get out, see some of the sights, and start connecting with our neighborhood.

Christmas Cookies

Christmas Cookies

Merton, WI Village Christmas Tree

Merton, WI Village Christmas Tree

Merton, WI - Children's Choir

Merton, WI – Children’s Choir

The Angel Museum, Beloit, WI

The Angel Museum, Beloit, WI

The Angel Museum, Beloit, WI

The Angel Museum, Beloit, WI

The Angel Museum, Beloit, WI

The Angel Museum, Beloit, WI

Lake Michigan, Wind Point Lighthouse, Racine, WI

Lake Michigan, Wind Point Lighthouse, Racine, WI

Tiffany 5 Arch Bridge, Tiffany, WI

Tiffany 5 Arch Bridge, Tiffany, WI

The last image is of a stone arch bridge over Turtle Creek just east of Beloit, WI.  It was built just after the Civil War by a rail company to connect the Lake Michigan towns with the Mississippi and Missouri River cities, with a terminus in Council Bluffs, IA.  The rail line eventually became one of the first legs of the transcontinental railroad, along with the Union Pacific and Central Pacific routes.  According to all the history I could find, this is the only bridge of its type remaining in the US.  The design is patterned after Roman viaducts built in France.  The concrete reinforcement visible under the arch stones was installed as the weight of trains increased beyond the capacity of the stones alone.  Otherwise this is the original bridge, still in service today.

Advertisements

Hope you enjoyed the holiday – celebrate America

Tried to get around to fireworks these past two days but circumstances just kept getting in the way – weather one day, technical problems the next.  I saw lots of fireworks in the distance and certainly hope all of you got a chance to see some as well.  I did manage to photograph these two natural bursts while hiking in a wildlife refuge today.  Gonna be it for this year’s festivities for me!

Holiday travel

We spent last week in Chicago as sort of a pre-Christmas celebration.  The city is decorated all over the downtown area with lights, tinsel and figures.  The snow stayed out of the city while we visited and so we were able to be pedestrians, roaming up and down Michigan Avenue and the surrounding blocks to see how the Second City gets ready for the holiday.

Around the Wrigley Building there were displays of many festive items, brightly lit and crisp in the cold air.

The Great Tree, a fixture in the old Marshall Fields department store (now Macy’s) was a tall and shining as always, as were the windows on State Street celebrating decades of decorations by the historic business.

Even the train station was part of the show, with Union Station’s Great Hall void of seats in order to display multiple Christmas trees complete with presents.

The Cloud Gate in Millennium Park is surrounded by visitors in awe regardless of the season, warping your view of the city – and yourself – from all angles.  There are probably stores in town where you can purchase small tree ornaments shaped like this.  It’s becoming a symbol of Chicago as much as the Wrigley Building.

Chicagoans of all types are opportunistic about staying warm.  These guys were almost as big an attraction as the German Christmas festival going on beside their campfire.

One of our primary reasons for the trip was a return to the Art Institute since the last time we visited the whole of the Impressionist wing was being remodeled and we wanted to see the actual paintings.  It was a great experience – no print in a book or poster can do justice to the work of these French painters.  It’s almost surreal, to see in living color images that for so long live in the pages of books.

Water Lilies, Claude Monet

Water Lilies, Claude Monet

More about this painting here.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Two Sisters

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Two Sisters

More about this painting here.

Paul Signac, Les Andelys, Cote d'Aval

Paul Signac, Les Andelys, Cote d’Aval

More about this painting here.

Thomas Moran, Autumn Afternoon, The Wissahickon

Thomas Moran, Autumn Afternoon, The Wissahickon

Moran was not an Impressionist; traditionally he is classed as part of the Hudson River School although many of his paintings are of the American west based on his trips with various expeditions.  This one was hanging in the Art Institute but I believe it is on loan from the Terra Foundation for American Art.  In that regard, this was a wonderfully serendipity to find in the Institute.  This image doesn’t do justice to the details in the original painting, which is about 30×45″ in size.  Getting as close as you dare to the canvas you find each leaf has been painted individually on the trees, filling branches that are also visible.  Stand far enough away and it appears at a glance like a photograph, a realism the painters of the late 1800’s envied about photographs.  It’s amazing how the painter uses light and dark areas to give a sense of dimension to the composition, something modern photographers can learn from this 100+ year old painting.

All in all a very satisfying trip to the Windy City and a fun way to get into the Christmas spirit.  May you all have an equally joyous holiday!

 

Enduring traditional views

Early in our life together my wife decided to build traditions for all our future Christmas by creating hand-made ornaments for our tree.  Styrofoam, beads, pins, wire and bangles transitioned from items in a tray to beautiful designs worthy of the most Victorian holiday parlor.  As time has moved forward we’ve added other “store-bought” items to our holiday decorations but as the tree goes up these original creations come out, each one returning a memory of those early days away from the modern hustle when celebration of Christmas was an event significant enough to disrupt even a graduate student’s focus.  Here are a few of those to help get you in the mood for this holiday season.  Click on any image to see a larger version.

Are you working on your decorations yet?

Places here are getting a start on the season and showing off for all.  Lots of people out strolling around to see the sights while the weather is mild.  Hope your holidays are all colorful, peaceful and beautiful.  Click on any image to see a larger version.