A Photo A Week: Adults At Play

The topic of Nancy Merrill’s A Photo a Week challenge this week is At Play. While I cannot match the adorableness of the little girls in her post, I am submitting a few shots taken on Christmas Day at our daughter and son-in-law’s house. They had prepared a game which I’m calling “The Saran Wrap Game.” This took extensive advance preparation and a lot of plastic wrap! It involves a ball of plastic cling wrap in which have been inserted various small objects – small gifts, candies, etc. plus a pair of dice. To prepare, you start with the largest object in the middle, and start wrapping plastic wrap around it. As you apply layers of cellophane, you add other little prizes, and so on – it can be as big as you want!

When ready to play, the ball is handed to the first player. The person next to him/her has two dice and rolls them continuously while the first player frantically tries to unwrap the ball (you have no idea how hard this is – especially if it’s prepared with a cheap brand of plastic wrap!). When the person with the dice rolls doubles, he/she says “stop” and the player with the Saran Wrap ball hands it to the next person, keeping whatever little prizes fell out during that player’s turn. It’s best played around a table with 6-8 or so players. You just keep going around this way until the ball is completely unwrapped – and recycle the plastic wrap if you can!! The prize at the very center is usually the best – and my husband got it!


Sarah rolls the dice while Betsy unwraps (you can see the discarded pile of plastic wrap in the foreground).


Betsy has the dice and Marcia has the ball.


Elmer gets aggressive with the plastic while Marcia concentrates on the dice.


Mary’s turn – the ball is getting smaller!


A Photo a Week: Palm Trees with the Rule of Thirds

Nancy Merrill’s topic for her A Photo A Week challenge is “the rule of thirds.” She explains it this way:

The rule of thirds is a standard photographers use to frame their images. You divide the frame into a grid of three across and three down, and then don’t put your subject in the middle square. It’s also best if you can put the focus of your image on one of the grid lines. Just like any really good rule, it’s also fun when you know when to break it. 

For anyone who needs it, here’s a grid for reference. If you want to do portrait orientation, just flip it.

Here are some photos of date palms (photos taken in Israel and Egypt) using the rule of thirds.

Photo A Week Challenge: Lit From Within

Nancy’s Merrill’s A Photo a Week Challenge has a very creative and season-related theme this week: Lit from Within.

Most holiday lights are “lit from within” the tiny bulbs, such as these at Macy’s (formerly Marshall Field’s) in Chicago…
but here are some other Macy’s holiday lighting from within. Yesterday my friend Marcia and I had a special luncheon at the famous Walnut Room at Macy’s – this is a long tradition going back at least to my childhood, when my mother used to bring us to eat at the Walnut Room at Christmas time so we could marvel at the huge Christmas tree. This tree has gotten more “high tech” spectacular over the years.
A huge transparent ornament had a chandelier inside.
The glow of a lightbulb through a lampshade illuminated the piano where my grand-nephew Nicholas played carols while the rest of us sang, a few Christmases ago.
In 2015, we spent Christmas at Dale’s nephew’s house in El Cerrito, California. They had decorated the front of their house with bright “presents” illuminated from within.
Lit-up holiday decorations in front of Pagels' house.
Last year, I took this photo from the Des Plaines Metra station, waiting for a train to arrive. Besides the holiday lights, the Des Plaines library in the background was open, with the lights on in all the windows.
At the Art Institute a few years ago, there was a special exhibit exploring Van Gogh’s famous “Bedroom” painting – actually, he painted three of them, each a little different. This display was an idea of what the bedroom he painted would have looked like, which patrons could peer at from outside a window.
Replica of Van Gogh's bedroom in the yellow house in Arles.

A Photo a Week: Things With Wings

Nancy Merrill’s A Photo a Week challenge this week is Things With Wings.

Yesterday a friend and I visited Christkindlmarkt in Chicago – an annual German market that sets up for the holiday season at the Daley Plaza. Someone must have been generous with bird seed to attract this plethora of pigeons!
Then today it was warm enough to walk outside and while walking a park district track, I came across this lone bird – a killdeer, someone informed me. I wondered if he/she felt cold.
There are more exotic birds in Tanzania, such as the ubiquitous maribou stork,
a colorful tiny bird whose name I don’t know,
and this well-camouflaged pair in an acacia tree.
Since it’s almost Christmas, I thought of this Native American nativity scene that we saw at Mission San Xavier del Bac near Tucson three years ago. This is a very unique-looking angel!
KODAK Digital Still Camera
Thinking of warmer days, I remembered all the monarch butterflies I saw this summer, such as this one I spotted in someone’s front garden. I was able to get quite close and take several photos.
I also visited the butterfly garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden in July.
This moth has a large spot on its wing that looks like an eye to ward off predators.
This moth was perched on a screen at my house.

Open House Chicago 2018-Part 1

Open House Chicago is an annual event – on a weekend in mid-October, about 250 buildings in the Chicago area are open to visitors. Each has a few volunteers who can tell you about the building. It is sometimes called the “architecture tour” because many of these buildings were built 100+ years ago and some were designed by well-known architects.

Chicago is known for its diverse architectural styles. It is impossible to visit all the buildings during the Open House weekend, and especially if you only dedicate a few hours to seeing them. I had wanted to go downtown, but Saturday was unseasonably cold, so we chose an area that we could easily drive to and find parking near the various sites. Another priority was to get into buildings that are rarely open to the public.

We saw three sites on the Far North Side of Chicago. The first of these was a rarely-open old mansion, called the Gunder House at the Berger Park Cultural Center, 6219 N. Sheridan Road, in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago. This was a booming, affluent neighborhood in the early 1900s until after World War II.
20181013_124953This house was designed by Myron H. Church in the Classic Revival style and was completed in 1910. It was built for Samuel and Nettie Gunder, who paid $20,000 for it!

Like many of these historically significant buildings, there were many interesting details in the design as well as interesting doors and windows. I am going to blog about each of the sites, but this first post of OHC 2018 incorporates two photo challenges: Norm’s Thursday Doors and Nancy’s Photo a Week Through Glass.

We easily found street parking and headed for the front door, with the official OHC 2018 sign out front.
Same door, from the inside
Many of these big, old houses had several fireplaces, often beautifully decorated.
The Viatorian order of Catholic priests owned the Gunder House and neighboring mansion to house student priests for 30 years.  In 1945, the coach houses were converted to dormitories.
When they moved, the priests sold the mansions to the Chicago Park District in 1981 for half the price of offers from developers.


Internal door separating rooms, with beautiful stained glass ornamentation


The same door from the passageway behind it.

The ornamentation is based on the style of the Italian Renaissance.
Most of the rooms were nearly bare of furniture.


This group of arched mirrors shows the room behind me, with its curved alcove.


This is the same room from outside, in back of the house.

The design of the house reflects an early 20th century taste for historic-revival houses based on Classicism.


I climbed the stairway to take this photo of the windows on the stairwell. The 2nd floor was roped off.


Farther up the stairs is this little window.

The Park District had plans to demolish the house, but the community rallied to save it. It was restored, then used by a non-profit cultural center from 1987 to 2012.
Currently the mansion is in disrepair.  The Chicago Park District is renovating it with supplementary funds raised by Berger Park Advisory Council volunteers.
The Advisory Council hopes to generate public interest in the mansion’s use for community activities.

Having finished our tour of the first floor, we went out back to see the park’s children’s play area and view of Lake Michigan.



Samba: It’s All About Hips, Legs & Feet

Nancy Merrill’s Photo Challenge this week is movement.

In the early 1980s, when I was young and spry, I was living in Brazil and loved carnaval. I have never been much of a dancer, but I love to move to music and I did manage to roughly imitate the hip movement of samba. I actually learned the leg and foot movements recently, while taking a Zumba class. But now my knees are arthritic and hurt almost every time I try to do it! So I admire watching others!

I have posted a couple of photos from 90 Miles Cuban Café on the night they had a Brazilian band, Bossa Tres, for Becky’s Month of Squares challenge and Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge. I didn’t post the dancing, however! Most of these photos of the dancers are blurred, of course – because the dancers are moving FAST! (Also it was sort of dark in the café and I only had my cellphone camera to take photos.)

The band invited people to dance but this mostly American audience didn’t volunteer, not knowing what to do. At 9:45, the official dancers had not yet arrived, so the dance floor was still mostly empty. That was when friends of the band got up to show their samba moves.
Shortly after 10 o’clock, the two official dancers arrived, scantily clad, all feathery and glittery, to show their stuff.
One of the dancers gets a man from the audience to come out and “dance” with her, but he mostly looked bewildered.
He stayed out there as long as he could without seeming rude! The dancing went on until the end of the band’s set, around 10:30.
I  took a couple of videos, which I’ve been unable to download, so here is a demonstration from YouTube. (Watch at least into the 2nd minute, that’s when they do the fast hip movements.)



Tanzanian Nature’s White

Nancy Merrill Photography has a Photo a Week challenge and this week’s theme is “nature’s white.”

All of the following were taken from Feb. 6 to Feb. 10 in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area of northern Tanzania.

Kori bustard male displaying his “whites”!SONY DSC

Zebras are half white…
SONY DSC…and many birds are mostly white, like this yellow-billed stork,…
SONY DSC…cattle egrets,…SONY DSC
…the sacred ibis…
and the secretary bird.
There are white flowers, like cycnium…
and scorpion flower.
White mushrooms are somewhat universal; this one was growing on the southern Serengeti plain.
2-10 mushroom

All the photos except the last one were taken with a Sony A380. The mushroom was taken with a Samsung Galaxy 7.


A Photo a Week Challenge: Jewel Colors

Nancy Merrill has a Photo a Week Challenge with a theme this week of jewel colors.

Sea and sky – sapphire, pearl/mother of pearl, lapis lazuli20170324_163804.jpg

Décor on a cruise ship – Sapphire, amethyst, ruby, beryl, gypsum, peridot20170403_205604 (2)

Chicago at night – turquoise, sapphire, onyx20170920_191538.jpg

Chihuly detail – ruby, sapphire, amethyst, topaz, peridot, garnet, carnelian, moonstone20171110_101902 (2)

sunset at sea – topaz, onyx, agate, moonstone20171004_173346_001.jpg

my new Prius!! – opal, moonstone, sea pearl (that’s the name of its color)20171116_183525_001.jpg