L-APC: A Change of Scenery During the Pandemic

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #140 is called A Change of Scenery. This week’s host, Wandering Dawgs, says:

I have the honor of hosting this week’s Lens-Artists photo challenge. If you are able to do so, we are challenging you to get out and look for a change of scenery. You don’t have to go far from home. It can be in your neighborhood, town, or even a car ride away. Maybe there is a nearby park you haven’t been to in a while, or maybe you’ve been wanting to try a different route on your walk, run, or bike ride. If you are unable to get out right now, we’d love for you to browse through your archives to feature images from places you have visited in the past when you needed a change of scenery.

We have made a few day trips into the city of Chicago and out to the western and northern suburbs. Here are some “changes of scenery” that we experienced during the pandemic.

In April, we got into the car and just drove. We ended up in Woodstock, IL (where Groundhog Day was filmed). We turned right at this bridge to get to the town.

It was early in the pandemic and few people were out. Woodstock’s downtown has many historic buildings, including an opera house turned theater where musicals and plays are performed. This photo shows the historic town hall – the little building to the right was the original town hall!

In May and June, we visited natural wildlife areas, hoping to get some good photos of birds and other wildlife. We went to Cuba Marsh Forest Preserve twice.

We also went to Volo Bog wildlife preserve, but saw mostly frogs and some pretty flowers, including some wild irises.

In September, we drove out to the western suburbs to see a few places we had read about in the local newspaper. In Wheaton, we explored “Cantigny,” the estate of Col. Robert McCormick, named for Cantigny, France where McCormick had shown exceptional leadership and bravery during World War I. He and his wife are buried on the estate, above the scene of the gardens and pond.

The Inverness Town Hall is notable for the four silo-like towers that dwarf the building itself.

Twice in the fall we visited St. Charles for a sculpture park there. The first time it started to rain before we had seen all the sculptures, so we went back a second time. The main attraction is a sculpture of the Humpty Dumpty-like Mr. Eggwards, who sits on a stone fence alongside the park.

The Chicago Art Institute had reopened with an extended stay of a Monet exhibit, but we went on the one day of the week that it was closed! So we went to nearby Millennium Park instead, and took in the Art Institute on another day. Although it was a beautiful sunny day, we saw few people, because it was during the autumn surge of Covid-19. Most people were not venturing out in order to avoid crowds – which we avoided too, since there weren’t enough people there to be a crowd! Here is the famous “Bean,” our nickname for the Cloud Gate sculpture. Usually one can walk around and under it, but it was roped off.

Now that spring is here, we will soon be venturing out again to explore more of our environs. Since we are fully vaccinated, we may even risk a 2-3 day weekend trip!

CFFC: Animal Art

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week has the topic Non-Alive Animals. Of course, any representation of an animal has a real animal in mind as the artist creates it. But the rendition may be very close in appearance to the real animal, or it may be whimsical, or abstract. It all depends on the craftsman’s talent and point of view.

It was hard to choose photos for this post – so many to choose from! Everywhere I go, locally or abroad, there is animal art. Animals have been subjects for every kind of art imaginable for thousands of years…

Such as the first known painting in the world, a painting of Egyptian geese on papyrus at the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo,

and the god Horus, usually represented as a hawk, at the Temple of Horus in Edfu, Egypt.

Also at the Egyptian Museum is a throne of King Tutankhamun, whose tomb was not found until 1922, with most of its grave goods intact – it hadn’t been subjected to many tomb robberies!

This elaborate throne contains many symbols and images of gods, such as twin lions on the front. One of ancient Egypt’s sacred symbols was the scarab beetle, depicted in the cartouche on the front of the arm; the hieroglyphics within the cartouche generally are names of kings, so this may have been Tuthankhamun’s. Embracing the throne of either side are the wings of the vulture, a bird considered to be a protector of kings. In this case, he represents the king-god himself, wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt.

The ancient Chinese civilization also had many animal representations, one of the most common being the guardian lion. This one is in front of a restaurant, House of Szechwan, in Des Plaines, Illinois.

Generally depicted in pairs, guardian lions stood in front of imperial palaces, tombs, temples, government buildings, and the homes of the wealthy. The concept was to show the emotion of the animal, in this case ferocity, as a symbol of protection.

Deriving from this Chinese custom, there are people today who have a pair of lions as lawn ornaments, like this one in Des Plaines. He might look more ferocious if freshly painted!

Here are another example of a Des Plaines lawn ornament, this cute little bird sitting on an orb.

There were many whimsical animals on display for sale or as decoration in the charming small town of Poulsbo, Washington, north of Tacoma.

In Evanston, Illinois, there is a little known museum called the American Toby Jug Museum, which we discovered during Chicago’s annual Open House in October. Toby Jugs are ceramic figures, usually depicting well known persons, but also animals. The history of the toby jug, or philpot, dates back to 18th century potters in Staffordshire, England and was popularized by colonists in the United States. The top of each toby jug has a spout for pouring, but nowadays, these figurines are primarily for ornamentation or collections.

After the wedding we attended near Poulsbo, Washington, we spent a day in Tacoma before returning to Seattle for our flight home. There is a beautiful Museum of Glass there, which has many objects designed by the famous Dale Chihuly, but there is also a fine collection of glass sculptures by other artists, such as this beautiful horse.

Horses are the subject of many works of art, including statues of famous heroes mounted on horses in many European cities, but I am only including two 2-dimensional renditions, one a drawing of a palomino I drew a few days ago, and another one at a short film display at the Ij (Eye) Museum in Amsterdam.

While in Amsterdam, we visited the Oude Kerk, the oldest building in Amsterdam, founded circa 1213 CE. Under the seats of the choir were unique carvings – some rather bawdy! – including this one of a pig.

Most people love animals, and there are many examples of whimsical animals to delight human sensibilities. In the gardens behind Melk Abbey in Austria are some cute creatures, mostly fantastical combinations of human and animal, but there was this turtle:

In Passau, Germany, which we had visited the previous day while on our Viking European cruise, while walking around town on our own, we came across a dachshund museum! Big and little dachshund statues were in front of it.

Who could resist being delighted by several painted cows in the town across from Mont St-Michel in France? Here is one of them, my personal favorite (I love that bright blue udder!).

Our daughter loves Hello Kitty, and for her bridal shower, Hello Kitty was the theme! I bought these as party favors.

Some animal sculptures are cute,

At Mount St. Mary Park in St. Charles, Illinois

but some can be a bit intimidating!…

Giant spider at Pappajohn Sculpture Park in Des Moines, Iowa

and some are reminders of favorite movies, such as this groundhog in Woodstock, Illinois, where Groundhog Day was filmed.

CFFC: International Business

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge has the theme “all about buildings.” This week’s topic is commercial buildings or store fronts.

One of the fun things about traveling is all the different types of architecture you see. So I am posting photos of a variety of architectural styles and colors from some of my recent trips.

An upscale shop in Cologne, Germany
Souvenir shop in Cologne with lovely wood carving.
Detail on the wall of a bakery in Miltenberg, Germany
A variety of things are for sale in this typically German shop, in Miltenberg

A drugstore in Wurzburg, Germany
Schlenkera Brewery, Bamberg, Germany
Colorful souvenir shop in Nuremberg, Germany
Riverside commercial area, Nuremberg
Tattoo parlor and smoke shop in Regensburg, Germany
Colorful commercial street in Budapest, Hungary
Café in the Jewish Quarter, Budapest
Bakery in Highwood, Illinois, USA
Downtown street with empty storefronts in Woodstock, Illinois (this was during the early lockdown days at the beginning of April, 2020).
Woodstock, Illinois – you can see how empty this downtown commercial street is.
Entrance to a shopping center in Tel Aviv, Israel
Arabic signs over stores in Bethlehem, Israel
Also in Bethlehem
Israeli version of Starbucks (Bethlehem)
Children’s books (and it seems like a lot of other things) are for sale in this hip neighborhood of Denver, Colorado.
Southwestern adobe style is common in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
More Pueblo style architecture in Santa Fe
Colorful hues in Tucumcari, New Mexico
You can get married and then go next door and have old time photos made! (Tucumcari)
Northwestern USA style in Poulsbo, Washington
Poulsbo, Washington – love that onion-dome style “tower” on top of this bookstore!
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Wind socks flutter in front of this kitschy gift shop, Poulsbo, WA

Perspectives of a Stairway

During the lockdown, we took a little jaunt out of metro Chicago and found ourselves in the town of Woodstock, IL. Woodstock is most famous for its historical square in the center of town, dominated by the imposing Woodstock Opera House. It is now used as a theatre and arts center. Here are 2 perspectives of a long stairway that stretches up one side of the building; in the one taken from the side across the street, you can see the two landings, where there are access doors on different floors.

Which photo do you think makes the stairway look longer and harder to climb? Which do you find more aesthetically interesting?

Sunday Stills: Getting It Straight

Terri Webster Schrandt has a Sunday photo challenge, Sunday Stills. The theme this week is straight.

Apartment building (Woodstock, IL)

Here’s a place I’ve really been missing the last few months – the library! (Des Plaines, IL)


Under these floor tiles, several hundred people were buried during the Middle Ages! (Oude Kerk, Amsterdam)

Bridges: Pegasus Bridge (Normandy, France)

Bridge over a river on the border of Germany and Austria (near Scharding, Austria)

A tall house (Mont St-Michel, France)

Entrance to a graveyard (Merville-Franceville-Plage, France)

A straight and narrow street in Passau, Germany

Ornate fence in front of the World Museum in Vienna, Austria

Thursday Doors: Woodstock

Thursday of last week  (is that all? It seems longer!), we were going stir crazy from being stuck at home, and decided to take a ride into the countryside. No harm if there’s no one around, right?

We were also looking for hand sanitizer and after going into three stores, we went to Walgreens. They are keeping hand sanitizer under the counter at the check-out, and rationing it so everyone has a chance to get some. They were just two small bottles, but I think they’ll be enough for now! And they have aloe!20200402_164833

In our quest for hand sanitizer, we ended up going straight up Hwy 14 (Northwest Hwy) and passed through a lot of little towns.

So we ended up, not in the country, but in Woodstock, Illinois! Woodstock is a historic town and was the site for filming of the movie Groundhog Day.  As we walked the streets of downtown Woodstock, we did see a few references to this claim to fame.

Almost all the stores were closed, of course, and we only saw a few other people pass by. One had a dog on a long leash and Dale stopped to pet it. But what I was really interested in was the Woodstock Opera House! An opera house is probably the last thing I would expect to see in Woodstock, so I was eager to have a look.DSC02830
The opera house is the largest building in Woodstock. Of course, I had to get a few close-ups of its doors!
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Side view of the building:
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In Groundhog Day, the building was featured as the Pennsylvanian Hotel. It was built in 1889, designed to be a multi-purpose facility and also housed some city administrative offices, police and fire departments.  It became McHenry County’s center for entertainment by traveling vaudeville, minstrel and drama companies.

There have been several renovations to the building. The interior has been fully modernized, including the technology used in modern entertainment shows, yet it retains its historic character.

The City of Woodstock owns the building but it is now used solely as a performance venue and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Perpendicular to the opera house on the historic square in downtown Woodstock is the old County Courthouse and Jail.
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The old courthouse was built in 1857, to closely resemble the Cook Co. Courthouse, built four years earlier, but the Cook Co. Courthouse was eventually destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. This building is also on the National Register of Historic Places and now houses various private businesses as well as a restaurant and art gallery.
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Next to the old courthouse is the old county jail, famous for holding labor leader Eugene Debs, who organized the Pullman strike, which was ruled illegal. He spent six months in the jail and he became good friends with the warden and his family. The old courthouse functioned as a courthouse until 1973.
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This structure was built in 1887 as the Sheriff’s House and Jail.
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We walked around the mostly deserted historic square, where I took these photos of doors and other sights.

A lot of doorways had signs on them saying the business was closed for quarantine.

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I think this used to be a door – from the markings on the bricks below, there might have been a stairway up to it at one time.

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Even the little library (left) had a sign that it was closed due to the quarantine!

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This tour of Woodstock was sponsored by Norm’s Thursday Doors.  Historical information on the opera house and the old courthouse was obtained from Wikipedia.