chicago lakepath

Where I live is not my home. I am my home.

Pearly iridescence: A typical summer morning on the lake path

I’ve spent a lot of time in Chicago, but despite the number of years, I still consider Berlin more 'home' than Chicago. Perhaps it has to do with how comfortable I was with myself during the time I spent there. I visited the Art Institute and the Museum of Science and Industry in junior high and high school for field trips and weekends. Although I was also there in college, I hadn’t been outside of the education system where I had to actually make decisions by thinking for myself. Chicago has always been a place for me to prepare myself, so one day, I can move out.

"Where I live is not my home. I am my home." - Marianne Faithfull on her home tour via Nowness

During one summer living downtown, I started biking on the lake path. I’d get up in the morning and immediately go for a ride up to Lakeview to grab a cup of tea. Back then, I believed tea was much healthier than coffee, so even if I wanted to have coffee, I’d have tea. What’s healthier than a healthy morning bike ride? A healthy cup of tea.

Morning Tea at one of the best coffee places, Intelligentsia

I soon became addicted to riding in the morning. The sun shining on open waters was slightly different but always breathtaking. These photos were taken from one of the mornings.

It feels like you’re in paradise. But even that feeling doesn’t make me want to live there. I can see why Chicago can be an excellent place to live. Despite the amenities, for some reason, I can't imagine settling there.


Alentejo, Portugal

A very interesting middle of nowhere. Travel photos by Malcolm Bull.

"This is a church in the town of Campo Maior." and "an isolated cork oak tree in a vast rolling wheat field."

If you’ve ever been on a roadtrip in the US, a small town in Kansas can look very similar to a small town in Colorado. Similar styles of architecture and the same stores are available in most rural areas, along with the same Walmart, and similar Waffle Houses on the side of highways.

When I drive across Europe, the small towns outside big cities all have their own charm. You don’t have to go to a well-known touristy place to enjoy unique surroundings.

Alentejo is an agricultural region of Portugal. For over 300 years, the barks on the cork-oak trees are harvested there to make wine bottle corks. There’s a ton of wheat grown here as well.

While the middle of nowhere is really nothing special in the US, the middle of nowhere in any country in Europe is special. Flickr has been a great place to find original places to travel. Here are my favorite travel photos by Malcolm Bull, a Sussex based amateur photographer.

"the Pousada Hotel Flor da Rosa, near Crato, Alentejo, Portugal"

"Traditional blue patterned tiling on the outside of a house in Estremoz" and "bright white walls and potted flowers - Vila Viçosa"

"This cottage is on outskirts of Flor da Rosa, Alentejo." I love finding different details in different places, like the fenced in patio entrance.

"on a ranch in the middle of a vineyard - The Herdade da Malhadinha Nova"

All images and caption quotes by Malcolm Bull. View the entire album on Flickr.


local aspirations

I don't regularly come across new ideas.

Today, I came across a new idea: aspire to be what has been traditionally revered in your own locale. The principles behind the local food movement can also be applied to tradition and culture.

"Rather than wanting to be like one’s own parents, or like the successful baker down the block, or even the respected political leader, young people may want to be football heroes, or to produce videos for Youtube. They withdraw their attention from exemplars of their own local culture and may fail to acquire some of the skills and attitudes that made for success for previous generations and may be important in adapting to local environment. " - Jerome H. Barkow, How the Internet Subverts Culture


Moss Garden

Forest take-away.

A piece of the forest floor

Yesterday, I returned from the thrift store with two deep glass dishes, one with a lid and one without. I didn’t have any specific intentions with these glass containers. In the evening, for a flash second, I recalled seeing a photo online of a dining table with a bowl of mossy rocks used for the centerpiece. The headline mentioned how simple moss is to care for.

This morning, my husband and I went to the forest to forage for moss. I was determined to create some sort of terrarium with moss. We came home with a variety of lichen in addition to moss. With pebbles and soil, we recreated the forest floor.

My husband’s sister created a scene with a ton of variety (the first photo in this post). I really like how she put her’s together. So much variety can be seen in a well-arranged circle space. In the forest, it’s hard to notice the detailed pattern of the moss. I actually like hers more than mine.

Here's what we came across while foraging for materials:

I believe this is a type of reindeer lichen. I really like how the frosty green contrasts the deeper green moist moss.

The entire forest floor is a carpet of moss. It's very soft to step on. The weather was cold and damp, there was plenty of moss everywhere.

I would love to keep such a mushroom alive indoors. Unfortunately, it would probably start decaying if I tried bringing this Super Mario mushroom home.

Here we laid out the lichen, moss, a few succulents and natural 'props', like acrons, leaves and twigs.

Here's how my moss garden turned out. I hope it grows into the soil and becomes more lush overtime.


weekend snaps

Autumn air.

The last green leafy plants in the garden and flowers drying while dying.

This weekend I went to a very large thrift store. Made from a compound of tents, the shop had a department for anything that anyone would want for their home.

DVD's, old speakers and electronics along with toasters and coffee makers were housed in one tent. Another had table and bed linens. I spent most of my time exploring the patio where there were over ten back to back shelves of pottery and tableware.

Although it was cold, I was in a good mood, finding two bags of items that totalled to $15 but feeling more like I'd left with ten times the value.

The largest tents were filled with vintage furniture. Some kitschy, some tasteful. I posted a few snaps of the place via Instagram stories (@tforia and @tforia_journal).



My method of framing photos.

Back in the day, people framed everything

I don’t know anyone who frames their photos. Maybe it’s just people I know, but I can’t remember any friends taking a digital photo, going to a place to print it, then framing and hanging it.

I don’t intend on buying anything physical to frame my photos but I do feel that "framing" a photo may be the best way to finish the thoughts that snapshots represent. When I take photos of something that catches my eye, it’s because I feel something about the moment.

There are times where the feeling is programmed. Like when I visit a touristy spot, I want a souvenir to show others I’ve been there. There are other times when I’ve come across something trendy, like a hip cafe, and feel compelled to take a photo that’d be popular on Instagram. Although these instances compel me to photograph, the resulting photos are never my favorites.

In the moments I least understand, the instances where the images lie outside of what’s trendy, do I find my most meaningful photos.

This year, I started to explore the ideas behind photos I’m proud of. Most are less noticed details on side streets away from any flashy action. As I find out more about what draws me to certain imagery, I’m closer to understanding what I enjoy most in wandering random places and seeing new things. This method of 'framing' allows me to finish the thoughts that were started when I first took the snap.


My Sugar Sweet Sunshine

Memories of the cupcake fad

Pistachio cupcakes! A view of Rivington Street, where Sugary Sweet Sunshine is located.

When I lived in New York, Magnolia was known to have the 'best’ cupcakes. I disagreed and always preferred the pistachio or the red velvet from Sugar Sweet Sunshine. While Magnolia cakes are dense, Sugar Sweet Sunshine cakes are fluffy. This may seem to be the last thing on earth that would matter, but if cupcakes become part of your regular life, such details are very important.

How did I develop this cupcake habit? Magnolia’s was a fifteen minute walk from work and it was a place my coworker and I enjoyed walking to during breaks. Every other day, I had a cupcake and he had a sugar cookie.

Soon I got tired of the dense cakes and also opted in for cookies. The people at Magnolia’s started recognizing us and would offer us remnant cake. Imagine if a cake were scalped. Before decorating the larger cakes, the workers had to cut off the rounded tops so the cakes would all come out with flat tops. Right before handing us the cake tops, they’d slap on a thick layer of frosting.

Even though I stopped ordering cupcakes, I continued to eat Magnolia cake. I have difficulty in turning down free food, especially after burning calories on my walk over.

At the time I was dating a guy who believed I was just as interested as he was to visit his friends. Maybe I wasn’t good at communicating, but for me, these friends met the basic threshold for not being 'not fun’. There was effort, small, in mustering a laugh or a nod to whatever was being discussed. Not that they had anything less important to say, I’m the one talking about cupcakes.

When the friends moved to an apartment above Sugar Sweet Sunshine, I found myself enthusiastic about visiting. Moving to an apartment on top of a cupcake shop would end me, but it didn’t affect them whatsoever.

I can honestly say that this circumstance smoothed out a few rocky parts of a relationship that wasn’t meant to be. Anything can happen with just the right incentives.


Musée du Louvre

Crossing a 'desert' in the center of Paris.

A dry place, with no foliage, and tan surfaces all around

Gradients of sand colors, sharp shadows and curved slopes of worn brick were all I could see at nine in the morning. The skies were entirely blue. Under the sun, I had to take off my jacket, but in the shade, I had to put it back on and zip it all the way up. Although I was in the center of Paris, I felt more like walking in a desert dune.

Perhaps I was a bit delirious, since I was just getting over a flu on my trip to Paris many years ago. I decided to wander the Louvre neighborhood with no plans to enter, I was still recovering from the trauma of my first visit, a trip that ended in a five hour search for the door.

I sat on a bench within a courtyard and watched commuters emerge from dark arcades that led to the busy streets. Then my eyes adjusted to see the detailed sculptures perched up high. So many historical figures, all on surveillance of the comings and goings of living Parisians.

The first time I was introduced to Paris was when my aunt came back from a trip. She had purchased a large poster of the I.M. Pei pyramid and was proudly displaying it in her living room, telling my mom and other adults about the glass marvel.

I was confused. I thought the pyramid looked hideous. I remember how this event further added to the belief that adults are crazy. I was five at the time and had no concept of engineering or architecture. All I knew was that I preferred pyramids the way they were, in white limestone.

the I.M. Pei pyramids

During the unveiling of the Louvre poster, my aunt emphasized that I.M. Pei was a Chinese-American architect. Growing up in a Taiwanese family, the adults were concerned when China make attempts to exert influence on Taiwan. However, when someone Chinese is recognized internationally, the same adults were more than ready to pretend they’re on the same team. Just another instance that led me to believe adults are crazy.

Egyptian pyramids were popular topic back then. All museums had special exhibitions about mummies and burial tombs. The Egyptian craze ended with one of my favorite movies as a child, The Mummy.

My perspective never changed even when I finally stood in front of the I.M. Pei entrance. Perhaps that allowed me to focus on the less-iconic: the architecture of the palace.


Cacti Farming

Experimental cacti from 1912.

"Plant life is my one absorbing thought night and day."

Luther Burbank was a horticulturalist who developed hundreds of new strains of plants, including the potato most used in McDonald’s french fries.

In a pamphlet published in 1912, the Luther Burbank company outlines the benefits of the spineless cacti, a strain of cacti Luther developed to provide farm animals with superior feed.

"The whole plant, both the leaves and the fruit, almost without exception, finds immediate favor with all herbivorous animals."

"They actually prefer it to almost any other food. More than that, it makes a superior quality of beef and exceedingly rich milk."

"Even now, the best butter is being made from dairy herds fed on singed wild cactus…"

The ways that the images describe the scale of the cacti show details of that time period. A guy in a top hat and an old suitcase stand next to plants so readers get a sense of the scale.

The quirky images brought me into the world of cacti farming, something I never imagined I would be interested in.

All images via Luther Burbank’s Spineless Cactus, 1912.


A Walled Garden Over Prague

Flowers and trees behind a medieval wall.

a quiet place to sit in one of the most touristy cities

The first time I thought gardening was interesting was when I saw photos of Martha Stewart’s new home. I don't remember which publication, it was 15 years ago, but the magazine featured Martha’s outdoor space, forest trees with light streaming onto mossy stone steps. There was a misty atmosphere and the pine needles seemed to have just gently fallen in all the right places.

these steps reminded me of a garden I saw in a magazine many years ago

What I remembered most was that everything looked natural, although it couldn’t have been. The stone steps were etched in my memory, so effortlessly placed on a path that led through the trees.

When my husband and I came across a garden at the top of a hill overlooking Prague, I saw a set of stone stairs that instantly brought me back to when I flipped through those images of Martha’s home. I loved how overgrown the garden was, vines intertwining, flowers toppling over each other.

wily vines growing over the fortress wall

Of course there’s planning involved in designing the landscape but there seems to be an equal amount of allowance for nature to take its course. On top of that, this small garden was contained behind a medival fortress wall. It felt so secure, to be quietly tucked in a lush and peaceful space.

overlooking Prague

Just like the unexpected garden in Giardini, the experience of finding solitude in one of the most touristy cities was once again was one of the most memorable moments, and completely unexpected.