A walk through Ryerson Woods

When I lived in Arizona, I was spoiled with the beauty of national parks within a few hours’ drive. Moving to the Illinois prairie I didn’t expect anything spectacular from nature. However, every time I visit a new nature preserve or park, I am pleasantly surprised.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

I use Illinois State Parks: A Guide to Illinois State Parks by Bill Bailey  and Country Walks in the Chicago Region by Alan Fisher as starting points for my excursions. Recently I also started perusing the Cook County and Lake County Forest Preserve web sites for information.

Recently, I’ve discovered a new preserve just under an hour’s drive away from my home. The Edward L. Ryerson Conservation Area, better known as Ryerson Woods, is a peaceful nature preserve that caters to the whole family. When I first looked at the web site, I was intrigued by the mention of praying mantids.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Just off I-94, the visitor center was easy to find. On a Sunday it opens at 11, so I was a bit early. A monarch lured me onto the path without a map, however.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

I followed the obvious trail (mowed grass) and was observed by a deer in the distance.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

As I kept wandering, I enjoyed the lush woods, and was fascinated by the number of critters.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Now I wasn’t a big fan of spiders and mosquitos either, but Lauren Levato’s Facebook feed has shown me that the less-appreciated insects are living beings too, and I’m slowly adjusting to that concept.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Which is a good thing, because I invariable inched close to plants that had a vast amount of spiders on them!

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

After a bit of meandering, I came upon a lovely cabin, with a fabulous view.

Who wouldn’t want to live on this overlook at Ryerson Cabin?

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

It is my understanding that the preserve was originally a development for summer homes, until the owners of the lots slowly donated their land to the park system.

A second cabin, the Smith River Cabin, had a lovely exhibit about the Des Plaines River, and Illinois’ glacial history. It was also surpisingly cool in that cabin on a 96-degree (Fahrenheit) day.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

It was nice to pretend I lived here for a day.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

And, so much for being away from it all, a map is available on mobile devices! 🙂

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

I spotted a Tiger Swallowtail and what I think might have been a Pipevine Swallowtail. Both fluttered too fast to snap. It is dragonfly and damselfly season too, and a few accommodated my lens.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Some wildflowers…

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

The 6-mile trail circled me back to the visitor center, which also hosts a mini-farm with chickens, a turkey, sheep and two exotic birds for educational programs.

The bathrooms in the visitor center were clean, and I refilled my bottles with cold fountain water.

On a second round through he ‘internal’ trails, I came upon Brushwood, the former summer mansion of Edward Ryerson, and a Historic Place.

From 11 am to 3 pm the home is open for tours. It hosts a lovely library of antique nature books, and the park partners with the Field Museum to rotate small animal and insect dioramas, which can actually be checked out upon request.

This area also has a trail designed for those with disabilities.

This gem is a great getaway for families with members of all ages. The trails are flat and wide, and easy to walk, and the staff is very helpful and knowledgeable.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Although I wasn’t able to spot mantids, I saw plenty of other critters.

Illinois also has bogsmoraines and small-scale limestone canyons.

You don’t always have to take a road trip to recharge in nature either. There are smaller nature preserves sprinkled throughout Chicagoland that offer a lot of wildlife flanked by highways and railroad tracks.

Just google “Nature Preserve” with your zip code and see what comes up. Your state or county will likely have parks and forest designated web sites as well.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels


“A woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing.
She goes where she will without pretense and
arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and only herself.”
~ Maya Angelou

I’m traveling this week, so while the blog drafts are percolating, I’ll leave you with these two lovely thoughts.

 “All of life is a journey
which paths we take, what we look back on,
and what we look forward to is up to us.
We determine our destination,
what kind of road we will take to get there, and
how happy we are when we get there.”
~ unattributed 

Professional vs. my own art photos, what a difference!

Several weeks ago I took my art work to a professional photoshoot with Tom van Eynde.

I have learned that art photography is a new skillset from just taking photographs in nature or of people. There is often ‘headstone’ effect when I try to take 2-D art work pictures. The key is to really center your work, and to have proper lighting.

Comparing my shots to those of Tom, I can see what a difference the right setup makes. There are no weird shadows and the light on the piece is nicely balanced with artificial light from both sides than the natural light photos I took.

Even smaller works, which are easier to crop and shoot, produced richer colors.

My Art Marketing class had a demonstration about how to take one’s own photos, and I plan to keep learning and experimenting, but for now I am submitting Tom’s photos for calls for art.

Have you experimented with art photography? What setup works best for you?

WINners at the first WINniversary

“WIN started with an idea and friends,
and grew with friends we didn’t know we were going to make.
You are the structure and flowers of WIN,
and it is an ongoing joy to get to see this flower open.”

~ Valerie Beck

Tuesday was a celebratory day for me. I was inducted into Women’s Innovation Network’s Hall of WINners, which is such an honor. The Hall of WINners consists of people who supported WIN with loyalty, a positive attitude, commitment and innovation. My fellow inductees are lovely ladies (and one man) who truly reflect those traits, and who are becoming friends as I get to know them better.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

“I knew right away (from the first Spa & Cupcakes)
that this is the right place to be”

~ Erica Smith 

What’s even nicer is that I don’t feel like I did anything special. How cool is it to be recognized for just being yourself?

copyright Maike's Marvels

 Photo by Yasmina Marie Slimani of Belle D’Argane

“WIN is warm, inviting and neverending smiles.”
~ Mary Doherty-Monahan 

We had a fabulous luncheon. Lee Wing Wah prepared a lovely array of dishes that I soon lost count of, which were set out on lazy susans so we could serve ourselves buffet style. The lovely Kelly Baskin sang Seasons of Love to open our festivities.

“I’ve met terrific people.
I like the fact that Valerie is genuinely concerned that
business owners meet people they can do business with.”

Gayle Newcomb 

Valerie Beck and Erica Thomas presented a look back, which is nicely summarized in this video (I blame the giggles on champagne bubbles):

Of course, it wouldn’t be WIN without a look forward, and Valerie announced the new imprint, WINning books, the publishing arm of the Women’s Innovation Network. The web page with more information will launch soon. The inaugural book is available via this link.

“In 1942, the men were at war and all businesses were run by women.
In the 1950s the women gave up the businesses.
I’m glad to see we’re all back in business.”

~ Marcia Miller, (Erica’s) Mom of the Year

In addition, upgrades to WIN’s member web site were announced, with an upcoming searchable directory, a listserve, and a document cloud for event details and past fireside chats. We will also expand to other cities.

“WIN is supportive. You can call or e-mail anyone for help.”
~ Fernanda Hopkins 

We were then inducted into the Hall of Fame, and pulled off a surprise gift for Valerie and Erica (yay!).

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

 Photo by Yasmina Marie Slimani of Belle D’Argane

“I see energy and positivity in WIN, and that’s Valerie.”
~ Joy Beck, (Valerie’s) Mom of the Year

Swirlz Cupcakes provided special lemon-cupcakes for dessert, with pearls on top!

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

“I now ask myself: ‘What would Valerie do?’” 
Pam Rose, Swirlz Cupcakes

Kelly Baskin brought the house down with This Little Light of Mine.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

I had a vendor table alongside Belle D’Argane, Lia Sophia and LimoBank, which was fun as well.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

“WIN is all energy, all business, all innovation”
DaShan Thomas, Man of the Year 

I had saved up for the bracelet Mary loaned me at the Candy Gala, so it was double fun to shop for sparklies myself.

photo copyright DaShan Thomas

Photo courtesy DaShan Thomas

It was a lovely afternoon with great momentum to kick off year 2 of this fabulous organization.

photo copyright Women's Innovation Network

Photo courtesy Women’s Innovation Network

More photos available here.

“I look at all you beautiful ladies and I see
you grow your business with a positive attitude.
A positive attitude is what we need as women about ourselves and about our business.”
~ Sheena Freeman, (DaShan’s) Mom of the Year

ADDENDUM: As of March 10, 2013, I no longer support the WIN Board and its actions. However, I do support small business, women-owned businesses, and the gracious hosts of past WIN events.

Shawna Moore and Friends exhibit

Last Friday I attended Zhou B Art Center’s third Friday festivities. The building opens from 7 to 10 pm every third Friday to host exhibit openings and allow the public to peruse artist studios.

art work by Tom Meyer and Isabelle Gougenheim

First, I stopped by Jenny Learner’s studio to explore the art work my fellow workshop attendees have created. There is such talent and creativity in the Shawna Moore and Friends show.

encaustic paintings by Shawna Moore

Studio 303: works by
Isabelle Gougenheim, Bridgette Guerzon Mills and Shawna Moore

It was nice to catch up with everyone after not seeing each other for a few weeks.

art work by Lisa Dartt, Barbette Loevy, Tom Meyer, Helene Bizouerne

art work by VA de Pintor, Barbette Loevey, Isabelle Gougenheim,
Jenny Learner, Elyse Martin

encaustic paintings by Tom Meyer

encaustic collages by Kathy Blankley Roman and Maike’s Marvels

red art by Jenny Learner and Maike’s Marvels

green art by Madeline True and Jenny Learner

Madeline True, Kathy Blankley Roman and Barbette Loevy

Jenny also let us experiment with new tools, which introduced me to monoprinting.

monoprinting with new tools 

It was a lovely evening, and I am honored to have my pieces on display here.

Studio 303 is on the third floor of the Zhou B Art Center (1029 W 35th St. Chicago, IL 60609). To stop by and see my work, which will be up through July 14, contact Jenny.

The fortune’s in the followup

“Come to the luncheon
to see women who are moving forward in their dreams,”
~ Fernanda Hopkins

Tomorrow, the Women’s Innovation Network will celebrate its first anniversary with a luncheon at the original site of the first meeting in 2011. The luncheon will feature fabulous food, an engaging program including a recap video of the year, award-winners, and a few vendors.

I look forward to celebrating this milestone and being inducted into the WIN Hall of Fame. You can purchase tickets online here ($15), and also get them at the door.


“It’s heartwarming that this community
has started (beyond WIN events).”
~ Erica Thomas

We had fun planning for the luncheon and upcoming events during our committee meeting on Friday, which was held at Fabcakes.

Committee meetings follow the monthly Innovation Circle, which was held at Lissa boutique this month, in a neighborhood where an episode of Boss was filmed that morning.

Lissa boutique focuses on modern, sophisticated architectural fashion. Owner Lissa likes to balance the masculine and the feminine in the garments she selects. Her clothes and accessories come from New York, Australia, Brazil, Sweden, South Korea, Macedonia and Thailand.

Although a high-fashion store, Lissa and her manager Linda pride themselves on being accessible to anyone.

“You can run your business and be
a kind accepting person to anyone.” 

~ Lissa, owner of Lissa Boutique

We admired the structure and color of some garments, and a few of us enjoyed trying pieces on after Valerie Beck presented her tips.

This month’s Innovation topic was Top 5 ways to Follow Up:

  1. It shows you care: If you take the time to go to an event, you should take the time to follow up.
  2. Follow up before you forget to follow up, within two to three days
  3. Connecting is for giving, not for getting: find a way to provide something helpful to the person you connected with
  4. Share a helpful invitation to events that may be helpful to them and that help build your relationship
  5. Keep in touch, sometimes it takes 5-7 touchpoints to connect

Valerie Beck also presented the soft launch of WINning books, a publishing imprint WIN authors will have access to later this month. WINning books will offer a menu of publishing options to help those aspiring to write a book to get it out to the public. More information will be revealed later on.

ADDENDUM: As of March 10, 2013, I no longer support the WIN Board and its actions. However, I do support small business, women-owned businesses, and the gracious hosts of past WIN events.

Experimental Encaustic workshop with Shawna Moore

“We are all trying to get to our own place (in art).”
Shawna Moore

Tonight the Shawna Moore and Friends exhibit opens at Studio 303. Several FUSEDChicago members will have work up, including yours truly. You can peruse our works from 7 to 10 p.m. on the third floor of the Zhou B Art Center at 1029 West 35th Street.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

In May I attended a two-day workshop with Shawna at Jenny Learner’s studio. Shawna’s introductory video intrigued me (which is now Moby’s Everloving music video in my head), and I eagerly anticipated working alongside fellow encaustic artists.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Shawna grew up in Oregon. After studying architecture in college she lived in Santa Fe for a while, where she discovered encaustics. That locale was an overload for art, she said, and she found her personal aesthetic after moving to Montana, which is more isolated. Shawna feels that having a sense of art history helps inform her work, but she stressed that each individual must determine what type of (formal or informal) art education is important to them.

“I need to know who the modern painters are and woman painters.
Encaustic painting attracts women.
I feel I should steep myself into art history.”
~ Shawna Moore

On day one we discussed studio safety at length. Because we work with heat and fumes, ventilation is critical when working with wax. Shawna also recommended using gloves as we work with oil paints, and to scrape away from our bodies as we handle razorblades and sharp mark-making tools. We were given some great handouts, and most encaustic painting books discuss safety in your studio-set-up as well.

“We live in a world with little control.
In the studio I am the queen of the world.”
~ Shawna Moore

Shawna starts her paintings with beeswax and colors the beeswax as well. It is not as shiny and hard as encaustic medium, which makes beeswax a good material for experimenting, she said. Local beekeepers can provide beeswax bricks, and there are resources online. She does recommend using encaustic medium (a combination of beeswax and resin) on the top layers for longevity of art work.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Recently, Shawna has also started working with R&F Paints, which distributes encaustic medium, pigmented encaustic paint, and a variety of encaustic art supplies.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Shawna demonstrated creating smooth surfaces and having transparency in paintings. The transparency is achieved by gradually tinting the beeswax or medium with a pigment stick-which creates tonality as the layers build up. We were given an overview of color theory as Shawna discussed layering.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

“You fuse, you lose.”
~ a Shawna Moore Commandment

The smoothness and texture of a painting depends on tools used. Shawna likes using the Burton Hotstick Iron (designed for snowboards), as well as torches to smooth her surfaces. I stuck to the heat gun on day one, but experimented with the Iwatani Cooking Torch Jenny had on hand on day two, which does give more control when used correctly.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

“We’re building this language,
this dialogue between us and the materials.
It becomes very personal.”

~ Shawna Moore

We were tasked with using only beeswax, painters’ grey and burnt umber to create a smooth surface. Shawna also demonstrated mark-making and creating texture with oil paint, sumi-e ink, carbon paper and carving tools, which we were to emulate.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Demonstration piece by Shawna Moore

It was fun experimenting next to Bridgette Guerzon Mills, whose work is far more opaque. Bridgette wrote about the workshop on her blog. Her work hangs next to Shawna’s in Jenny’s studio, and you can view both on Friday evening and throughout the month.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

My piece was not my own language yet, but I enjoyed stepping out of my comfort zone of color and collage and doing something different.

photo and art work copyright Maike's Marvels

On Sunday Shawna recapped her Saturday demonstration for the newbies, and we added collage, color and composition to our palette, which was more up my alley. We discussed the strategic components of composition, color theory (warm vs cool tones) and creating depth.

Demonstration piece by Shawna Moore

Getting feedback on my map piece (below, Shawna’s is above) while it was in progress was very refreshing, and encourages me to take advantage of open studios for more collaborative work in the future.

photo and art work copyright Maike's Marvels

“We are all going to bring in things about the painting
that is beyond the technique.
The act of art making brings my emotions
and my experience into play.” 
Shawna Moore

As always, the variety of work created reflected the talent and personality of the other artists. I really look forward to seeing the work of Helene Bizouerne, Elyse Martin, Lisa Dartt, Thomas Meyer, VA dePintor, Isabelle Gougenheim, Jenny Learner, Katheen Blankley Roman, Barbette Loevy and Madeline True in one place this evening. The exhibit will be up through July 14. The Zhou B Art Center also houses more than 50 artists open studios and several galleries.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Ladies who lunch

“What WIN really brings to me is a lot of possibility.
When you’re on your own you can get down.
WIN has a good energy, a good vibe. There is solidarity.”
~ Yasmina Marie Bacon, Belle d’Argane

Next Tuesday (June 19), the Ladies (and gents) of WIN will gather to celebrate a milestone. Last year at this time, two determined entrepreneurial ladies embarked on a new beginning, forming an organization of support, information sharing and social responsibility with the aim to uplift and energize: the Women’s Innovation Network. The actual mission of WIN is “to foster massive business growth for women entrepreneurs, through innovation, inclusion, and inspiration, in a positive and ethical environment.” 

photo courtesy Valerie Beck

The very first WIN luncheon in 2011

The ladiesofwin web site was launched from the car right before the first WIN luncheon. Co-founder Erica Thomas said that she and Valerie Beck had an idea for a new type of organization, but did not anticipate how many other people would dedicate their time, energy and spirit to WIN. 

WIN co-founders Erica Thomas and Valerie Beck

“Besides the networking that we do at WIN
we go to other events (members participate in).
It evolves into other connections.”

~ Chris Pierucci, Final Draft  

Since the first Women’s Innovation Network luncheon, the (nonprofit) organization implemented regular monthly events: Spa & Cupcakes on the first Tuesday of the month, Innovation Circles on the third Friday of the month, and Fireside chats on the last Sunday of the month. Meanwhile, special events like panel discussions, trade fair exhibits, one-day and multi-day retreats, days of service and glamorous galas provide further cause for celebration, inspiration, and connecting. 

“I love that we always have the ability to give back.
You always learn something at an Innovation Circle.”

~ Fernanda Hopkins, KBBC 

The drive of cofounders Valerie Beck and Erica Thomas inspires a zest for life, entrepreneurship and fun which energizes each of us into creating a better future for our business and for our community. 

photo courtesy DaShan Thomas

Just after the first luncheon, the first annual summer retreat was held in Geneva, IL. The second summer retreat will be held July 17 to 19 (for day-trippers, the 18th is the recommended day to attend). Deemed “Tuscany on the Fox River,” Erica Thomas promised pampering, educational sessions, and a pajama movie night.

“I know you’re going places, it’s exciting.”
~ Mary Doherty-Monahan, Lia Sophia

The first anniversary luncheon will be held at Lee Wing Wah restaurant in Chicago’s Chinatown at 2147 S. China Place, 15 minutes from downtown. Tickets are $15 per person, including lunch and tea. Parking is available in the nearby lot at Wentworth and Cermak. 

“We believe in networking and having fun.
Why not have fun with what you do?”

~ Erica Thomas, Massupdater.com

ADDENDUM: As of March 10, 2013, I no longer support the WIN Board and its actions. However, I do support small business, women-owned businesses, and the gracious hosts of past WIN events.


“Generally, by the time your are Real,
most of your hair has been loved off,
and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.
But these things don’t matter at all,
because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly,
except to people who don’t understand.” 

~ The Skin Horse
in The Veleveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

On Sunday I lost my 17-year-old cat. She was with me through college, saw me through career changes, and accompanied me on various moves. It is weird not having her around anymore. When I read The Golden Compass’ description of deamons years ago, it resonated with me.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

At 6 weeks old, she followed me with her eyes on adoption day while her six siblings were playing or snoozing in the cage.

She would confiscate books for napping (Geology was her favorite) when she felt I should take a break from my studies. She probably earned a Bachelor of Arts by osmosis. I’d confer her a Doctorate in the art of purring, with a minor in napping.

She served as a comfort and perspective-provider during various career changes and several moves. She also served as Chief Tuna Officer at my old venture Content Solutions from 2001-2004.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

She developed chronic kidney failure in 2006, but kept defying prognoses by remaining stable with her treatment plan. Even a heart murmur led to an unusual diagnosis, her heart had tilted but the shift was not life threatening.

Over time she stopped climbing up high, and just recently became a floor-dweller when jumping on the sofa proved too strenuous. Unfortunately her feisty spirit could no longer fight the muscle loss that comes with her disease. When she was no longer able to support her own weight, I had to let her go.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

I am comforted that on the other side she has the company of several feline and canine brothers, sisters and cousins, and our Velveteen Lop.

On the heels of losing her, the frailty of human life is top of mind with other losses as well. Life is precious, and creatures of all kinds can depart at any moment, regardless of age and health status. I feel for everyone involved, and miss those who have gone too soon.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

“Death ends a life, not a relationship.”
Jack Lemmon 


on socializing with strangers

“People think a spa is an indulgence,
but it really is about wellness.
You  need to take care of yourself.” 
~ Asha Spa Manager 

Tuesday I attended the monthly Spa & Cupcakes at Asha Spa in the Felix Hotel. I’d never been in this corner of the loop before, and enjoyed the quirky statues greeting me.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

I had to take a break from the Women’s Innovation Network events in May due to my project schedule, so it was nice to see everyone again, and also meet new people in quite an intimate setting. Designed for relaxation, the small room forced us to literally rub elbows as we navigated mingling, getting treatments, and savoring cupcakes.

“How to network in a room full of strangers” was the topic du jour for Valerie Beck. Her tips include:

  1. Go to give, not to get. By taking the focus off yourself, and thinking of how you can help others, your nerves will settle too.
  2. Survey the scene calmly. Take a deep breath and say: “let me meet the people I need to meet.” This will help you calm down.
  3. Reach out: Walk up to the people you’d like to meet, particularly the ones who seem to be having fun.
  4. Smile. Survey the people and align yourself with the cheerful types.
  5. The fortune is in the follow-up (not just financially but also from a relationship perspective). Ask for a business card or handwrite contact information, so you can keep in touch with those you met and continue to build the relationship.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

We enjoyed putting these new tips into practice right then and there. Meanwhile, Asha Spa provided hand-massages, body balancing, mini-makeovers and eyebrow design. Asha has “a collection of spas” throughout Chicagoland, including the suburbs.

Swirlz provided the yummy cupcakes, made with a special Italian buttercream recipe. In six years, Swirlz has created 600 flavors. You might want to take a cupcake tour to learn more about them!

WIN is celebrating its one-year anniversary this month, and will host an anniversary luncheon on June 19. We’ll have good food, a recap video of the past year, select vendors, and an award ceremony.

Erica Thomas also gave a lovely overview of the upcoming WIN summer retreat in Geneva, which I look forward to attending even more with her catchy enthusiasm. Maybe we’ll be greeted by a nice valet there too.

ADDENDUM: As of March 10, 2013, I no longer support the WIN Board and its actions. However, I do support small business, women-owned businesses, and the gracious hosts of past WIN events.