Brilliant Blooms

I’ve returned from my cabin getaway and will tell you more about that soon.

Right now, I am basking in the springy sunshine too much to sit and write.

I love this part of the season where petals unfurl in their brightest finery.

Pink is trending.

So pretty.

My favorite scent is everywhere.

I think it is a kind of jasmine, I keep forgetting the name of these blossoms.

The lake sparkles with all the sunshine cast upon it.

Tulips make my Dutch heart proud.

Narcissi have an array of petals.

Purple petals radiate.

I hum Alice in Wonderland’s flower song in the streets.

My favorite flower has returned.

Trees are coming out of hibernation.

Cultivate’s current exhibit has stunning photos of ferns unfurling.

OK-gotta go out and sniff again!

Beginnings of Spring

The weather is still in flux, but we’ve had a few spring-like days that allowed me to enjoy the sunshine.

It is fun to watch flowers pop up and see how quickly they respond to the sunshine and warmth.

I always forget what this blossomy tree is called, but love its gradation of budding blooms.

I love the scent of hyacinth.

Soon many will be emitting their fragrance in my neighbrohood.

The Narcissi survived a cold patch during which some were already coming out.

These clusters are fairly close to each other.

This sea of blue makes me happy.

Pink blossoms popped out overnight.

I also spotted an admiral pair dancing in the air, but they flew too fast to be captured on camera.

Cultivate is celebrating spring with an exhibit that documents the unfurling of ferns.

I wish you a happy Passover week and/or Easter weekend!


Reading-deprived word girl

Well wouldn’t you know it, the week after I organized my bookshelf I wasn’t allowed to read anything. I am going through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way with a local group of lovely women, and Week 4 is when we aren’t supposed to read anything.

This is really, really hard for me. In the spirit of not letting our own thoughts be cluttered up by other people’s influences, we are also taking a Facebook fast and avoiding TV. So my shelves are petting zoo right now.

I am finding that podcasts clutter up my brain. It is really hard for me to just listen to something for a long time without any visuals, even when I am puttering away and organizing things while listening. Casting TEDTalks to my TV is easier. But my preference is to absorb information through words, so I counted down the hours to Sunday morning while posting bangles in my shop.

Not reading at all is not feasible for solopreneurs (even if Ms. Cameron might beg to differ), so we did allow for business-related emails and business page posts. Instagram became my friend because it is primarily visual. I applied to some art shows and started uploading earrings for shop release this week.

On one day I had an email exchange about a commission that required me to poke around my business Facebook page, and it was hard to stop skimming the personal Facebook wall where the computer opened up to initially. I am realizing how much time is spent just poking around on social media and clicking link after link, so having set times for social media activity is a practice I hope to continue after this exercise.

I am not missing the personal Facebook as much as I thought. With the current political climate it isn’t that cheery anyway. Thankfully my family keeps in touch via messenger and Telegram, so I am not totally disconnected. I am also writing some cards to snail mail after the weekend.

On Monday I had a commute and it was so strange to realize that I do default to the phone. Staring out into the world instead of scanning news and social media was different. It is a bit weird not knowing what is happening out in the world, since being informed of headlines has become part of my daily routine. Since I don’t have daily interactions with people who might inform me of world events, this does feel a bit like living in a bubble.

I visited the Chicago Cultural Center for my Artist Date, and initially wasn’t going to read the art descriptions but the work was too intriguing to avoid understanding it, so I gave myself a pass for absorbing the amazing exhibits there. (More on that Thursday).

I started work on a large encaustic commission, but since I had to watch for over-fusing and let my thoughts on composition simmer, this project is only a 2-hour session at a time, so not a whole day-filler.

For me, the hardest part was the evening. Normally I unwind with a book or a movie. During the TED talks I want to look up the speakers, which is also ‘reading’ in my book. So I felt very constrained after sunset.

The Artist Way exercises are showing me that I am already living the life I want, in the environment I wished for myself. Living by myself has eliminated the cluttered mind that Ms. Cameron strives to help us clear, so I am finding myself with lots of time on my hands. I’ve organized studio shelves, journaled a lot, taken many many notes on what to look up when I can research again, and I sat in a cafe for a while to keep from touching books (until some very strong cologne caused me to pack up).

The oodles of free time make this sort of a vacation, since I am between freelance projects as well. Unfortunately it has been too chilly to take extended walks, which would help pass the time.

I’d love to take on a crochet project, but that would require picking up a book for instructions! What this is showing me is that I am not very playful. My life is very purposeful in that I read to research, or to relax. My art-making is business-related, and while it does feel like play, it is no longer a hobby. Kitchen time isn’t a playful thing for me either (“what if I burn it all?!”), so cooking up recipes for one doesn’t bring out my inner child.

I played a lot of solitaire.

I also colored a lot, since that was the one book I allowed myself to open.

Still, words are my thing. Saturday was a very dreary rainy day, perfect for curling up with a book. Instead, I passed the hours doing a puzzle.

I guess what this week showed me is that books are my friends, and yes, maybe I am slightly addicted, but they are not as big of a ‘crutch’ as I thought they might be. Reading helps me get out of my ego-brain, my scarcity-brain, my worry-brain.

I am inspired by stories, which prompt a plethora of look-ups, listing of follow-up books to read, and have me mulling over my own story ideas. The week did force me to sit down and do some book-related writing for myself, and to push through “I should look that up right now” which would get me back into research-land.

It is fun to catch up on The Voice and pick out a Netflix movie in the evenings, but since I don’t have cable my TV watching is pretty purposeful instead of it being background noise. I don’t feel like I escape into TV.

Doing the morning pages is grounding me and helps focus on me instead of having my day be influenced by external influences right away. I do a lot of artist dates by default, but haven’t consciously scheduled one a week. It is fun to add to the list based on what other people are doing, and knowing that many artist dates are free. So we will see what Weeks 5-12 bring. I am hoping for lots of synchronicity as my inner artist evolves.

Have you done The Artist’s Way? What insights did the 12-week journey bring you?

The Moseltalbahn and the Rheingaulinie

I lived in Germany for 7 years, and was thrilled when my aunt and uncle took me to revisit the lovely Rheingau.


We strolled by the river in Eltville and then visited a lovely garden at The Burg of Eltville, built in 1329.


Roses were still in bloom.


We passed a lovely wine press.


I forgot how magnificent the churches are, and katholische Pfarrkirche St. Peter und Paul had a lovely blend of modern and old stained glass windows.


This Ölberggruppe aus der Werkstatt von Peter Schro is fascinating.


Fachwerk is everywhere


We had a snack and some Riesling at the Brentanohaus, where Goethe was a regular.


Sage advice from the wine growers:


Beautiful grapes.


We dined at Kloster Eberbach, known in Hollywood as the movie setting of the Name of the Rose.


It was a lovely reintegration into Germany.


I rode the train to Stuttgart when it was dark, so I have not much to share from that ride.


The ICE is lovely to ride though.


After Stuttgart and a visit to Luxembourg I got back on the train in Trier, which are future blog posts.


From Trier’s Hauptbahnhof, I passed the St. Paulin Kirche.


Then I was treated to a lovely Mosel valley ride via the Moseltalbahn route.


Wineries abound along the hillsides.


Fall was making its entrance.


Castles dot the landscape along wineries.


The towns along the river are so beautiful.


Mountains and Water are a lovely combination.


In Koblenz I switched over to the Rheingaulinie.


I only caught a glimpse of Koblenz’s fort.


This line travels along the Rhein valley.


The windows were a bit dirty, so getting good shots was harder, especially after sunset.


Oberlahnstein had an intriguing tower by its station.


The towns are so picturesque.


Churches abound.


The sunset was gorgeous.


My camera did me proud.


I passed another castle ruin along the way.


Scope for the imagination.


In Kaub there is this Burg, which reminds me of the many Rhein tales. There is a song about two lovers who couldn’t swim to each other and this castle feels like the setting for it.


Soon I arrived in Wiesbaden, in the dark.


Wiesbaden is home to the largest Cuckoo Clock in the world.


It was filled with cuckoo clocks, of course, and wooden Christmas decor.


My aunt and uncle live near the Neroberg Kapelle.


We listened to the noontime music of the Marktkirche.


More travel pictures will follow, as this was a fun sightseeing trip.


Garden Center Fun

I spent the last few days of August making some dragonflies for Platt-A-Palooza.


It was a glorious Saturday when we set up at Platt Hill Nursery.


Flowers greeted me as I unloaded the car.


The amount of space is always amazing, and I had fun setting up my booth.


Foot traffic was great, so I had little time to peruse the other booths.


Seeing how my pieces interact with the sunlight is always fun.


Thankfully we had popcorn delivered to us.


Parts of the swarm were on display.


There were stuffed animals,


Other jewelry vendors,


Holiday Ornaments,


Birdbath creations,


and my neighbor had lovely Faery Cottages that Angel couldn’t resist.


It is always fun to see the garden accessories Platt Hill Nursery has to offer, like these fun creations.


Live Bluegrass entertained us throughout the day.


So much bloom.


I tested some plant stakes that need a bit more observing for durability.


Angel basked in some pansies as well.


Several pieces found new homes.


I love all the flowers and plant varieties.


Gardening is not in the cards for me, but it is always fun to admire nature.


Soon the day was over and time to pack up.


I did some lazing and stretching before the next eventful week.


Hopefully you had a labor-free Labor Day weekend.


Discovering River Trail Nature Center

On Saturday I discovered the River Trail Nature Center. I needed a nature getaway between errands in various burbs, and this was a mid-way point. It was love at first sight.


Upon entering the parking lot, you can see various large cages.


After I parked and went up close, these turned out to have various animals for up-close observation.

Barred Owl

Great Horned Owl




Red-tailed Hawk which was napping earlier


Bald Eagle


Swanson Hawk which decided to sunbathe

Their wing spans are amazing!


There is a nature center explaining the history of this area, and lovely illustrations along the trail to visualize the glacial melt-down.


Chipmunks were everywhere.


Mosquitoes liked my ears a lot, but that didn’t keep me from walking the two looped trails which are easy for young and old to navigate.


There are lots of benches to rest on along the way of the .5 mile loops.


The bridle path can lead all the way up to Wisconsin, or down to Oak Park.


The Green Bay Trail leads to Allison Woods.


That park entrance has a shelter for picnicking and a grassy area for games.


The education center has a nature discovery area, where kids can climb in an eagle nest, crawl in a fox den, create their own puppet shows, and more.


Turtle lovers can have their fill observing these quirky creatures.


I met a Fox Squirrel which had been rescued as a baby.


It is curious about people but suffered brain damage so wouldn’t survive in the wild.


When I returned it was taking a nap.


Two Black Rat Snakes were hugging.


I couldn’t get enough of the scales of this reptile (didn’t note the breed).


Trail maps and interpretive publications are available at the front desk, and naturalists will answer questions.


A Tree Guide helps with identifying trees.


The River Trail Nature Center is at 3120 Milwaukee Avenue in Northbrook, IL 60062.


A butterfly garden has labeled plants to see what you might want to plant at home.


I spotted a Tiger Swallowtail.


There was also a mourning cloak in the woods but it was camera shy.


Dragonflies didn’t like to be photographed much either, but I prevailed.


Behind the nature center is a lovely line-up of Adirondack chairs.

adirondack cheirs

I meant to journal but just stared out into space and listened to the sounds around me.


Hours from March to October are 9 am to 5 pm, closed Fridays for the building, and 8 am to 5 pm all week for the grounds.


In November through February the building is open 9 am to 4 pm, closed Fridays, and the grounds are open from 8 am to 4 pm all week.


The park is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day & New Year’s Day. I’m already plotting my return to this place.

Summer strolls

August is my birthday month, and I am taking a breather from exhibits.


I am also making it a point to walk around the block more, and it is fun to give Angel things to do.


A group of friends went to see Ghostbusters.


We picked up a Pixie Mood purse at Stumble & Relish during a Sip & Shop event.

new purse

We cocktail and color on Fourth Fridays at The Collage Cafe.


I love these giant flowers.


Angel delivered a bangle to one friend.


And we gifted skull earrings to another.


I’m pleased to see Monarch butterflies float in the air.


There aren’t many, but there is hope that they won’t be extinct just yet.


I received a lovely delivery of gems that I look forward to playing with.


Hopefully I can work a few hikes into my schedule soon.


Nature beckons!


Exploring Volo Bog

Over the Holiday Weekend I felt the need to take a hike. I decided to revisit Volo Bog State Natural Area, where I had been a few times almost a decade ago.


I was pleased to see the preserve was still as nice as I remembered, and that it was quiet in spite of the lovely weather.


Volo Bog is the only quaking bog in Illinois, and also shows all stages of bog succession.


The eye shape of the bog allows visitors to see all types of vegetation that surround (literally) a bog, from the open pool of water in the center radiating out to a floating map of sphagnum moss, cattails and sedges.


The Friends of Volo Bog campaigned to preserve the bog in 1958, and later protected it from being developed again.


The bog is now a National Natural Landmark, showcasing a microcosm of plant succession, from bog, through wetland, to sedge-grass meadow. The Visitor Center used to be a dairy farm, and has a lovely interactive education center.


Upon entering a Western Fox Snake was slithering in its enclosure.


The upstairs room has a plethora of skulls to touch and identify, along with other displays about local flora and fauna. You can also get the trail map and nature guide there.


There is a lovely picnic area with tables and an outdoor privy by the parking lot.


The Bog originated during the Woodfordian Stage of the Wisconsinan Glaciation. As the glaciers melted, numerous depressions formed and developed into lakes.


Volo Bog began filling with vegetation about 6,000 years ago, which subsequently died and formed a peat mat during decomposition.


The combination of sphagnum moss and stagnant water resulted in acidic conditions within the bog community, encouraging other acid-loving plant species, such as leatherleaf, certain specialized orchids, and coniferous tamarack trees to grow. The main attraction is a half-mile boardwalk trail into the lake area of the bog.


From the grassy entrance you walk through a forest of cattails until the vegetation changes.


A seasonal guide gives information at various well-marked spots on what to look for.


I saw a garter snake slither across the board walk, and was greeted with a bullfrog concert in the eye of the bog.


Frogs are everywhere. Lin’s Domain says the frog totem symbolizes metamorphosis into one’s personal power and reminds us to not get bogged down (haha) with day-to-day living.


I also spotted some turtles, and helpful teens pointed out a catfish in the other pond area where tadpoles were abundant.


I then took the 2.5 mile trail surrounding the bog. There is a lovely play area for kids where they can interact with nature.


I spotted some beaks peeking out of bird-hatcheries, and enjoyed the variety of bird, cricket and for noises throughout the trail.


It got a bit hot along the way, but fortunately there are rest areas.


After some fortification and hydration I carried on.


A marker directed me toward the observation ‘tower’ which seemed further than it looked on the map.


I found was a small observation hut on ground level.


I came upon some lovely insects along the way.


Markers indicated which way to go and how far I had gone along the trail.


I also passed other walkers along the trail, so it was a lovely blend of being solitary without feeling lost.


As I reached the picnic area, I was at the same level of two herons, just separated by a meter of shrubbery. Watching them walk past was magical.


Herons have powerful independent and solitary energy. I rested my feet for a bit before getting back in the car.


Volo has a car museum as well, but I haven’t visited that yet.


Illinois has lots of places to hike and stretch one’s legs, so I will make it a point to go on more excursions this summer.


Check out what the Friends of Volo Bog are up to here.