Swarm Show Opening

I had such fun creating a Swarm, and it has garnered more ideas percolating in my head.


I love how the dragonflies turned out, and am also enamored with the ladybugs.


At home, I fiddled with various configurations. The mobile can be added to and subtracted from.

swarmathome closeup

I put on a swarmy collection for the Art Walk.


After the Evanston Made ArtWalk, I headed over to SideTracked Studio, where Rory was adding final touches to the swarm.


Seeing it installed was so fun.


Paintings include: Lauren Levato CoyneRory CoyneJason McPhillipsErin Gergen Halls, Anthony Cramer, Gail Potocki, John Walker, Erich J. Moffatt, Victoria Fuller, Renee McGinnis, Maike van Wijk, and Stephanie Inagaki.


The exhibition continues through July 2, 2016, check Facebook for opening hours.


The details in each painting are amazing.


Sidetracked Studio is the storefront studio of artists Lauren Levato Coyne and Rory Coyne founded with collector and advisor Michele Mahon Jahelka.


Throughout the year Sidetracked Studio, located at 707 Chicago Avenue, also presents gallery exhibitions of visiting artists, workshops, and lectures.


Sidetracked Studio is located near the purple line Main Street station, as well as the Main Street Metra station.


Metered parking is available on Chicago Avenue, and you can find residential parking a few blocks closer to the lake. The gallery is wheelchair accessible.


At night, the shadows added their own art to the installation.


Go see the exhibit and also check out Rory’s videos of the art at the Facebook Page of SideTracked Studio.

Butterflies & Blooms visit

About two years ago The Chicago Botanic Garden implemented Butterflies & Blooms on its grounds.


From late May to Labor Day, the garden has a tent that houses numerous exotic butterflies for the public’s viewing pleasure.


It is a great way to get up close with these magical creatures.


Morphos were abundant this year, and their fluttering always makes me catch my breath.



They hardly open their wings when at rest, but in this enclosure, we were fortunate.


The leafy butterflies offer lessons on camouflage.


A Luna Moth drew gasps from many viewers.


Longwings abound.


Emerging butterflies can be viewed through a window.


Atlas Moths were featured early in the season.


So many jewels in the sky.


Pops of color everywhere.


It is a lovely respite from daily life.


The reactions when they alight on visitors are lovely.


Some provide lessons on the circle of life.


I love strolling and circling and waiting for them to settle.


Butterflies always give me a sense of awe and peace.


The tent is gone until next year, but you can still view butterflies at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.


Close encounters with an Atlas Moth

Just before Memorial Day weekend the Chicago Botanic Garden announced the arrival of an Atlas Moth in their Butterflies & Blooms exhibit.


I eagerly drove up that Saturday, but many in Chicagoland had the same idea, and I didn’t feel like wasting fuel in a long line of cars. Instead, I returned last week and enjoyed a quiet afternoon among butterflies.


So much is in bloom right now and strolling through the grounds is a delight of colors and fragrances.  The butterfly enclosure was filled with Monarchs, Malachites, Morpho butterflies and a few longwings whose names I forgot.


The prize was of course the Atlas Moth, and I noticed this one first. Just hanging out. They don’t eat as butterflies so this one has no need of that missing wing.


Then we were pointed to a female laying eggs, in a lovely knee-high location that enabled avid photographers to get numerous up-close shots.


Unfortunately the regulations don’t allow for the hatching of these eggs, but more butterflies are being raised on butterfly farms, so we do not have to worry about eliminating a generation of moths in controlled environments.


Such fuzzy-ness.


I noticed two more moths basking in the sun, and was just super-excited.


The Botanic Garden lucked out with two males and two females in this set.


Of course my battery ran out of juice long before I was ready to go, but just before it did this Morpho decided to pose for a few of us.


Generally we get this view.


I also learned about the White Morpho, which was emerging in the pupa center.



One hung out next to its blue counterpart.


I highly recommend the Butterflies & Blooms exhibit for friends of Lepidoptera.


Tripods are not allowed, and you cannot touch the butterflies (unless they land on you of course), but it’s a fantastic way to get an up-close view of these magical creatures.


The Chicago Botanic Garden is located at 1000 Lake Cook Road in Glencoe, Illinois. Just off U.S. Route 41 or I-294.


Buckeye Ladies

So my hopes of raising a second generation of Buckeye caterpillars were dashed when all my butterflies turned out to be ladies.


Nonetheless, the transformation has been fun to observe in this dreary winter.  The caterpillars one by one made their way to a spot in the enclosure and spun their sticky silk,


After 16 days in my home all were fully cocooned.


After 13 days (day 25 in my home), the first started hatching, curiously not the first caterpillar that had pupated but another one.


They all pop out so quickly and quietly that catching them mid-emergence is difficult to do.


The last one, on day 28, gave me its wasp-y look though, and kept dropping to the floor as it tried to unfurl its wings, but its floppy wings took shape after a few minutes nonetheless.


Empty cocoons.


My firstborn had gorgeous eyespots.


The others each had distinct looks.


It takes a couple of days before they are ready to eat, but watching the proboscis is such fun when they do.



My fifth-born turned out to be a rosa.


They love sunlight and eagerly walk ceilings to get to it.


Trying to distinguish sexes became a dirty affair as they defended themselves with extrement (it makes sense that butterflies poop, doesn’t it?).


But all bodies looked the same, so I am pretty sure they all were females in this batch.


How to tell? Male Buckeyes are supposed to be smaller than the females, they should have whiter antennae, their hind wing eye spots are supposed to be smaller, and their rears more ‘square’ than pointy. None of these factors were distinctive on my 6, and they all stuck their rears in the air, which is generally a female butterfly mating call.


Photographing was fun, though not all were willing posers.


Since I wasn’t going to raise new babies, I immortalized a few in the freezer before they became too tattered.


One is still fluttering, but the second one breathed its last on Wednesday (day 58).


It is nice to have such quiet and easy to care for pets.


Note: This breed of Buckeye cannot be released in my home state, which is why I didn’t feel bad about having them in a cold season when they are going to remain in captivity. During the summer I plan on ordering kits that will be released into the neighborhood to hopefully repopulate some of the scarcer butterfly breeds (the Monarch in particular).

Winged Love

I was hoping to get some nature shots this week to break up the Maraviglia-heavy content these days, but the weather was (more than) nasty over the weekend.


My indoor environs aren’t photogenic right now, so the intended respite from studio shots and creations had me flipping though my old photos instead.


I am not ready to post other entries in the works (good news!), so it’s a light reading day for you.



These beauties are from last year’s Butterflies and Blooms in the Chicago Botanic Garden.


Have a bright day!


Bluhm County Park

I attended a lovely wedding last weekend which called for a short road trip to Indiana.


I’ve only passed through Indiana so it was a fun reason to explore the state a little.


Upon entering I was greeted with signs promising Krazy Fireworks and Showgirls, along with Hoosier references.


Further in, however, the scenery changed to luscious green landscapes and I felt more at ease driving around.


I got a little lost along the farm roads, since I expected street signs to be more prominent than they were, city slicker that I’ve become.


Via a detour to Red Mill Park I found my intended destination of Bluhm County Park.


I’m sure Red Mill has its charms too, but I was drawn to the description of wildflowers, which I knew must draw critters to them!


The park is lovely, with a dog park, horseback trails, and great paths for biking.


There is also a playground for children and a barbecue area. This is a great spot for families and ‘beginning hikers’ and seemed to have handicapped accessible spots as well. I even learned some rules.


The promise of wildflowers was fulfilled.



Cabbage whites and sulphurs were darting about.


Sometimes you only get one shot, which can be hit or miss.


I also spotted admirals and a crescent that didn’t sit still long enough. But a Tiger Swallowtail posed for me.


The aptly named (and frisky) Red and Black-spotted beetle.


I don’t know if this is a skipper or a moth, but its wings make a really cool buzzing sound.


Not sure whether Viceroy or Monarch, but either is beautiful.


I went into the wooded area, but since the area is a wetland, the mosquitos swarmed around me immediately.


There are options between the paved path and more woodsy earthy paths.


Stopping to take photographs of moths turned me into an instant meal.


Forage Looper Moth.


So I had to track back in spite of my bug spray.


 On my way out I met this dashing Blue Dasher.


It posed for a little while.


I meandered around the flowers a bit more.


This Black Swallowtail captivated me for some time.


I then crossed the street to another woodsy path, which fortunately wasn’t as mosquito-rich as the other path.


It was clearly a lover’s lane, with numerous initials carved into trees. I didn’t see an R&L though.



There was the right amount of shade and light.


I was led to a pond, where mosquitos swarmed me again, but not as badly.


These dragonflies weren’t the best posers, but lovely to watch as they patrolled the waters.



As I wandered back to the parking lot this tree stared back at me.


It was time to head for the B&B, which took me past the LaPorte County Fair.



The Arbor Hill Inn is a charming Bed and Breakfast near the lake of LaPorte, Indiana.



I had picked my Chateau Provence Room online, which is in the guest house.



The room is cozy and charming.


And the whirlpool tub was one of its perks.


The butterfly by the house was an affirmation as well.


Since it was dinnertime, I made my way back past the lake into downtown LaPorte.


Trattoria Enzo had been recommended to me by the innkeeper.


After the long drive and a few hours of walking I was ready for a hearty meal, which was delicious.


Across the street from the restaurant is LaPorte’s main landmark, the courthouse.


The Potawatomi Indian has a broken spear to symbolize peace with the pioneers.


It is INDIANa, after all.


Sadly there wasn’t much else to explore, so I made my way back to the hotel for a bubble bath and a good night’s sleep. Both mornings I was treated with a delicious breakfast.


The day after the wedding I sunned at the Indiana Dunes before going home.



The line got long on the gorgeous afternoon.


I took the more scenic drive of I-90 to Lakeshore Drive this time, though the tolls hurt my wallet ($4 upon entering Chicago after paying $2.30 between two stops in Indiana).


Hazy Chicago was a nice sight to behold.


It was a lovely weekend, and I look forward to planning another roadtrip in the fall. There is so much to see within 2 hours of Chicagoland, and between state parks and nature trails, it doesn’t have to break the bank.


What are your favorite places to visit?


Pondering Easter and its origins

I was born in the Netherlands and grew up with the secular version of Easter, blended with German traditions and food as well. We dyed eggs, had an egg hunt on Easter morning, and enjoyed a fabulous Easter Brunch that featured butter in the shape of a lamb, home-baked braided bread, boiled eggs served in a basket, and a nest of chocolate eggs. The centerpiece on the table was the Paasboom, a bouquet of branches adorned with decorated hollowed egg ornaments. A few hyacinths would be wafting their scent around the house.


“Easter Eggs” on Etsy and at Aurora Rose 

My grandmother took us to an Easter service once, from which I remember a song about the resurrection, but the Christian meaning didn’t really sink in until later in life. In my childhood, it was a feast of Spring and color and joy.

Spring Flowers wax and wire pendants by Maike's Marvels

Bring in Spring!

Since teenage-hood, Bible passages and hymns related to Easter do crop up during this time, and I pulled some of them out of my second-hand Bible to convert into pendants.

I was drawn to Mary’s Song, which is sung right after the annunciation. In Luke 1:25-30 angel Gabriel comes down to Nazareth and said; “ ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.’ ”

Mary's Song wax and wire pendant by Maike's Marvels

Now from other accounts in the Bible meeting an angel is a terrifying experience.  In addition to that, the “favor with God” was a pregnancy. I think I would have crawled in a corner and started worrying about the logistics of this as well as how my family would react. Instead, Mary sings a song:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.

An impressive message for anyone who is facing challenges they are not sure how to meet just yet. But then, maybe she just knew that this was her path in life. Finding one’s purpose can indeed create a sense of peace and also euphoria at what the future might hold.

My next piece was about the resurrection, which of course was preceded by the death of Jesus, in Mark 15:35-40. On the front of the pendant I highlighted: “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

Risen wax and wire pendant by Maike's Marvels

The back shows Mark 16:5-9: “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

After this, in Mark 16:14-20, Jesus tells his disciples to go and preach the good news, which is embedded in the pendant of this blog post.

I pulled some hymns and their scores and printed those out, but thus far only  “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” transformed into pendant form.


As I’ve researched various religions, clearly traditions related to Spring and renewal from ancient times have been adapted into religious rituals and storytelling. I’m impressed by how imagery and symbolism has survived for centuries, even if our interpretation morphs over time. I did like seeing butterflies as a symbol of rebirth and resurrection.

Butterfly pendants by Maike's Marvels

Butterflies on Etsy, one going to Aurora Rose

To celebrate life, I also made a Helix, I’ll perfect this shape into a double helix over time.

Helix pendant by Maike's Marvels

However you celebrate the beginning of spring, the renewal of life, or your personal transformation into something new and different, may you have a fabulous weekend, filled with glorifying the source of life and the goodness of the Universe.

Zer0-degree 0uting

Last week we had zero degree weather—not counting the windchill factor. I tend to forget the ‘realfeel’ notification and regret that a lot this time of year. Best to be overdressed than underdressed. On Tuesday I heeded the notion and set out for my little downtown venture.

First I saw Backyard Monsters at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum on its closing day. We’d walked past the robotic creatures in the dark before Pinning Class, when I thought I’d have lots of time to go see this. Time sure flies when you’re living the good life.

backyard monsters at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

I learned more about insects (such as wasps being able to make paper) observed some critters, drooled over the morpho display case, pushed buttons of  the fun mechanical demonstrations, and posed by the giant monarch.


There are so many more butterflies and moths to discover!

 thousands or butterfly species

Then I perused “A Meticulous Beauty” which is up through May 2013.

Meticulous Beauty by Jennifer Angus

Who knew a wall covered with pastel-colored insects could be so beautiful?

Meticulous Beauty Wall

Having some time to spare, I also spun through the Judy Istock butterfly haven, to warm up in rainforest temperatures.

orange wings

One the three Atlas Moths that had recently hatched was still there, and it perched waaaayyy up high.

Atlas moth

There are still more to come, though. 🙂

Atlas Moth hatchery

This lace-edged longwing was new to me.

lace longwing

The smiley-faced Zebra longwings always make me happy.


The Cairn’s Birdwing had a butterfly spot on its wing.

Cairns Birdwing butterfly at Istock Haven

When the museum closed it was time to head on over to the next adventure, a Skate & Sip outing with the Women’s Innovation Network. We warmed up on hot cocoa before heading out to the rink, which turned out to be closed after our sipping and chatting. So we’ll just have to do the skating another time.

Cloud Gate looked pretty, and it was a lovely ending to a joyful day.

Chicago's Bean

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.

Radvent 2012 7: Relaxation

Radvent 7 is about Relaxation, which I have a hard time with. The things I used to do for relaxation (blogging and art-making) are now my work, so I have to find new ways to unwind. Currently the weather precludes sitting on a rock by the lake, which always has my eyes gazing at the horizon and calms my breath as the waves count out the rhythm.

To find something less work-related to do, I recently took a pinning class, which will be a wonderful way to preserve the moths that accumulated on my back porch over the summer (it was many a flying insect’s final resting place).

Incidentally, part of the instructions included creating a relaxing chamber. When insects dry out they become brittle ‘like potato chips’ so they need to be humidified before they can be shaped into the ‘pose’ you want to display them in.

crispy butterflies

Brittle ‘potato chip’ butterflies

To remedy the crispiness, you take a container with a tight lid, add sand, mouthwash and plastic to it and place in the insects to relax them for a week or longer.

relaxing chamber

Relaxing chamber

We do have such relaxing chambers of our own, the bedroom, the sofa, day spas… yet sometimes, like the insects, it takes a week or so to truly unwind. Aside from sickness, we don’t always have someone place us in such a chamber to get our potato-chip muscles unwound and nimbled up again.

relaxed butterflies

Relaxed butterflies

We learned how to adjust the wings into a drying position, and then took our specimens home on their pinning boards to reshape themselves for a week or so.


Pinning specimens

After I undid the pinning papers a few lost their wings, so I’ll be having a gluing session before placing my new companions in a shadowbox.

lost wings

Lost wings

Princess Lasertron’s relaxation tips are things I know, but forget often.

  • Let your body idle
  • Read a poem
  • Stretch
  • Make a long-term investment in a relaxing habit

On Sunday I took an offline day, and I noticed how much easier it was to relax without my phone buzzing or the computer pinging me another message.

 “Try to make sure that the time you set aside for yourself
doesn’t become ‘catch up on other projects’ time by default.
Princess Lasertron

I lost that habit of allotting specific computer time. As we integrate technology into more and more activities, it is harder to walk away from the screen. All my record-keeping is on the computer. My TV is Internet-connected. This year even my Holiday cards were done online. While I think of Facebook as fun and relaxing, keeping tabs on friends and family or being ‘fed’ opposing opinions can create pressure and stress too.

So I’ll be booking a massage appointment this week, and will have a 24-hour computer fast on a regular basis. It’s good to let one’s mind wander.

Yesterday I stumbled across this website, with a fabulous list of things to do to ‘lighten up’ I look forward to reading more about radical self-love later.

How do you relax? Is there a season in which it is easier/harder for you?

“But remember that relaxation is not a competition.
No one is watching you do it and keeping score.”
~ Princess Lasertron

Fall creatures of Texas

Thanksgiving was spent warming up in Houston, and we encountered a few lovely creatures on our day trips.

Between Washington on the Brazos and Round Top we saw grasshoppers,


butterflies (most of which I have yet to identify)

and longhorns.


After watching the fabulous “Flight of the Butterflies” we spotted three monarchs during lunch.

Then we perused the Cockrell Butterfly Center.


Who doesn’t want windows like these?


The orchid mantis is so pretty.

It was a lovely way of truly saying goodbye to the Summer/Fall season, and ease into the winter time.


(I’m pretending I never saw that cockroach)