Reflecting in Nature

I am taking a little pre-birthday time-out.

It is easy to get overwhelmed in calls to actions, FOMO, grass-is-greener and doomsday thinking with the barrage of headlines and ensuing social media reactions.

My Atlas of World History confirms that territorialism began when land ownership started in 9000 BC. As Billy Joel sings, we didn’t start the fire. The mid-eighties were full of songs about the End of the World, and When the Wind Blows still flashes in my head on occasion.

So I go to the lake to stare at the horizon and ponder the tides going in and out.

Hopefully the skyline will remain for a bit.

It is lovely to be a tourist in my hometown. I rarely visit Bennison’s, so strolling there is worthy of a treat for here and one to go.

There is a private park with little reading nooks that is open to the public part of the day.

Shimmying at the beach is a lovely way to start the day in summer.

I love the Brothers K baristas and used up the last bit of my gift card for this gorgeous creation.

A moth hung out by the basement as I was doing laundry.

Flowers are blooming so gorgeously.

I recite the Desiderata in my head when things seem too depressing.

Then I ponder the bravery of Sophie Scholl, Anne Frank, Miep Gies and Corrie Ten Boom.

The Little Prince has left a reminder by the lake as well.

The upcoming solar eclipse is supposed to be auspicious, and I sincerely hope it will bring with it goodwill and peace.

But for now, I will reflect on all the agitation of the world in silence, and hope that my plans for my next year aren’t too frivolous for this time in history.

After all, my town can sometimes seem like I’m in wonderland, so anything can happen!

See you sometime next week.

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!

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.

Fall Colors

It is Fall!


I love the beautiful jewel tones of the season.


Summer is still holding on here and there.


We had a few chilly days that got the radiators going.


But now we have warmer weather to where strolls in the park are enjoyable again.


Soon there will be piles to toss around.


The earthy scents are lovely too.


The beachfront has lots of color.


Golden hues abound.


Fuzzy flowers add their brightness.


Radiance is everywhere.


Seasons are a beautiful thing (as much as we gripe about the weather at times).


What’s your favorite season?


Neighborhood Nature

I am not feeling well today so there are no coherent words to write.


Instead, I give you some nature photos from recent walks.


You can find lots of beauty in your neighborhood.


This sign at the Bristol Renaissance Faire made me chuckle (and a lavender bath is on the schedule).


I love this flaming flower in a local median.

purple flame

Bees are a good sign.


Monarchs need your help.


Have a great week!


Discussing being your best boss

“I believe in recharging as often as possible.
Go somewhere luxurious to luxuriate.”
~ Niquenya Fulbright of Building Bridges Consulting

Last week the Network of Entrepreneurial Women held a discussion on treating ourselves. As we nibbled on savory paninis and vegan chocolate pralines at Let Them Eat Chocolate, NEW co-founder Erica Thomas provided tips on how to become better bosses to ourselves, while facilitating a lively discussion around self-care.


Erica stressed that as our own boss, we have to be the best boss, in order to keep our business functioning and energized. “Burnout can ruin a perfect production schedule,” Erica said. “Avoiding burnout has to be prioritized as highly as project goals.”


Our attendees covered the full spectrum of women business care taking needs, including 2 nutrition and wellness experts, a fashion designer, a wardrobe stylist, a brand consultant, a technology consultant, and a small business coach. With our introductions we had to state how we treat ourselves. These treats ranged from booking luxurious getaways to pampering in retail and at home spa places.

A “2011 study found that frequent small pleasures,
like double lattes, pedicures, or soft socks provides
more happiness than infrequent large ones like sports cars or vacations.
Research shows that breaking up enjoyable experiences into brief events
— such as two 20-minute massages at different times
rather than one 40-minute massage —
gives people more pleasure. “

~ 33 Ways To Be Happier by Dina Spector

While massages and manicures and pedicures were popular, the majority of ladies present love to take a (jacuzzi) bath. To soak our stressors away, this article suggests taking a champagne bath, and offers a less extravagant milk and honey recipe a la Cleopatra. Before that bath, My Health Beet’s Svetlana Burak recommended dry brushing to exfoliate and detoxify.


Highlighting that treats do not have to be high-cost or difficult to implement, many women also enjoyed getting lost in a story, whether through a popular TV series or by being transported into a book. Savoring a delicious meal or anticipating a glass of wine at the end of the day also served as pleasurable rewards for a job well done.

“Self-care is such a buzz word that it’s often tossed around
without people really thinking about what it means to practice it.
The truth is that integrating self-care into life is a choice
and a practice, and it only happens successfully
when someone is conscious and consistent about it.”

~ During Your Next Launch, Don’t Neglect Self-Care by Kate Swoboda

One way to treat ourselves better is by stopping to review what we have achieved. We each grow and learn every day, and looking back on a to-do list from a year to 6 months ago can indicate milestones we may not recognize as we adopt new skills into our regular routine.


When asked what we would give our best employee suggestions ranged from a day (completely logged) off to family outings to writing down a daily or weekly list of accomplishments. Realizing that acknowledgement of things well done is a key motivator, we encouraged each other to print certificates of achievements for the things we sometimes fail to recognize.


Getting in touch with nature also offers the opportunity for a re-set and turns out to be extremely helpful for the brain. John Haltiwanger writes that people who appreciate nature are happier, healthier and more innovative.

“Natural environments stimulate the brain
in ways civilization cannot,
exponentially improving our cognitive abilities
and igniting our imaginations.”
~ John Haltiwanger

Erica suggested that solopreneurs evaluate their businesses based on Crain’s “Best Places to Work 2015.” The selection criteria included: quantitative issues about pay, promotions, health care and other benefits, hiring practices as well as fairness of pay, vacation time, relationships with management and co-workers, career development and other day-to-day workplace issues.


Being self-employed can cause for some pitfalls of bossiness. Key to preventing burnout is to also acknowledge our biorhythms, which we can sometimes try to push through. Once again, the best places to work example came to the rescue with the question “Would you work for someone who made you come into the office during a blizzard?”

“It’s OK that you don’t do everything.
It’s OK that someone else does it for you.
You have the wisdom to understand:
‘that’s not my strong suit, that is not my best quality’.”
~ Brand Consultant Cierra Cole

Delegation was also discussed and encouraged, whether it be training a 3-year old to shred papers, engaging older children in answering the phone, or outright hiring someone. Erica stated that we tend to take the longest doing the things we don’t like to do, and outsourcing that task to someone else can free us up to more productivity. Being a perfectionist can hinder that process, but one member pointed out that getting it done is better than for it to be perfect.


It was lovely to lounge in a welcoming and comfortable space while bonding over indulgences. We look forward to revisiting Let Them Eat Chocolate in Andersonville, and are excited to spur each other on in our respective ventures.


Continuing our theme of wellness and self-care, our next Wine Women and Wellness Event will coincide with a Women Out Walking presentation. NEW member Svetlana Burak of My Health Beet is partnering with Kim Leider, a Training Leader with Ava Anderson Non Toxic to present: “Clean Living Inside and Out” at the Evanston Public Library on Thursday, May 28 from 7 to 8:30 pm.


Group photo courtesy

NEW – The Network of Entrepreneurial Women is a group of Chicagoland business women who are upgrading business networking with fun and creative events that inspire attendees to work together, refer each other and most of all cheer each other on as the membership succeeds. Events rotate around various suburbs on a semimonthly basis, usually the 2nd Wednesday and 4th Thursday of the month. RSVP for our upcoming events at Meetup, or like us on Facebook and check up on the calendar there.


Tulip Love

Life is blooming here with trees awakening and birds beginning to nest.


Blossoms abound in wide arrays of color.


Tulips are the most dominant beauties this month.


Sunshine and warmth brings so much joy.


The amazing colorations of these flowers are fascinating.


Even showers cannot dampen my spirit with all the color and fragrance.


My favorite, the forget-me-not is in bloom as well and makes me so happy.


I also captured a cabbage white butterfly on camera. This is the third one I have spotted since April.


Magnolias are mesmerizing.


Wishing you a vibrant, joyous day!


A Falcon’s Visit

The Evanston Public Library is the host to a pair of Peregrine Falcons each year, which means sighting them isn’t a big surprise.


However, having one right outside your window and watching it devour a pigeon is quite the thrilling distraction from other chores.


I had to ship an order so I reluctantly went out to run my errand.


Upon my return, the falcon was still there.


I watched a squirrel get too close and be chased away.


Since 2004, the Library’s third floor window ledge has become a nesting site for falcons. Since 2005 Nona has come to lay her eggs, and as of 2006 she was accompanied by Squawker.  A falcon cam tracks the nest when eggs are laid and hatchlings come out.


Each year the hatchlings receive names voted on by the community, and after their banding ceremony by wildlife preservation experts they are free to roam Evanston and beyond.


While I was distracted that day, I am heeding this totem animal’s call to focus and strategize.


“When they show themselves to us, we are being called to focus on our desires and our goals, and do what is necessary to bring our desires into our reality.”

Buffalo Rock State Park

On my last day of the Utica excursion I decided to give Buffalo State park another chance.


I had visited it years before, excited about the earth sculptures, only to get hot in the harsh sun of the prairie landscape.


To let a speeding truck pass me I pulled into the Illinois & Michigan Canal State Lock Entrance and snapped a selfie there.


The birds-eye view can be perused from Starved Rock State Park.


The Buffalo Rock State Park entrance on this road was different from what I remembered, (and later learned I had indeed come another way before).


My trusty state park guide book was at home, and I went by the maps on signposts at each park this year, when before I always had everything mapped out ahead of time.


With Geocaching more prevalent I’m sure there are phone apps by the forest districts, but I still prefer to walk the trails pretending to be disconnected, though knowing I have GPS on my phone is certainly comforting as a lone wanderer.


I strolled down the overlook path, thinking it would give me the birds’eye view. Instead, it took me past the river, and a later sign clarified that this was a River Overlook. Four Pelicans flew over me at one point, which was awesome to watch.


The Effigy Tumili were in the other direction of the river overlook, so I wandered back that way, just enjoying the prairie flower scents and cricket and bird sounds.


I came upon the catfish and laughed at not being able to see the eye at all. It was just a mound, with a path that the sign said we were allowed to climb.


Titled “Effigy Tumuli” in tribute to the Native American burial grounds that inspired it, Michael Heizer’s “earth art” depicts five sculptures native to the Illinois River.


Sculptures of a snake, turtle, catfish, frog and a water strider were created into mounds hikers can climb and explore. On top of the catfish, I took a view around.

catfish view

This photo by L. Jenkins shows what the mound looks like:


I crossed paths with other hikers, who shared my initial disappointment of not being able to ‘see’ the effigies. Even Google Earth doesn’t do it justice:


The turtle was considered risky to climb, but I observed a pair of monarchs at the foot of the mound, both extremely camera shy. The grass was taller than me.


I kept the insect-cam going and trusted my zoom lens a lot.


If the snake is meant to be the exposed lime rock, it’s the easiest effigy to recognize.

snake sign

Limestone formations are so spectacular.


Google Earth’s view:


I wanted to linger but a mosquito urged me to move on. I had an allergic reaction to a bite on my arm, even though other bites were fine, so not having yet consulted my medical experts I was leery of inviting another sting of epic proportions. Next time Benadryl cream will be my companion, and a small container of vinegar.


I pondered walking the whole length of the park’s path to the area I had entered last time, but it was getting hot and I had not brought my hat, so I figured I wouldn’t risk heat fatigue with a 2-hour drive ahead of me.


I came upon a few of these “Say Anything” icons but am not sure what they mean…


More critters crossed my path:


Thus I wandered back the way I came, and startled when I noticed bison through a chain link fence.


I suppose Buffalo Rock should have some buffalo!



I switched into sandals and began the drive home. Most of it was easy except a stretch on I-55 where weavers crisscrossed all three lanes to violate the speed limit.


Otherwise the ride home felt surprisingly short, making me think I should head into the I&M Canal’s territory more often this year.


A Mini-Hike at Starved Rock

I planned on walking the majority of the Starved Rock Trail on day two of my Utica excursion, but the majority was closed due to fallen trees and storm damage in mid-July.


Even the Starved Rock Lodge had a tree fall in per one resident.


Basically the entire stretch of the park trail was closed, with just small sections near the visitors center and the other end of the park open.


So I walked the short open trail that led to the French Canyon, which was where everyone hung out.


Formations are fascinating.


The varying stairwells are an interesting analogy to life, some worn, some reinforced, some requiring careful treading, others steep.


I finally got a good look at poison ivy as the signs pointed out various operations of it.


A butterfly wing crossed my path.


Then I walked up the Starved Rock Trail with a lovely view of the dam and Pelican Island.


The I&M Canal connects Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River by way of the Illinois River. It provided the first complete water route from the east coast to the Gulf of Mexico. French explorers Joliet and Marquette navigated this water route in the 1600s and Native Americans and traders used it until 1823.  From 1823 to 1848 the I&M Canal was constructed at a cost of $6.5 million. It begins at the south branch of the Chicago River at Bridgeport and extends 96 miles to the Illinois River at LaSalle. The canal’s 15 locks accommodate differences in elevation.


In 1933, the Illinois Waterway was completed and the I&M Canal was closed to navigation. Since then, the canal has been developed for recreation.


Pelicans have nested in Illinois for 20 years, and one of the areas is an island in the Illinois River.


It was nice to watch them fly over.


After the short circular trail led back down the stairs, I sat for a bit to enjoy the weather and waterfowl.


I stopped for lunch in town and then headed back to Matthiessen State Park to walk the river Trail.


I look forward to returning when the trails have opened up again.