Category Archives: garden

My Lady Garden and the One in Our Yard

lettuce crop

lettuce in the spring

The hot summer and our bathroom renovations dragged on and both depleted my energy and the will to blog about the house. I’ll whine blog about that later. My gardening philosophy is throw a few seeds (or starter plants from the nursery) in the ground, say a prayer and water as needed. The results are usually decent. DH really owns the garden here. It started out as a joint project, but I got pushed out. Or maybe I jumped ship as he was all too serious about it.

I did have a lady garden, though.

At any rate, with our warm spring, he planted early lettuce and it grew like gangbusters. We ate like happy bunnies. The results since then have been, uh, mixed. We were thrilled to pull our first carrot, tiny as it was. I should say that I’m not sure what variety he planted (the baby kind?) and that the soil might have been too packed too allow for optimal growth.


home grown carrot

first carrot

That was back around June. Yesterday, the Ukrainian grandma next door brought us these:

home grown carrots

They looked like normal carrots! What’s her Old World secret? We’ll never know; she doesn’t speak English.

She’s got a bumper crop of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and pretty much everything else she planted.

We’ve harvested a handful of sunflower seeds, two small red cabbages, 3 cukes and barely any tomatoes. Though we do have some promising Brussels sprouts growing. I’m most disappointed about the tomatoes. I love fresh Romas. DH likes variety: yellow tomatoes, peach tomatoes, purpleish tomatoes- he’s harvesting a few of each. But I don’t want a fuzzy orange tomato that’s sweet like a peach. I want a nice plump Roma. Guess which plant is not producing?

Oh well, it’s our first garden. There’s room to improve next year. Besides, the weather has cooled a bit and the season’s not over yet, so who knows what surprises Mother Nature may have in store for us?

Thinking Green with a Terrarium Thanks to Chalet Nursery

We’re at the tail end of our move-in process and have *almost* found the proverbial place for everything. But, as happens, I’m already bringing new stuff into the house.


Also? I found my pot and I’ve already cooked up my first batch of matzo balls in it.

I love the bit of green the terrarium brings into our house. I had a wonderful time making it at a blogger program at the Chalet. As a child of the 70s, I have vague recollections about making these back in the day, maybe for mother’s day gifts?

But did you know terrariums terraria plants under glass are coming back around?


West Elm, purveyor of hip home decor, is selling them. Well, they are selling glass globes and such in which to build them. But just let me know if you want to build a terrarium on the cheap because as shown in the video, I have plenty of glass I’m willing to pass on for free.

The program at Chalet Nursery led by Gayle Smith and Jennifer Brennan was quite enjoyable and informative. I think it’s been decades since I stopped inside and though I recalled the Chalet as a garden shop, they are so much more. They have a unique selection of gifts- delicately scented lotions and candles, books, pet food, items for outdoor entertaining and more.

I was especially geeked out by their diagnostic station. Customers can bring in leaf or branch from a plant that’s failing to thrive and trained horiculturists will examine it under a microscope that’s wired to a monitor. The customer looks up at the monitor as the horiculturist points out insects, mites barely visible to the naked eye or other marks of diseases and then recommends treatments.

I was impressed by the many knowledgeable staff members we met as well as the fact that many of them worked at Chalet for years. The Walmart garden center this is not. Of course, I say that hypothetically given that I don’t shop at Walmart. My point is, these folks really seem to know their plants. Speaking of which, if you recall what my front lawn looks like, you’ll know why I’m going to have Chalet on speed dial soon.

I’ll share directions soon to help you build a DIY a terrarium.

Disclosure: As a guest of Chalet, I received the supplies and instructions, as well as a muffin, at no charge. I was not required to post about the event. All opinions are my own, though I’m sure you’ll agree my terrarium is lovely.




Garage Sale Haul Weekend of September 10, 2011

shopping haul from garage saleThere weren’t a whole lot of garage sales taking place in the heat of the summer, but things seems to be picking up and last weekend I picked up a lot of things. It’s a joy to find items from our to-buy list, like lawn sprinkles and a fire pit, and get them on the cheap. But I acquired a few questionable items as well.

I now own quite a bit of fencing for next year’s garden, a small table that also makes a convenient chair or large step stool (handy when you are five feet small), and two new games. Anti-Monopoly II because according to the box it’s “totally different” than Anti-Monopoly I and for a single dollar figured I could afford to learn more about the game and Probe. Shah! It’s a word game. Am I the only one who played it as a child? That said, all I can remember about it is that I played it as a child.

I wished I’d taken a “before” picture of the fire pit because it was a rusty mess when we picked it up. But after a few hours of elbow grease and a fresh coat of high-temperature resistant spray paint, it’s looking pretty fine.

We also welcomed this salvage bit into our home. A small remnant of granite will top off the cabinet and it will be fabulous for…something.

cabinet picked from salvage pile

The grand total of this week’s haul?

Wait for it…


You get any good deals lately?


Overhead Sewer Installation

As is common in our neck of the woods, and indeed many of Chicago’s suburbs,cracked plumbing stack our house has flooded in the past. But there are two kinds of floods. The first is a result of groundwater seeping in from over-saturated soils and drain tiles or overflowing sump pumps; let’s call this the “good” kind of flood. The second is a result of an overwhelmed municipal sewer system that backs up through basement floor drains, showers or toilets; let’s call that the sh*tty kind.

At least once upon a time, our mid-century house flooded. We know there was at least one big sh*tty flood after 1980, before the completion of Chicago’s Deep Tunnel Project. Who knows if we’d experience a sewage back up again?

DH put it to me this way, “How much would you pay to guarantee you will never have to clean up someone’s poop from our basement?”

Thinking it an unlikely scenario (I’m optimistic like that), I capped the amount at under $3,000. The husband capped it closer to $15K.

He won.

He does have a point.

And now we have a new overhead sewer system, plus a sump pit and an ejector pit in our basement.

Gone is the silvery old cracked sewer stack which leaked out just a teensy bit of poopy water (pictured above).

And now, after Day 1 of a 3-day install, we’ve got this snazzy 4-inch PVC running the length of our entire basement. Yes, it willsoon be filled with freshly flushed toilet water, so let’s hope it doesn’t leak!

overhead sewer pipe in basementSee the remnant of our cracked old stack? It’s going to get clipped off at floor level and sealed up.

overhead sewer PVC pipe exits the housePer code, the line exits the house four feet below grade, so it’s really only overhead if you’re the smallest person on Earth.


digging near foundationOf course, it’s not a done deal until our new piping meets the city sewer lines. Yes, that used to be our front lawn. But what really kills me is this:

breaking open a wallThe plumber had to open a wall in my office to vent the new lines and DH did not tell them to put down cardboard or anything to protect my shiny new floor! #Ugh.

On a lighter side, we look pretty cool with this parked in our driveway.

Updated 10/16/11 to add. What do overhead sewers look like? See our YouTube video about them.



Eat Your Roses: 1 Book, 1 Idea

Eat Your Roses Book CoverAs I ponder how we might make our yard and lawn greener and more practical, I’ve come across yet another book to add to my grow-your-own arsenal, Eat Your Roses…Pansies, Lavender and 49 other Delicious Edible Flowers. Written by Denise Schreiber, the woman who created the Edible Flower Foods Fest, the big idea in this book is that there are a whole lot of edible flowers. More than I realized.

The book provides the common and scientific names for the edible flowers, along with a color photograph of each, a description as well as an explanation of its sensory appeal and its edible uses. Schreiber even includes recipes for newbs like me.

Next year that lilac tree is going to do more than just look and smell pretty in the back yard. I’m going to turn those lovely flowers into a syrup…or something.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book to facilitate a review.

Angry Birds: Wordless Wednesday

angry birds

Sorry for the blur; it was taken through a screen door so as not to disturb the birds.