Nice story in Auto News featuring a Texas-based auto dealer who's betting big on the web and specifically with Google AdWords.
Good Bye Elmhurst Chop Suey.  Hello Pagoda Bistro Elmhurst!  Rising from the carnage of what seemed like a constantly vacant Chop Suey house is this new place that has a nice size dining room and a great location.  Right in Downtown Elmhurst in the City Centre and just a few doors down from the toy store on the east side of York, this *new* place seems that they're aiming for the fast casual dining dollar.  I have no idea if the menu has improved, but the curb appeal - with the new awning - certainly has helped appearances.
This year, Nat (and the Babe) picked out these two annual sets for our front yard near the boxwoods.  The Lantanas are in the spot where she usually has her Dahlias and the Peachy Keens are under the Cleveland Pear.  I'll try to get outside to grab a photo of them in place in a week or two after they get over the initial shock phase that comes with replanting.
The Babe and her Bestie taking in the Elmhurst Memorial Day Parade today.
I snagged this Elephant piece from my Dad's collection a few weeks back.  It is a set of 3 personal ashtrays.  You can see them there on the left of the photo above.  Very Mad Men-ish, right?  Take an ashtray and pass one around to your guests.  The elephant had me convinced we should take him home, but then I turned it over and was very surprised to see the mark:  Made in Occupied Japan.
That means it is firmly dated from 1945 to 1952 per the info out on the web.   Neat stuff and thus far, it has fit in well on our mantle in the living room.
Nat clipped this page from a catalog (Crate & Barrel, maybe?) and highlighted the two wine glass spikes as something that we should try to build to bring with to Ravinia.  They're NOT listed for sale - they're selling the table and basket and pillow but not those thing.  The appear to be a tubular metal that is bent in a open-ended ring with a spike at the bottom.  Perfect to balance a wine glass on when you're sitting in the grass.

Seems pretty easy, no?  Anyone have any ideas on how to make these work?  Do you need heat to bend the metal in such a manner?  I know you can bend conduit without heat, so guessing this would work the same.

I was out getting in some exercise this morning when I came across these signs in the window of a long-abandoned building at 503 W. 3rd Street in Elmhurst which is right where 3rd and West meet.  The building looks like a former garage and the drawing above looks like they're doing a lot of work to straighten the property out.

Here's what the building looks like now.  Love to see things like this happening in Elmhurst where businesses are taking shape and opening.  I wish these guys a lot of luck!

I had to yank these guys out to make room for the rest of the carrots to grow.  Thinning seedlings is important to making what you plant thrive, but I never do it enough.  The seeds for these things are way way way small, so I never do a good enough job planting them in a thin, even line.  I always plant too many seeds, but one year I'll learn to have a light touch with the seed packet.

These stalklings (is that what you'd call them?!?) popped up yesterday and is growing strong.  Last year, we had mice devour my sweet corn, so this year I'll have to come up with something to prevent that from happening again.  From what I remember, the stalks grow fast, but the ears develop a lot slower.  I'll be keeping a strong eye on them this year.
Just about a week after I put them in the ground, I spotted the first little seedling popping up through the soil this morning.

These are a heirloom variety called a Touchon that is known to grow straight and strong.  I think I'm going to have thin these out a bit but I'm hoping that in 65 days we'll have a bunch of carrots to chow down on.

This weekend, I was able to find time to clean up the raised beds and plant everything.  We have eight tomato varieties going this year along with a few other vegetables including peppers, squash, corn, potatoes, and even a few garlic cloves.
Had a wonderful night watching the Good Guys beat up on the Cubs last night.  All things considered (NATO, etc) we got to the game relatively easy and had great seats!  Thanks Dennis and Angela!
Between Menards and Home Depot, we finally were able to buy our vegetables (along with a couple of ferns and a grafted daisy tree!) today.
Here's the final version of the DIY Rocket Launch Pad that I made for my nephew yesterday.  The pad is made from a 1X8 with the bottom and back cut into 7.5" squares.  The front lip is 7.5" X 2" tall.  The sides are 7" tall and fill in the gaps between front and back.  I used decking screws because this thing involves water and pre-drilled the holes to avoid splitting.

From there, I painted it white then painted on an orange and blue rocket, added the VASA '12 logo (a space organization named after my nephew, of course!) and even a motto on the back.    I wrapped it up in the typical wrapping paper:  the days newsprint.

Also included in the Rocket package was this custom modified bike pump needle.  All you need to do is grab your needle, lay it next to a cork and then chop it down so the air holes just poke through.

Here's the launch vehicle.  I used a Diet Orange Crush bottle.  But any 2 litre bottle will work fine.

Just fill it up 1/3 of the way with rocket fuel.  Errr.....water.   Then jam the cork into it, then attach to a normal bike pump.  Then...pump.  And pump.  And pump.  And...stay out of the way!

The rocket will soar.  It is also pretty kid safe because (as you can see below), it takes an adult to deliver enough pressure to make it take off.  I didn't get a video of it actually taking off before we had to leave.  Maybe this weekend, I'll go over there to see it launch again!

I put this cryptic white box together using some decking screws and a treated 1X8.  I have to do a little bit of detailing with paint, but after those designs go on, this thing should be good to go.  I tested the other part of it this morning and the test vehicle landed all the way in our neighbor's yard.  This *is* going to be fun to play with!
I was driving behind this squad car and saw the url on his bumper:  Could that be the worst url to display on a fast-moving vehicle ever?
Just north of Second Street, North Avenue has very little going on for it.  Sure, there's Francesca's and City Hall and even a Fruit Bouquet place but on the east side, there's long stretches of vacant spaces.  And on the west side there's a weird hookah shop, a travel agency (really?), a store that sells pencils (I think?), a salon or two and even more vacant space.

But the west side of the street received some good news with the 'coming soon' sign at 193 N. York from Flexeon Rehab and Therapy.  They're going in just south of Salt Creek Pottery and just north of this vacant space where you see the $10K grant sign.  Flexeon is a nice addition - even though it isn't retail.  A healthy downtown needs a good mix of uses as they feed each other.  Flexeon will have patients come downtown who now might be there during the middle of the day and they could stay for lunch.  Or they could waste some time before their appointment and shop for some toys.  My only question about this space is parking.  There's a lot down on the corner and a lot of street parking, but wonder where folks are going to park?

There are a few more vacant spaces on the west side of York that I'm hoping will fill up.
I picked up 5 lbs of seed potatoes a week ago and chopped them up into little segments in preparation for planting them  in the next week.  The sack says that 5 lbs will produce up to 75 lbs of potatoes.  Woah.  That's a lotta potatoes.  Guess we'll be eating a lot of mashed potatoes later this summer/fall.
They won't be opened by Mother's Day, but they're getting pretty close to popping open.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to putting all of the Peony plants inside of cages, so some of them are starting to droop to the ground under the sheer weight of the flower buds.
I was asked to be a 'special person' by my nephew at his school's Special Person Day yesterday.  That's him in the photo above with his recycled-product battleship.  While there may be some dispute about which kid made the best recycled-product item, there's no debate about who's was the biggest.  The battleship was - by far - the biggest!

I had so much fun reading and counting with him and I couldn't have been happier to be there or felt more 'special' than I did in his classroom yesterday.
I just pulled our Orbit Automatic Watering System out of the garage and got it hooked up to the spigot.  This thing has really changed the way I tend to my garden.  I no longer have to even think about watering the plants, they get a daily watering for 38 minutes every morning from drip lines.  Can't recommend one of these enough to anyone who has a garden in their yard.

See those green-ish strawberries forming on the vines?  This is the third year of this Strawberry plant and - if we can get to these before the birds do - we'll finally have enough to eat.
We just received the first look at our new landscape plan and there's a lot going on.  Front yard has a much-expanded landscape bed on the south side.  Where there was grass (on the left side above from about the porch back) is now planting beds.  And they've designed to rip out our existing boxwoods and move them to on either side of the stairs.  Lots to digest, but I think we're going to move on some of it soon.
Earlier this year, I was nominated and placed on the University of Illinois Department of Communication Alumni Advisory Board.  The details of the board are here on the Department's site.  I'm quite honored to be participating amongst this great group.  We recently had our first meeting of the year and the head of the department ( the way was called "Speech Communications" back in *my* day and is now just named "Communication") sent me this nice note and Illini tumbler.  You'll note that the card has a photo of The Eternal Flame and of the building I spent the majority of my time in:  Lincoln Hall.

With the renovation of Lincoln Hall coming to a conclusion (finally) the department will be back in it's proper home this fall.  We're planning on a nice celebration down on campus this fall to mark the re-opening of the great building.  Can't wait!
According to my house/yard file, I planted these blue and white Columbines in late May of 2011.  They've come on strong this year after a lot of green growth last year.  They're blooming these incredible-looking flowers that - as their name implies - look a bit like Origami.  They have these very intricate and quite symmetrical shapes to the flowers.  They're also really a striking blue - this photo doesn't do them justice.
We planted these three Viburnum bushes in 2010 and after a bad start (we went on vacation to Michigan for an entire week shortly after we planted these and it was *very* hot), they've begun to come back strong.  Last year, I was worried that they might not come back, but this year there wasn't any question.  They were one of the earliest to put on new buds and (as you can see) there are quite a few white flowers blooming this spring.

We recently hired a landscape designer to build a plan for our - currently - haphazard landscape and she pointed out how lovely Viburnum can be, but cautioned that they can get VERY big.  Me thinks these three might be planted too close together.  We'll find out this week when we get a peek at the plan.
Along with those Disney Matchbox cars in the box that arrived from my mom's house, was this toy truck that has a working magnetic crane.  Cute truck in primary colors that doesn't have a lot of wear and tear on it.  I actually don't remember playing with this thing at all.  The most interesting part is that there's a sticker on the bottom that shows where it was made.  Nope...isn't China.  Nor even Japan.  It says Western Germany.
Pretty neat.  I've never seen a sticker like that on the bottom of a toy.  The whole crank thing is geared toward kids that are a bit older than the Babe, so we'll put this away until Christmas and break it out along with our Lionel Train.
My mom has begun cleaning out her attic and has started to deliver a lot of my personal effects to our house over the past few weeks.  The timing is great because we're having a garage (really...a "yard") sale next week.  At the bottom of one of the boxes that contained a bunch of childhood items were these three vintage Matchbox Disney cars.  Guess who I didn't really love?  Looking at you, Minnie.  Compare the paint job on Jiminy Cricket - and how banged up he is - compared to the relatively untouched Minnie.  Also, see that "TJ" on the front hood of Jiminy's Rolls Royce?  That's what I was called for a few years when I was a little one.  I actually don't remember that period, but I'm reminded every once in a while when one of my Aunt's calls me that at a family gathering.

Don't worry.  These cars aren't going in the garage sale.  The Babe had asked recently for some 'cars' - after playing with them at her friend Michael's house over the weekend - so she'll be thrilled when she sees these!
On the south side of our house there's a mess of perennials.  Some we've planted, some left over from the mean old lady who lived in our house before we bought it.  These tall purple iris are hers.  They've come up every spring and bloom these very pretty light purple flowers.  They don't last long, but I like them and would like to see them get a better spot than smashed in betwix all the various hodge-podge of flowers.  They provide a nice variety in terms of height and the greenery stays longer than the flowers.  We're having a landscape plan drawn up that *should* include them.  One way or another... they'll be incorporated in a nice way.
I've been drawn to ferns for as long as I can remember.  Perhaps it started with my mother and her ability to craft a shade garden.  We grew up on a heavily wooded lot that saw little direct sunlight.  That didn't stop her from going crazy with hostas.  They grow great in the shade and as a perennial, come back every year.  Things couldn't be easier.

When we bought our hose, the wicked old lady who owned it before us, dug up all of her plants and took them with her when she left.  I wasn't happy at the time as there were quite a few peonies and hostas that were mature and we saw during our inspection.  But, thinking back, that harvesting of her plants turned out to be a good thing.  We basically got to start over.  We re-dug and edged new beds.  We put down mulch where there wasn't any mulch.  And, we planted new stuff that *we* liked (and....that was usually on sale at Menards or Home Depot.)

But, in the back corner of our lot, right next to our neighbor's compost pile popped out a few little Ostrich Ferns.  Aha!  The mean old lady didn't get *everything* from her yard and left behind (at least) a few of these little ferns.

But, the back corner is where we put our swingset, so I had to relocate them.  Two summers back, I dug them out and put them up in one of our beds that gets some shade.  And those two little plants have  multiplied.  In that photo above, there's 10 stands of ferns now.  And...there's even more that I moved to the north side of our house last year.  They're growing like crazy in both spots and I couldn't be happier.  Later this summer, I'll divide these above a bit more and get even more growing on the north side of our house where we are almost all shade all day long.
Just like last year, May 1st feels like a good spot to top and take a quick analysis of the year thus far.  With the calendar turning to May, we're not 1/3rd of the way through the calendar.  Like last year, I'd say that the first four months went *very* fast.

What's on deck for the next 1/3rd of the year?

  • Plant my garden
  • Stain the outside (what's left) of our fence
  • plant grass seed in our patches
  • Improve my backhand (tennis)
  • Welcome a new baby in the world
  • Clean out the garage so my car fits in there again
  • Build a A/V center in the basement
  • Paint the rest of the trim in the basement