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Showing posts from 2013

Thanks Google+ for the AutoAwesome 2013 Review Movie

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Thanks to the magic powers of Google+ and AutoAwesome, I woke up this morning and was gifted this cute movie.  Didn't have to lift a finger.  They picked the photos, they picked the videos, they even picked the music.  All I had to do was post it here (and on Google+ of course...)

Pretty incredible example of the fun stuff that can come out of massive computing power in the cloud.

Elmhurst Front Yard Christmas Tree - 2013 Edition

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I don't seem to have posted on our Front Yard Tree in 2012, but above is the photo (made #autoawesome by Google) of this year's tree.

The full story is here in this post on our 2011 tree - which shows the sad state of snow last winter.  We're already ahead of last year's total it seems.
Here's my post from our 2009 tree.Here's my post from our 2010 tree.  Here's my post from our 2011 tree.

Wait, This Exists?

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Longtime readers know my fascination with Christmas Villages.  Hell...I even came up with the name for my own town:  Mantleburg.  But, due to space and a little bit of sanity winning out, I've really slowed down on the acquisition of any sort of new Christmas Village stuff.

That was, until I was gifted this Chop Suey Palace from A Christmas Story this am.

That lead me down a web rabbit hole where I discovered these:  National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation village stuff.

Yeah...they're all there.  Cousin Eddie with the full shitter.  Clark's over-lit house, and even the huge tree on top of the Truckster.  As I've learned in the past, these things roll out in phases, so I'm expecting to see more next year.

Maybe Mantleburg will get a new subdivision after all...

Christmas Tree Farm Trip - 2013

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We kicked off Christmas in our traditional way:  by cutting down perfectly good trees on a farm down in Braidwood.  Here's last year's post/photo.  Just took a little bit of shaving to get our tree in the living room.  Took about a foot off the bottom and it fit perfectly!

I Finally Caved: Christmas Inflatables

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After resisting the purchase of seasonal inflatbles for our yard, I finally caved.  You can see the big guy is now taking up residence in my garden - right outside of our dining room window.  After a nap this weekend, the Bird came down and couldn't have been happier to see him.

Am I embarrassed by finally caving to these ridiculous things?  Kind of.  But, that smile on her face more than makes up for it.  In fact, I went out and doubled-down.  More on that later this week!

Thanksgiving Day = The Last Waltz

Every year is the same these days.  After the Turkey Trot, we come home and I want to watch the Last Waltz.  Nat and the girls want to watch the parade.  So...I usually scurry off into the basement or my office and watch as much as I can.  Traditions are traditions, right?

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

2012 post
2011 post
2007 post
2005 post
2004 post

Illinois Truth Team Memes

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Over at the Illinois Truth Team, we're seeing what might be a first for Illinois politics:  the 2014 primary races getting the meme-treatment.

Background on this particular meme about Bob Grogan in the Illinois Treasurer's Race can be found here on the Truth Team site.


Harry London...Didja Forget the Word "Chocolate"?

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I saw these little gift boxes at Costco over the weekend and I couldn't help but think that the printer/designer forgot the word "Chocolate" in the product description.  Shouldn't it read "Milk **Chocolate** Peanut Butter Pretzel Nuggets"?

Or is there such a thing as milk peanut butter?

Train Table Build Out Begins - 2013

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At the request of my wife, we're moving the train table out of the main room in our basement to the spare bedroom.  Part of it is here (temporarily) across the bed as a test fit.  Here's how it looked last year.  On saw horses.  This is going to be an upgrade.   Between the sturdy legs and the one-piece top, we'll also have a bit more room.  From nine foot wide to almost eleven.

Hoping I can find time this weekend to finish it up with the Babe's help!

Vintage Eyelash Reindeer Ornament

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This weekend, we stopped at an antique shop out in Naperville after lunch and Nat came across this little reindeer ornament.  How 'bout those eyelashes?!?  She's going to look great next to these two, right?

Vintage Christmas Find: "Giftrims"

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On Saturday, we stopped by the Holiday Craft and Bake Sale at a church in our neighborhood.  While the craft section wasn't really of much interest to me, they did, tucked away in a hallway, have two tables of what I'll generously call "Garage Sale Christmas-related things".

Included there was this set of "Giftrims".  They're from the 60's?  70's?  Printed in Pennsylvania per the copy at the bottom of the box.

This originally sold for $0.59, but they were asking just $0.25.  Some of the tags are gone, I think?  At least, the package was opened every so slightly, so I'm assuming some are gone.

Figured for just a quarter, these are going to look great on top of our gifts we give our family this year.

Last Night's Tally - 2013

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Despite the rain, we had A LOT of trick-or-treaters show up yesterday.  Just like in year's past, I tried to keep count.  Last year, we had 327 total.  This year?  326.

Last year we had 8 adults, this year just 6.  But...there were a few people that had multiple bags where they said that their son/brother/sister was 'Sleeping in the car'.

In 2012, we had 327 total.
In 2011, we had 269 total.
In 2010, we had 236 total.
In 2009, we had 184 total.

Carved Pumpkin - 2013

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Our trip this year really cramped our Jack-O-Lantern style this year.  We made it out to Sonny Acres just this week and had some slim pickings of the pumpkins.

In year's past, I've gone crazy.  See the Owl Pumpkins here.  This year, it was all about the Babe.  She wanted to carve her pumpkin with a very specific pattern.  That's what you see here.  She had her heart set on the star eyes, so Nat was able to help make those happen.

The Babe couldn't be more proud!

Upgrading Our Lionel Train Layout This Year?

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Last year, we put up our first Lionel layout in the basement.  You can see it here in this photo.  It was nice sized and fit into the corner of our basement.  Nat hated it.  She thought it was way, way, way too big.  The Babe, and I, however loved it.

With Halloween just a day away, my attention is turning to Christmas.

Putting up the train isn't so much about the actual train as it is about having a memory of my childhood with my Dad.  In looking around the web for inspiration, I came across this massive layout that was (apparently) on the back cover of the 1957 Lionel catalog.  From the looks of it, this appears to be a 2X size of our current layout, which means we're going to have to find a new home for the train.  With all the little kids at our house all the time, moving it into a different room isn't the worst idea ever.  I'm thinking that it can fit neatly into either the spare bedroom down there or perhaps even into the crawlspace underneath our family room.…

Marshall Field's Christmas Windows Being Built Out

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One of the benefits of walking straight down Randolph Street from Olgivie to Aon most mornings is that I get to see all sorts of transformations.  The planter boxes outside of City Hall are especially nice.  But, as this is my first winter doing this walk, this is the first time I've been able to see the famous windows at Marshall Field's Macy's undergo their transformation.     With Halloween going down this week, I have a feeling we'll see them come out from hiding as early as next week.

75 Flights of Stairs (Equivalent)

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That's (apparently) what happens when you go to the very top of Cortona.

This Year's Scarecrows - 2013

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The family of four has made their annual appearance on Indiana Street.  Here's what they looked like in 2012, 2011, and 2010 - their first year.

Last year, we added the Pumpkin Cemetery, which is also back this year, but we made a new addition - that Nat absolutely hates!  More on that soon.

Potatoes Are In - 2013

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I filled up 2 five gallon buckets worth of red, white, and sweet potatoes this week as I turned over the soil in the potato beds.  I planted 3 pounds of seed potatoes and after giving dozens of spuds away to my family and neighbors, I ended up with more than a full 5 gallon bucket for ourselves.

This was last year's harvest.

Anyone want some potatoes? Come on by.  I have them out in the garage staying cool.  Would love to share them with you!

Carrots Came In - 2013

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Some of them are absolutely HUGE.  These were planted via seed tape (post here) and did pretty well in terms of size, but not so much on taste.  They were a bit woody tasting when eaten raw.  But...they sure do look awesome.  Next year, I'll see if I can optimize the growth to focus on taste.

New Bike Racks in Elmhurst City Centre

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Walking to the train last week, I spotted a few of these along York Street.  They were recently installed (based on the marks on the pavers) and I think should be a welcome move by the Downtown merchants.  Nice to have more options to park your bike.

Elmhurst Park District's Touch-a-Truck 2013

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Over the weekend, we took both girls out to Berens Park for the Elmhurst Park District's annual "Touch-a-Truck" program.  The weather was awesome, the crowds weren't too huge (once the helicopter arrived!) and we had a ton of fun.

Touch-a-Truck is a really neat program that the Park District pulls together.  They bring out their own equipment (see the tractor above), but also work with community partners to bring out all the cool stuff.  Fire Trucks, Police Cars, Moving Trucks, Jewel Refrigerated Trucks, and even...a helicopter.  Yep!  A medical helicopter.

As soon as it landed in one of the baseball fields, the lines for all the other trucks got cut in half, so we quickly boarded a bunch of them then made our way to the helicopter area and waited in line.

At the end?  We even got the Babe on the chopper!  Pretty cool stuff.  Good job, Elmhurst Park District!


Pumpkins Blooming - 2013

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Though they're about a month behind of where I've had them in past years, we finally have some pumpkin blooms popping out.  I've put them in a different spot this year and probably got them in the ground a bit late, so we'll see what we have by Halloween.  I'm going to give them a little boost with a fertilizer this week and I'll try to pinch off any other blooms to make sure the vine puts all of it's energy in this little guy.

Here's a photo of early pumpkins in 2011.
Here's a photo of the early pumpkin plant in 2012.

Vintage Ceramic Christmas Tree (With a Surprise)

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After an early morning session of "Biddy Soccer" with the Babe (and some celebratory Slurpee's from 7-11), we stopped at a few yard sales.  The Babe looking for some cheap My Little Ponies and me looking for some treasures.

I came across this cute little vintage ceramic Christmas tree.  As you guys well know, I'm all over vintage Christmas stuff.

I was pretty surprised when I tried to pick it up and it came apart.  What was it?


A sweet lighter and four ashtrays.  How very retro!?!  They were asking just $1.00, so I tried to hide my excitement and casually handed the lady my dollar bill.  I brought it home and immediately emailed my dad some photos to show it off.

Little Vintage Blowmold Santa

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A few weeks back, we dropped off a load of stuff at GoodWill and while there, I couldn't help but take a quick pass through the aisles to see if there was anything interesting.  This blowmold Santa - standing at about 15" tall - was listed at $1.00.  With the 20% off coupon in my hand from the donation, I snapped him up for all of $0.80.

It wasn't until I got home to figure out if it worked, but lo and behold, after a tightening of the bulb, it glows just right!

The Babe was with me and she said that she wants him to stand guard in her room during the holiday season.

The Full Set of Carolers

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Yesterday, I posted an image of a little caroler that we picked up at the Kane County Flea Market.  She was all by herself, but too much of a bargain to pass up.

I went hunting around on ebay and found this listing which has her and her four friends accompanying her.  She's part of a band!    (that's them above)

I'm awfully hesitant to buy something like this on ebay.  I like the hunt, so I'll start to keep an eye out for each of these guys.  Guessing they'll cost more than the $21.99 (including shipping) that this seller is asking, though!

Vintage Spaghetti Trim Mrs. Claus

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Over the long holiday weekend, we took the girls and went with Nat's sister out to the Kane County Flea Market.  Everyone came home with something.  Nat scored an old book, her sister added to her bronze 'critter' collection, and I picked up a few vintage Christmas things including this little Mrs. Claus.

She has some spaghetti-like trim, so she'll go nicely with the other pieces we have like this Santa.

There were a bunch more things I would have picked up, but the prices seemed high to me.  That appears to be the big difference:  garage sale folks just want to get rid of things and sometimes don't really care what the prices are whereas the Flea Market folks know *exactly* what they have and charge prices as such.

Another Vintage Santa Garage Sale Find

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The ceramic Santa bank wasn't the only Christmas item we picked up at the garage sale this weekend.  We also got this guy.  Look at that hand-painted mustache!  He's about 4 inches tall and has this made in Japan sticker on his hat, so we can *kinda* date him.    The sticker is in an odd spot, though.  Not on the base of his feet, but up on the back of his hat.  And...it seems to almost be stitched in there.

He'll look great in the mix with the rest of our stuff.  

Talk about Chrismas Creep?!?  Guess I'm just as guilty as Costco, eh?


Vintage Ceramic Santa Bank

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Speaking of Christmas Creep...we got into a bit of it ourselves with a few purchases at a garage sale in our neighborhood last week.

I couldn't pass this guy up and I think he'll go great amongst our collection of other vintage Santas in our holiday decor.  The most recent example of one of these guys here.  And, here's another one with Spaghetti Trim.

This one is old, but I'm not certain the exact date of manufacture.  As you can see below, it is a bank, but it also has a "Made in Japan" sticker on it, so that gives it some historical markers and places it amongst the rest of our collection.

Pay no attention to the price tag on this one.  Every year we go to the Vintage Christmas show, we always pay quite a bit more for these ceramic guys, so I was thrilled to find a deal like this.

I'll post about the rest of the stuff we bought, but after putting together a 'package deal', I think we paid less than even what they were asking here ($0.50).


Christmas Creep - 2013

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We were at Costco over the weekend and what did we find?  Christmas stuff was already out!

Last year, I documented Christmas Creep all the way to August 30th and in 2012, it wasn't until the first week of September that I spotted the Christmas decor making an appearance.

This year it was August 19th - almost two weeks ahead of schedule.

Like I've said in the past...I'm not a Scrooge, so I don't mind these things.  But....I *do* feel bad for Thanksgiving.  Halloween has hired the right PR firm the past few years and has started to keep up with Christmas in terms of 'stuff'.  Thanksgiving on the other hand?  Not so much.

Early Carrot Harvest - 2013

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This was the second year we grew carrots in our garden.  Last year, we had a bunch of those short stubby ones that I planted way too close together.  So this year, I decided to try to use carrot seed tape to make sure the seeds were evenly spaced and I wouldn't have to yank a bunch of seedlings out.

Something happened.  Either I planted them too deep or the seeds in the tape had turned or something because I only ended up with about 20 or so carrot seedlings.  Instead of the 300 or so I was expecting.

This is the first one that I pulled out to see where they were in their growth process.  They're much longer than last year and have a nice orange color up near the leafy greens.  I'm going to leave the rest of them in the ground a bit longer, so hopefully we'll have some carrot stick 'mixers' for a bloody mary bar during one of the Bears' games this season.

Pear Harvest - 2013

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Just two months after I noticed that the pear tree in our backyard had gone through a growth spurt, we're dealing with our first *real* pear harvest.  With a little bit of reading, turns out you're not supposed to allow pears to ripen on the tree.  I pulled down as many as I could, but I need to get on a ladder this weekend to remove the rest.

From the fine folks at Oregon State University:

Pears picked when slightly immature will ripen with better quality than pears that are over mature when picked. To tell if a pear is mature, a general rule of thumb is that, while still on the tree, most mature, ready to ripen pears will usually detach when "tilted" to a horizontal position from their usual vertical hanging position. Bosc pears always are difficult to separate from the spur.  "Unlike apples, which are ready to eat from the day they are picked, pears must go through a series of changes before they can deliver their full splendor," explained Sugar. "…

Parking Patrons Use Only? Huh?

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This sign is posted in a garage in Elmhurst just south of the tracks.  We went and had a meal at the Snuggery.  Is that an "other" activity?!?!

The Battle of the Arborvitae in Elmhurst

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This is the view of a backyard of a home down the block from us (as viewed from the alley).  They recently did a pretty amazing upgrade of their backyard and in lieu of a fence, they put up this really tall stand of arborvitae.  It looks really great.

The reason I call it a "battle" is that someone else on the block recently installed a row of taller arborvitae as a privacy hedge adjacent to a new tear-down home.

We have a few of these things in our yard that I planted.  We bought them from Costco and are a bit less than half the height.   And they weren't cheap, so I know these folks made a sizable investment with these! I'm jealous of them and the privacy they've given the homeowners almost instantly.

Sweet P Doll Studio Elmhurst

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Looks like a new storefront is opening up on 3rd Street just West of York.  Sweet P Doll Studio is said to be 'coming soon' based on the sign in the window.  According to their Facebook page, they're set to open in October and you'll be able to 'make' dolls.
Coming Soon! A place for girls to create for their 18" Doll! Like our page and stay tuned as we count down the days till we open in October 2013!
Sounds like a really nice addition to Elmhurst's downtown that will provide a reason to be "downtown".  Guessing they'll have the full birthday party routine, right?   I could see my daughters loving the whole doll-making process.  We've been to American Girl (Well...we walked thru it when I was there, but I think Nat has actually taken them to the whole lunch thing) and The Babe was in heaven.  

I wish them a lot of luck!  I'm sure we'll be in there shortly after they open.

Found: Lake Louise Sigal Brothers Canadian Blue Plate

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At a yard sale this weekend, we came across this blue Lake Louise plate that we couldn't pass up.  My in-laws have been to Lake Louise and have come back with lots of photos and stories from Banff.

The plate was made by the Sigal Brothers in Windsor Canada and has at $5.95 price sticker on the back.  It is "made in Japan", so it likely has *some* age to it, but I can't figure out how old.  I did find a companion plate on Ebay (here), but the one we bought has a larger/longer description on the back and appears to be a bit older than the one being listed for sale.  They're asking $10.99, so my $0.50 (I haggled!) deal is looking pretty good.



Westmoreland Milkglass Candlesticks: Found at Garage Sale

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While up in Michigan, we stopped in a bunch of yard sales.  At one of them, we came home with these two Westmoreland Milkglass candlesticks and the little bowl in the middle.  All for $2.00.  

They're currently up on our mantle, but I know that while Nat adores milkglass, she isn't that into clutter.  I think these guys might have to get packed up saved for when/if we ever have a bigger house...

Sunflowers in Front Yard - 2013

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For the past two years, I've put sunflower seeds in the backyard along our far west fence line.  The've done fine there, but this year I decided to try something different.  I put them in our front yard and instead of just one variety, I used three different ones that all have different colors and sizes.

I dropped the seeds in earlier this summer and mostly forgot about them.  They're on the south side of our yard and the walkway is on the northside, so I have to be purposeful to walk over there to check these out.  I also (recently) put the pumpkin seeds down right by these sunflowers so now I have two reasons to spend time here!

As you an see from the photo, at least one of the plants is pretty far along, but the others are starting to catch up.  They grow in big spurts and move fast upwards.  Here's a photo from two years ago in late August that shows where they were then.  I'm thinking we'll be right on track this year again with flowers opening up in a f…

2013 Glad Peach Festival

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Over the weekend, we went up to Michigan and were able to attend the annual Glad Peach Festival in town.  They had all the necessary elements to have a great fest:  a good theme (Peaches and Gladiolas!), a small town atmosphere, some fun events, and great weather.

We even saw the crowning of Miss Coloma 2013!  The Babe loved that.

I know A LOT of hard work goes into the production of the festival, but what is a fun time, could be an amazing festival, I think.  Start with upping the number and variety of peaches.  Where's the peaches?  And the gladiolas?  That's a start, I'd think.

German Queen Tomatoes - 2013

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Look at those beauties.  They're getting big but not getting anywhere close to being red.

This is a variety that I have not grown int he past, so I don't know how fast they'll turn, but the plant is throwing off quite a lot of fruit.  There might be eight or ten of these things on the vine right now.

Core Power Yoga Elmhurst - Opening in October

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Walking by this building on York this am, I saw this big banner announcing the (soon to be) arrival of a new Yoga studio called "Core Power Yoga".  Their site lists the Elmhurst location as opening in October of this year.

This isn't some mom-and-pop Yoga place.  They're a big outfit.  In multiple states and have more than 15 locations here in Illinois including Hinsdale, Naperville, Oak Park and more.

The building is on the East side of York, just north of Palmer and is really big.  During the last Mayoral race, one of the campaigns operated out of the first floor and if I read the signs correctly, I believe there is an art gallery on the second floor.  That leaves me with the assumption that Core Power Yoga will be taking up the first floor/street level.

This is a really nice addition to downtown and should be a boost to the area north of Palmer.  There is a parking lot right next to the building, so guessing that the patrons will be able to drive right there an…

You Make My Dreams Come True...

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No one brings out a bigger smile in me than my wife of (almost!) five years.  One of our friends just shared this photo from her wedding earlier this summer.  I may not be the best dancer, but I sure do have a lot of fun dancing with this amazing woman!

If I had to guess, this was to Hall and Oates "You Make My Dreams Come True" which the DJ happily played for all of us.  (If you are reading this in your email and can't see the video below, do yourself a favor and click here to watch the video here back on the site. )



Pulte Homes Expanding in Elmhurst?

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The folks over at Illinois Homeowners Unite have posted a warning to a few communities about the coming of Pulte Homes to their towns.

Elmhurst tops their list.  A quick look on Google shows that Pulte is *already* here in Elmhurst with a development that is south of Butterfield, north of I-88 that contains a choice of just three models.  They're calling it their "Premier Collection".

The reason I bring this up is because we've started to hear some rumors about the redevelopment of the old Elmhurst Hospital property and one of the names of builders that keeps coming up is Pulte Homes.

Why does it matter?  Well...some info out there points to some negatives with Pulte.
As the economy has modestly improved we have seen an incremental rise in home values, yet nothing compared to the skyrocketing revenues of PulteGroup, which continues to produce homes using cheap labor to enhance its bottom line while showing little consideration for current homeowners, future homeown…

Spiked GayFeather Blooming - 2013

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Back in late May, I picked up this Spiked Gayfeather from the Elmhurst Garden Club annual plant sale.

It was a little thing with just a few inches tall of greenery.  I put it in the backyard in the beds underneath our family room.  It (apparently) likes it there.  Four flowered shoots have grown to be three+ feet tall and the flowers are so heavy that they're weighting down the stems.

Nat doesn't love the placement, but I am not sure I should move it.  She wants it to be moved to a different area where it can serve as the background behind some lower plantings.  I don't disagree with that idea, but I'm hesitant to move something that so clearly is happy and healthy.   They're known to divide after some time, so maybe early next Spring when they're just popping up, I'll dig up the roots of some of them and move them around.

Grape Tomatoes - 2013

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We're starting to get a lot of little green gems.  Still a week or two away from harvesting time, but they're looking nice and not getting any splits from uneven/over-watering.

Tomatillo Plant Fruiting -2013

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Earlier this summer, I picked up a tomatillo plant on a whim.  I stuck it in the ground and pretty much forgot about it.  At some point, I read that you actually needed two of them for pollination (source here), so I went back looking for another one, but came up empty.

I let the plant grow, but figured it was a lost cause.    I went back into the garden this morning to poke around and see what was happening and look at this beauty that is growing.  There are a few of them starting to take shape, so either they're going to be some bizarre tomatillo/tomato hybrid, you don't actually *need* two of them, or something else weird happened totally.