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Showing posts from May, 2013

First Strawberry of the Year: 2013

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Earlier this Spring, we moved our Strawberry plant from the center of the main raised bed to a separate, stand-alone pot that could allow it to spread out a bit.  Due to that stress, I'm thinking that I stunted the plant's growth this year as this morning I was able to pull just one - the first! - berry off.

Granted, it is a bit early, as last year it wasn't until late June that we were getting a lot of fruit.  Nat and the girls enjoyed this one berry and Nat said it was delicious.  Makes me want to go out and buy a few more plants.  I know it takes multiple seasons for them to start paying off/bearing lots of fruit, so we better get started now to have something by next Summer.

Elmhurst Block to Block City Centre Party

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Last night, we took the two girls out for ice cream at BrainFreeze and stumbled upon a series of live musicians that were playing around the City Centre.  Turns out, the Elmhurst City Centre group is hosting an event series called "Block to Block Party" every Wednesday and Saturday night from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

The Party consists of live musicians at four locations around the downtown area.  We saw three of them and they added a nice atmosphere to the area.  It didn't hurt that it was an amazing night out.

The notion of live, acoustic music played two nights a week in town every week is a nice one and...in my mind...is a bit of a differentiator.  I don't know of any Western Suburban Downtown area that does something like this?  Maybe other's do indeed have a musician in place, but the scale at which this is executed (4 musicians two times a week all summer) is pretty great.   

Will it get people downtown?  I'm not sure, but it certainly can't h…

Baptisia Australis - Perennial of the Year 2010

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Last week, we picked up one of these Baptisia Australis plants at Luurs Nursery last week.  It is commonly known as Blue False Indigo.  We bought because we liked the look and the fact that it was named Perennial Plant of the Year didn't help.  According to Wikipedia, the Cherokee Tribe used it to create blue dye.

I planted it in our front yard and Nat quickly said that we should go back and buy a few more.   It seems to have taken root and the rains we've had the past few days have certainly assisted it finding a home in the bed.

Pinky Winky Hydrangea Tree

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Last week, we stopped by a nursery in Hillside and found a nice Pinky Winky Hydrangea Tree that we loved.  The only issue was the price.  It wasn't cheap.  On Saturday, I took both girls over to Menards and while out in the garden center, I saw the same variety and about the same size, but for less than half the price.  Into the cart this thing went.

Our plan calls for something like this as a way to add some height to our northern set of beds along our walkway from the garage to our deck.  I put it in the ground yesterday after I cleaned up the one sucker near the bottom and gave it a big drink.

I've had mixed results with hydrangeas so I want to stay on top of this one water-wise so it has a good chance at establishing itself this summer.

Spiked Gayfeather: New Perennial 2013

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I picked up two Spiked Gayfeathers at the Elmhurst Garden Club Plant Sale a week or so back.

They grow tall and provide some height in a perennial garden and they do well in full-sun, so they'll - hopefully - do really well in the backyard right to the West of our family room.  I put them in and the greens are doing really well even though the Babe stepped right on one while she was chasing a wiffleball.  Which...as her father is a GREAT excuse for trampling my plants, btw.

Elmhurst Garden Club Plant Sale: 2013

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Back a few Saturdays ago, we stopped by the Elmhurst Garden Club's annual plant sale which was held at the Park District's Abby on St. Charles Road.

We didn't arrive too terribly early, but there was still a good selection available.  These sales tend to focus mostly on perennials with a few nicely planted annual pots put together.

The prices tend to be pretty good and the variety was just fine for us.  They had things broken down into shade vs. sun perennials and a wildflower section.  I always gravitate towards the ferns in the shade  section, but either they only had a few or they were already picked over when we arrived as they only had Ostrich and Painted Ferns available.  Both of which we already have.  The Ostrich variety do really well for us, and we're on our second year with a Painted Fern and it came back well - even after being buried for a few days under mulch.

We ended picking up two wildflowers and Pink Plox that the Babe picked out.  Of course, it h…

Thanks Google for the "Awesome Surprises" in Google+ Photos

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At this year's annual Google I/O Conference, the team at +Google  announced a bunch of things, but the first one that I *experienced* first-hand was the "extra Awesome Somethings"  in Google+ photos.

Using some programatic intelligence, the team at Google has started to 'drop' little surprises into your photo collection on Google+ when you take bunches of photos at once.

As an example, Google+ 'gifted' me these two neat things.  First, an animated GIF (JIF?!?!)  of the Babe and then this composite of the Bird.


Pretty neat stuff.  Thanks +Google+ !

Maple Tree Helicopters: I Hate You

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Our neighbor has a massive Maple tree that is right near our property line.  In the summer it provides a really wonderful shade, but in the Spring?  I hate it.  It drops so so so so many of these helicopter seed pods that clog up our gutters, litter our landscape beds and just make a mess of everything.

Just last week, I was so pleased with our our mulch/beds looked and today they look terrible.

I get our gutters cleaned every Spring and I've learned to wait until after these things fall to get it done.  Perhaps I need to remember to wait until late May for the mulch next year.

German Queen Tomato Plant - 2013

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I've never grown German Queen tomatoes, but like a Sharpei dog, they're so darn cute so I figured I should give them a try.  I know I said that I wouldn't be doing too many tomato plants this year, and I'm not....Just going to limit it to just five or 6 varieties.  Hopefully, I'll get this one in the beds before the calendar turns to June.  

Our Crab Apple Tree Flowering - 2013

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For but one week each Spring, the Crab Apple tree in our backyard turns into a spectacular pink beauty.   It gets covered with these flowers and really shows off.  Unfortunately, the show isn't very long and the petals fall into the landscape beds and the tree leafs out.

When we moved in, I wanted to take the tree down, but Nat pushed back.  She really likes the size/shape of the tree while I hate the location.  It is still standing.  And isn't going anywhere.

Black Cherry Tomato Plant

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Over the weekend, I couldn't resist picking up a few tomato plants.  I typically wait until the pickings are thin and the heirloom varieties are few and far between.  I usually plant at least one cherry/grape plant, but it isn't typically an heirloom.  This year, that changes with this Black Cherry beauty.

The beds aren't quite cleaned up yet, but by June 1st, we'll hopefully be able to plant these in the ground.  Until then, I'll do my best to keep it happy in the peat pot.

Fireworks Goldenrod - Via Western Springs Garden Club Plant Sale

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On Saturday we made our normal run to Kirsbaum's for doughnuts in the early am hours when we came across the Western Springs Garden Club Plant Sale which was taking place under the big tower on the Village Green.

This species will find a home in our plan in our backyard as it can tolerate some heat.  There are two spots that it would work:  on the southside by our butterfly bushes and in the front yard by our anemone.  I'm thinking it would work well in the front.     
If you ask some gardeners, they'll tell you that this is an allergy attack waiting to happen.  Good news:  they're wrong.  Consider me the Snopes.com of Goldenrod.  From the source:
Don’t worry about it causing long-lasting sneezes, either. Goldenrod is often blamed for aggravating hay fever, but the real culprit is ragweed, which blooms at the same time.

Freshly Laid Mulch - 2013

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We had 7.5 yards of mulch put down in our beds yesterday and I'll tell you that there's nothing better looking than a freshly mulched yard.  It makes the our plants look healthier, our shrubs look bigger, and even makes the spots on our grass look a lot less barren.

This year, we got the mulch in a lot earlier than in 2012.  It wasn't until mid-July until we had mulch last year.   As I noted last year, I was about 2 months behind the neighborhood schedule, so I think we're right on track this time around.  At least now Nat will be able to pull out of our garage without our neighbors frowning at her.  (I'm kidding!  Our neighbors don't frown at us because of the mulch....it is more about when they see me gardening/mowing the grass in my socks/sandals garb.)

Baskets of Gold (Goldentuft)

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Last summer, per the recommendation on our landscape plan, I moved a small perennial plant called "Baskets of Gold" from the front yard - on the south side, to the back yard on the north side.  I moved it some time after it had bloomed in the spring and it didn't like the move too much.  I wasn't sure if it would make it though the year.  To my surprise, it came back this spring and bloomed already.   This little plant is a spreader and sounds pretty versatile:
Basket-of-gold is one of those plants that loves to grow in the least likely of place -- cracks between paving stones, the edge of gravel paths and patios, rocky outcroppings, between the stacked stones of a retaining wall, and more. It loves a baked spot with excellent drainage but will struggle in hot, humid areas and tends not to do well in the South.But where it does well, it's a showstopper. It will reseed prolifically in little cracks, filling an area each spring with dazzling neon yellows. After it …

Hotdog Photographer: Me

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Head over to Conde Nast Traveler and take a peek at the hotdog slideshow they have up today and peek at who took the first photo of the "Depression Dog" from Gene & Jude's.
The team from CN Traveler reached out to me to ask if they could use my photo in their slideshow.    Of course...they could!  They even put in a nice link back to my site - which was awfully nice. This isn't the first time that someone has reached out.  Here's one of my tomato photos on a plant sale site and my post about that process.


9 Years of Blogging: Plugging along on JakeParrillo.com

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It seems that the 9th anniversary of this here blog came and went in mid-February without me giving it much thought.  In fact, it seems that I mostly forgot about the 8th anniversary, too.  I posted in 2011 to celebrate the 7th anniversary here, but have skipped the past two years.

Well...because we're (now) closing in on ten years of *stuff* on the web, I thought it would be meaningful to at least take a pause and reflect on 9 years - even if it is three months late.

As of this post, there are 1387 posts in the archives of JakeParrillo.com.  Across 111 months, that leaves an average of 13ish posts per month.  With the past few years providing almost a post a month, that tells me that there were some lean years (months) in there.  I'm looking at you 2008.

My life has come a long way.  From a political hack to a daddyblogger (and political hack), my interests have clearly morphed to focus on gardening, pizza, family, and my community.

For posterity sake, here's what Jake…

Glam Nails - Elmhurst: Closed

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Glam! Nails - which was at 206 N. York Road, right across from City Hall - is closed and there is now a For Lease sign in the window.  This spot is right in between the Edible Arrange and the newish building that houses an eye doctor and the Koening and Strey office.

Seems like a hard spot for walk-by retail as the parking situation is unknown?  City Hall has plenty of parking, but most of it is used up during the day.  Could we get a kitchen products store?  Or a store that guys like me would want to go in and spend 30 minutes?

Burning Bush - Front Yard - 2013

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Just to the north of our front stairs, we have a Burning Bush shrub.  I planted it there 2 summers ago late in the season after finding the little thing at Home Depot for $0.99.  It was a runt.  Two years later, it is starting to fill out and have a little bit of shape.  We didn't get a very brilliant fall last year, but that was mostly because it was so small.  With the "leap" this year in the "sleep/creep/leap cycle", we *should* have a nice shrub that will take on some color in the fall.

Ostrich Ferns Poking Through - 2013

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See those green things popping through the mulch?  Those are my favorite plants in the whole yard:  our ostrich ferns.  What started as some left-overs from when the Wicked Witch moved out of our house and took with her what she thought was ALL of the perennials, became a few hostas and two of these ferns.  They're multipliers, so we now have about eight bunches of them and I've even managed to give one away.

They've quickly become my favorite plant in the garden and I can't wait for them to spread out even further.

Elmhurst Newcomers and Neighbors Club: A Night at the Derby

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This Saturday - May 4th - from 3 to 7 pm at Flight 112 in Elmhurst, the Elmhurst Newcomers and Neighbors Club (ENNC) is hosting their annual fundraiser.  This year, the organization that they're supporting is Special Kids Day.

Tickets are $40/head and can be purchased online or at the door.    There is food, drinks, live music and  a silent auction that has at least 2 things that I've been lusting after:  a collection of Werner ladders and a bunch of free stuff from Home Run Inn including gift cards and free frozen pizza coupons.

The reason I've been lusting after them is that Nat has been involved in putting this whole thing together.  "Involved" might be an understatement?  She's really dug in and helped bring this event to life and I'm really proud of her for all of her hard work.  Nat has so many talents, but it seems one of the things she really enjoys (and does well) is pulling together these type of activities.  I guess that's why she's i…

108 W. Second Street - Elmhurst - For Lease

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Looks like the Dejavoo Boutique has closed up shop and their space is up for lease at 108 W. Second Street.  This spot is just down Second Street from Starbucks and just east of the Nail Bar.  I've always had a hard time finding parking right there on Second when we run to Starbucks, so I have no idea if that has an impact on the value of this location.

With so many vacancies in the Elmhurst City Centre, it seems like there's a big opportunity to transform our downtown from a service (salons/banks) to a stronger retail-based economy.

Last week, Nat had a meeting at a restaurant and I took the Bird out for a walk around the City Centre for an hour.  It was Saturday evening at 5 pm and I tried desperately to find a store that I wanted to go in.  Granted...a lot of things were closed for the night (the toy store), there isn't a place that I wanted to head into and linger.  I would have wasted time in a kitchen products store or a more manly store (like a hybrid hardware/proj…