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Showing posts from July, 2017

Lego Loch Ness Monster @ Disney Springs

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I had to look closely to be sure this sea dragon in one of the lakes/ponds at Disney Springs was, indeed, made out of Lego bricks, but after a closer inspection, I can confirm that it is, indeed, legit Legos.  I have no idea if they build these big installations from ONLY bricks (meaning all the way to the middle) or if there is some form they use and apply bricks to the exteriors?  Do you Lego folks know?  Seems some folks use Duplos?  Or, as you'd guess, other structures.

I love how this Lego sea serpent/Loch Ness Monster is reminiscent of the topiary version from the Magic Kingdom and we always stop at the Lego store at Disney Springs.  Despite having that HUGE World of Disney store just a little bit further down the way, the LEGO store is always my kids favorite stop and where they typically put their (very limited) spending power.

New Tires On The Space Shuttle

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I think I was born to be a minivan guy.  I love driving it.  I love that they call it the Swagger Wagon.  I sometimes wish it was a bigger, real van.  Not a 'mini'.  Nat, on the other hand, is counting down the days until she can downsize into something smaller, more SUV-ish that is easier to handle (and park).  Once we get into all boosters and don't have the need for the massive double stroller, I think we can move off the mini-van everyday routine.  But, I think I'll keep it!  And use it as my primary car.  That's why I put on some sweet new tires - 80K tires.

I roll hard.


I don't drive my car very much - to the grocery store or to Menards, so it gets light use.  But, when we go somewhere as a family, we take the minivan.  And...it feels to me like the van is like a space shuttle.  Has so many controls and is so comfortable.  I love driving it and having the space.  It gets just ok gas mileage, but makes up for it in the way it handles and drives.  The onl…

Solar Eclipse Preparation - 2017

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I took the advice of Jason Kottke and took the plunge to obtain a few sets of solar eclipse glasses on Amazon while they were in stock.  With the kids, we opted for plastic glasses.  Are you guys not geeked about what we have in store?  I have a vivid memory of using a pinhole box when I was a kid in elementary school, so I'm excited to see what my kids think about the whole experience.

I have to think that the media is going to whip this into a frenzy, so get your glasses before they're gone.  Make sure you check 'delivery estimates' on Amazon or else you'll end up with a pair that might or might not arrive in time.  Or..who knows?  Maybe these kind of glasses are going to turn into August's version of fidget spinners and they'll be at the checkout counter of every Walgreens and CVS location around the area?

I took Jason's advice and ordered early.  He's been very thoughtful (and is excited) about the event, so go read the whole post over there f…

Vintage "Paw - Come 'N Get Your Coffee!!" Mug - Made in Japan

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I came across a garage sale up in Twin Lakes earlier this summer that I was drawn in via a vintage bicycle (that turned out to be a reproduction and was too expensive for me!) and ended up buying this silly coffee mug for $0.25.  It has this husband/wife and a pig on it and just spoke to me for some reason.  It has a comic strip kind of quality to it, but I can't quite place it.

Not Frank and Ernest.  Not quite Beetle Bailey.  Kind of like a hillbilly Blondie?

The same mug is on eBay for $19.99, which seems nuts, right?

Oh, did I tell you?  This got a MAJOR eye roll from Nat.   I made the mistake of leaving it in the front seat after I picked it up and she came across it before I could put it away.

It has some crazing going on and I have to think it will survive the dishwasher if it still looks like this after 40 or 50 years, so I stuck it in the cupboard in Twin Lakes and I'll use it when I can.

One of the big reasons why I bought it?  This "Made in Japan" sta…

Walt Disney: "Everyone needs deadlines."

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As seen on a construction wall at the International Gateway, where they are putting in the new Skyway station.  Pretty clever sponsorship from the folks at Stanley Tools.  From the Stanley sponsorship page - that may need to be updated based on Lights, Motors, Action going away:
Official Tool Provider of the Walt Disney World Resort, with over 200 branded signs in 40 Disney properties. This 10-year alliance includes branding, business-to-business and special program elements. STANLEY is one of a select group of alliance partners. The partnership includes construction wall signage throughout Walt Disney World Resort. STANLEY, DEWALT and MAC logos are featured at the Walt Disney World Speedway, and STANLEY, MAC, Proto and Vidmar products outfit the Lights, Motors, Action garage and the test track queue line and ride.

Go-Go Debuts in our #NewOldBackyard

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That's our Husqvarna Automower back in business, but in our #NewOldBackyard.  I've written a few times about our Automower here on the blog.  And, on my linkblog/other note-taking/link-saving thing, I even chronicled how we arrived at his/her name:  Go-Go.

We had Go-Go installed at Equation Boy/Man's place, so when we were moving out, I went around the perimiter of the lawn and picked up the boundary wire and stakes.  When we got to the #newoldfarmhouse, it took me a few weeks to find the time to spend in the yard putting the boundary (and guide) wires in around the edges of the yard.  Our #newoldbackyard is quite a bit bigger, so the wire installation kit that I ended up buying was the 'medium' version and as it turned out, we had *just* enough wire.  Like maybe 10 extra feet total.  And that's after deciding to not have Go-Go cut certain parts of the current lawn.    All the way in the back there's a densely shaded area that doesn't really have much…

Our Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangeas Are Turning

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Part of our initial plant/landscape installation included a few sets of hydrangeas out front of the porch.  I think both Nat and I really like hydrangeas - they're pretty easy to tend to and they have a bit of 'showiness' to them.  Our #newoldfarmhouse is white, so one of the ideas that Nat's Mom had was to try to bring in a hydrangea that had a bit of color to it.  Chris Paul of Green Grass Landscaping (and my fraternity brother!) came back with these Vanilla Strawberry ones.

They bloomed this first year and have good-sized white flowers.  But, just this week, you can see that some of them are turning pink.  Exciting stuff.  From the sounds of this story from HydrangeaGuide, it sounds like the show lasts all summer:
It will start to produce them show stopping flowers around the start of Summer and flowers appear from white pinkish buds and open into white flowers.The large white coned shaped flowers then start to turn pink before slowly turning a strawberry red colo…

Hill Cottage Tavern Collector's Plate - Out of Storage

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About three years ago, we stopped at an Estate Sale at this beautiful white house on York Street in Elmhurst, just south of St. Charles.  After looking around, we were told that the house is the old "Hill Cottage Tavern" that was once located on Cottage Hill Avenue but was - at some point - moved to it's current location.  The house was up for sale and if not for the location, would have been SUPER hard for us to pass up.

We bought a few things at the Estate Sale, but one of them is this plate that you see above.  We bought it and then 2+ years ago, it went into storage only to be unwrapped and discovered as we unpacked our stuff at our #NewOldFarmhouse.

On the back of the plate are the details:  it was made by the York State Bank and Trust Company and this plate was made for their 55th year.  They made 1000 of them and this one is #538.


Once we saw it unwrapped, Nat knew immediately what we needed to do.  She quickly came to the conclusion that this plate doesn'…

Spotted Cow Cans Spotted At Walmart

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I tend to do most of my shopping up in Wisconsin at Walmart.  Nat isn't a fan, so most of the time, the trips I make there are with just some of the kids.  We buy fishing gear, groceries (including turkey for grilled turkey and cheeses) and other lakehouse what-have-yous.  On one of my recent trips, I came across this huge pallet of New Glarus Spotted Cow 12 packs of cans right by the 'greeter'.  Interesting to see this craft beer being sold in Walmart, isn't it?

Having recently read this piece about New Glarus planned expansion, this got me thinking.  From BrewBound:
New Glarus Brewing Co. is adding 16 fermentation tanks that will eventually allow the Wisconsin brewery to double its annual capacity to more than 400,000 barrels.  The German manufactured tanks, each capable of holding about 580 barrels of beer, arrived via boat in Milwaukee earlier this week.  Carey had hoped the tanks would be operational for a busy summer selling season, but the additional fermentat…

Lizzie On Instagram

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Our builder came over after we moved in to take a few photos of the house and as she usually does to visitors, little Miss Lizzie cozied right up and made her presence known.  The result?  This photo that they posted on their Instagram handle.   Adorable?  Kinda.  Maddening?  That, too.

CTA Buses Through The Years - 70th Anniversary

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Earlier this month, the Chicago Transit Authority had a neat display of both modern and vintage buses set up at Daley Plaza right next to the Picasso for people to check out.   The buses ranged from one built in 1960 (that you see above) to a brand new one out on the street today.  I didn't go on the buses, but you can see people boarding them, which is kinda nice.  The oldest one is the coolest looking of the bunch that you can see below, isn't it?  Also, the green and cream are lovely to look at, aren't they?  The blue ones could be buses from Champaign or Chicago.  There's nothing making them unique.


The display was part of the CTA's 70th anniversary celebration.  From WGN:
The CTA will display three of its vintage buses on the Daley Plaza Monday and Tuesday as part of its 70th anniversary celebration.  The buses were gradually retired between the 1970's and 1990's -- but you'll get a chance to check them out.  Many of them still have the old ads t…

Postmaster Steel Fence Posts For Our Cedar Fence

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Over the past few posts about our fence, I showed the posts being installed and talked about what the fence was going to do in terms of framing up our backyard.  Unlike our first fence in Elmhurst, the crew putting our fence in this time dug each of the posts by hand.  I'm not sure if that is just how they roll or if it had something to do with the posts we selected?

Because we're planning on staying in our #NewOldFarmhouse for quite some time, after talking with the team at Classic Fence, we decided to upgrade to steel posts instead of the traditional 4x4 cedar posts.  The steel posts we selected are called Postmaster posts from Master Halco. They're specifically designed for wood fences and allow for the attachment of cedar rails on the sides and accept planks on the outside and inside to basically 'cover' or mask the steel post in it's entirety.

Here's a look at a few of the posts that were installed in our #newoldbackyard.  The one on the left is unad…

Crimson King Maple - Added to #NewOldBackyard

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Another tree?  Yep.  This makes number nine.  Nine trees planted this season in the yard.

There's 2 flowering pears, 1 Japanese flowering cherry, 2 Lindens, 1 Dawn Redwood, a Magnolia, a Corkscrew Willow and now this one: A Crimson King Norway Maple.  And let me get this out of the way.  Yes, I know some folks wouldn't recommend this tree.  But I've been drawn to them for a while and I wanted something that would break up the sea of greenness in the very far reaches of the rear of the new old backyard.

Menards has marked their trees down to 30% to 50% off, so this one was a no-brainer for me.  I brought it home and found a spot along the fenceline all the way in the back.  We haven't quite gotten around to cleaning out most of the weeds/brush areas around the perimeter of the lot, so this is - for now - mixed in amongst some native weeds and various, unidentified brush.

Now, back to the tree.  If you're looking to find out why some folks have maligned this tree,…

Fence Install With Posts - In Progress (Step 2)

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Last week, I posted a BF (before fence) photo of the #newoldbackyard and here above is an in-progress look at the fence posts going in the ground.  The above photo is clickable, but here is a link to the Google Photos version where you can zoom in and scroll around.  This is the second fence that we've installed and I documented almost the exact same point in installation from the first time.  Check it out here from seven years ago.

If you look closely, you'll notice the posts aren't traditional 4x4 cedar posts.  We opted for steel posts as an upgrade this time over the standard cedar posts.  They cost a bit more, but they perform much better and will last much longer.  I'll post something on the posts themselves in the coming days.

The fence is one of the first steps in the evolution of the backyard.  Once it is finished being installed, I can move on to planting some of the trees and then move on to deciding on some of the locations of the landscape beds out back.…

Envisioning the "Entrance" to our Backyard

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There's this spot on the rear/side of our house - right next to the screened-in porch and behind the garage that is sandwiched up against the fence and is on a grade appears to be the likely 'entry point' for our backyard.  Right now, it is grass (some of it yellowed!) and a few stepper stones that you can see above.  The concrete pad that you see on the left is the bottom of a few steps that come out of my office and is right behind one that comes out from the side door of our garage.  Behind where I'm standing when I took this photo is one of the fence gates.

The grade poses a problem and that's revealed by the current installation.  You have to kind of walk sideways on the pavers as they make the turn on their angles.  It is *fine* for now.  But, not ideal.

The first thing that pops into my mind is to contemplate how we engineer or build out a little footbridge that incorporates a water feature/pond.  I can imagine excavating a good portion of the area where …

Montgomery Wards Raft - A Second Life

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On a recent visit to Twin Lakes, we spent some time with friends at their place up on Lake Elizabeth.  They have a few water toys that the kids got to try out including one of those massive water trampolines.  What was most interesting was that the kids figured out how to use raft and paddle that they boarded from the dock to navigate out to the trampoline - all the while staying mostly dry and out of the lake.  I talked with the Babe that night and she said that having the ability to pilot her own 'boat' out on the lake was a lot of fun. It was only about 20 feet from the dock to the trampoline, but that whole time, she was the captain and first mate.  She was on her own.  And, she expressed that she liked it!  So...while we're not in the spot to score a trampoline, we happen to be in possession of an old raft.  My Dad gave it to me as he was closing down Coloma and for the past year, it sat up in the garage in Twin Lakes.  Until now.

I dragged it to the porch, hooked up…

Big Rob's Moving - Chicago

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That right there is one of the trucks in the fleet of Big Rob and Big Rob Hauling.  The best and most affordable movers in Chicago.  I posted about Big Rob and his crew back when my parents moved out of my childhood home in 2015.  We've now used Big Rob for a few projects including moving us out of our first house and into storage.  And for moving some big furniture (like a church pew).  And now, most recently, to move us into our #newoldfarmhouse.

The team at Big Rob's take great care with your stuff, work hard and are all-around nice dudes.  Need to move and can't believe the prices that you're getting?  Give Big Rob a call.  # NotAnAd.

The (New) View From My Office

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There's a new view from my spot in the Aon Center on Randolph Street.  For the past few years, I had a south-facing view.  Now?  I'm looking due west.  The view isn't the only thing that changed, but I think I've pretty much adjusted to the new spot.  While this new view has some interest, there's nothing quite like looking south from Aon to see the lake and the museum campus.  I miss it every morning.

Our #NewOldBackYard B.F. (Before Fence)

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Posting this panoramic photo of the backyard at our #NewOldFarmhouse (or...rather... our #NewOldBackyard) of the state of play BEFORE the cedar fence is going in.  That version above is clickable, so you can get a larger look at the yard, but I'll also share this version on Google Photos that allows you to zoom in and take a look at the panoramic that was stitched together from a few photos I took.  If you look closely, you'll see the crew delivering some of the materials like posts to the various locations around the yard.  Also, on the left side of the yard property line, you can also get a good look at the Japanese Cherry Blossom tree that we planted a few weeks back.

And, those of you with sharp eyes who have kept up with some of the tree talk here on the blog, might also see the Greenspire Lindens that I am planning on espalier'ing.  They're still in their containers up along the rear portion of the house.

You can also get a sense for the density of the trees -…

Dog n Suds - Richmond, IL

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Right on the Stateline is a town called Richmond, Illinois.  To get to Twin Lakes, you drive through Richmond.  There's a McDonalds.  An Ace Hardware.  And a couple of flea markets.  But there's also a Dog n Suds.  And we, of course, had to give it a try.   I had a boss back in the day that appreciated a Dog n Suds and we stopped when we came across one.

This one in Richmond is trying to stay true to the original.  From their site:
Richmond Dog n Suds was opened in 1963 by a local family and has always been a small family owned business. The restaurant was sold in the fall of 2005 to another Richmond family, with a strong commitment to food quality, friendly service, and the determination to retain the nostalgic atmosphere which made this Drive In such a success.  After 2005, they refurbished the interior and exterior of the business paying close attention to architectural standards used in 1963. They also added many new events. Look for Live Music, Cruise Nights, and many s…

Happiest of Birthdays to our MVP

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Depending on when you read this, it *might* be Nat's birthday.  I know that the only way she consumes my nonsense here on the blog is via the email broadcasts that go out in the mornings, so I'm posting this on June 11th knowing that she'll end up reading it on June 12th.

Or, more likely, she herself, *might* read this.  And her not reading my pithy blog posts isn't a slight.  It is due to the fact that she barely gets a moment to herself and is always in a constant state of movement.

I likely don't need to tell you all this, but, because of all that she does for us, as the title of this post states, she's our family MVP.

Without her, we wouldn't be here and mostly dressed in clean clothes.  Despite her hating my socks with mandals look and protesting at every turn, she keeps us all on track and the kids looking good and in good health.  If I'm not wearing a tshirt and dirty shorts (with my socks and mandals), that's because Nat had the good sen…

Volunteer Peony Plant Shooting Up?

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I was out in our #newoldbackyard over the weekend doing some weeding of the various beds along our foundation and came across this four-stemmed set of shoots.  I was mindlessly wandering around the perimeter of the house looking for green shoots in the mostly brown mulched (and empty beds).  I was about to bend over and rip it out when I realized that these look a lot like a young peony plant.

Could we have some volunteer peonies?  I don't think they're 'survivors' like our ostrich ferns.  Based on these being right up next to the foundation around our screened porch, I'm thinking that if these are, indeed, peonies, that they hitchhiked along with the mulch when our landscaper put it down before we moved in.

Volunteer peonies?  Wouldn't that be delightful.  We still have to move our foster peonies from Nat's Mom's garden in Naperville.  Maybe this is a sign?  Could this bed be destined to house our peony plants?  I'm going to keep an eye on these …

A Visit to Classic Cinemas Fox Lake Theatre

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Recently, we checked out the new (to us) Classic Cinemas theatre in Fox Lake.  We've come to really love Classic Cinemas based on living so close to the York Theatre in Elmhurst.  They run a first-class operation.  And...the kids popcorn/fruit snacks/icee boxes and booster seats don't hurt one bit.  Not to mention the free refills on corn/soda and the rewards program.  
One morning while it was raining up in Wisconsin, we decided to head to see the new Cars 3 movie and instead of going up to the multiplex in Lake Geneva, we decided to drive down to Fox Lake to give the Classic Cinemas Fox Lake a try.  It wasn't what I was expecting.  But it was great!  Based on seeing what Shirley and Willis Johnson have done to the York in Elmhurst and the Tivoli in Downers Grove, I was expecting an old, downtown movie palace.   Instead, the theatre was kind of tucked in the corner of a stip mall about a block or two off "main street" next to a hardware store.  Turns out, that&…

The Brewster House - Club Cheese Spread from Wisconsin

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There's a whole world of cheese spreads (cold pack or Club Cheese or Crock Cheese) that I've been introduced to with our trips to Twin Lakes in Wisconsin.  The breadth of the offerings in the Club Cheese category at the grocery store is simply amazing in Wisconsin.  I feel like I just woke up.  The latest is this stuff from Shullsburg Creamery.  Shullsburg makes tons of cheeses, but they also have a strong entry in the Club Cheese category.

Called "The Brewster House Old Fashioned Spreadable Cheese", this isn't topping the King of Clubs from Mars.  Nope.  But this is different.  More like cream cheese than anything else.  It is smoother, easier to spread that Merkt's or King of Clubs.  But is super tasty.   Won't hold up to all of the applications, but works really well on things like pretzels.  With King of Clubs or Merkt's, when you take it out of the fridge and try to spread it, you end up breaking your various chips and pitas and what-have-yous.…

Whittier School Playground Update

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Whoops!  A week ago, I posted about the new playground going into Whittier Elementary School in the Randall Park neighborhood in Downers Grove and talked about how the PTA worked to raise money to install new equipment.  That part...was all true.  But the rest?  #FakeNews!   I posted a photo of the wrong playground.  Sorry.  Still getting my bearings.

The one I posted showed a new concrete curb going in, but oddly, all of the equipment was staying put.  And the shape wasn't quite the right shape as the one in the rendering.

Earlier this week, I was walking by the school and noticed that there is A SECOND playground!  See the red arrow.  *That's* the one that is getting overhauled.  Whoops.

Here's a zoomed-in look at the progress they've made.  Much of the equipment has been installed and while the fencing is still up, it looks like they're just awaiting the play surface.


The playground in the foreground is likely just getting a new concrete curb, but I'll k…

Two Months In - Our Dawn Redwood

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Two months in the ground and here's what our little Dawn Redwood looks like in our #newoldbackyard.  We planted it on Earth Day this Spring.  After buying it at Menards (of all places!) and storing it on the driveway for a few weeks.   We planted it about 2/3rds of the way back along the north property line.  It is going to spread out quite a bit as it grows (slowly) so we might end up 'limbing' it up based on where the fence ges, but I'm pleased to see some new growth on some of its extremities.  It has a slight lean to the trunk, but you can see in the photo that I just brought out some yellow cord and a few stakes that I'm going to apply to it to see if we can help straighten it out.  Nature, of course, will do it's own thing, but we'll try to lend a hand.  The lean is heading to the north, so I think over time, the sun will pitch in and straighten it back out by encouraging southern growth.

This is the 2nd of a few updates coming on some of the new tre…

Unloading the POD

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Hello friends.  Nice to see you all again.  I'm speaking to our 'stuff'.  Yep...You're staring at the open end of our POD that was delivered to our driveway two years after we haphazardly packed it in the summer of 2015 when we moved out.  Opening up the boxes contained in this POD and our storage units is going to take some time, but I've set a firm 1 year deadline on things:  If we go a full year without touching something - and it isn't old - then it will be going to the curb.  At least I'm talking tough right now.  Who knows what will happen come next summer if I get all horde-y and wonder if I'll ever use that certain thing.  Stay strong, Jake!

4th of July - 2017

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Not my current view, but this year's NYE's show from the folks at the Magic Kingdom may have spoiled me for every other fireworks show in existence.

An Update On Our Flowering Cherry Tree

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Back at the end of May, I posted a few pics of the new flowering cherry tree that we picked up for Nat for Mother's Day this year.  It lived in the driveway at Equation Boy/Man's house for more than a month while the girls kept it watered.  Last week, we finally got around to putting it in the ground in our #newoldbackyard.  We found a nice spot that can be easily seen from the kitchen/family room as well as upstairs from the bedroom, but far enough back and to the side that it won't interfere with any future plans.

We dug a good sized hole, the girls helped me get it situated down in the earth, then we covered it up with earth (and tried to put the grass back in place!) and applied one of these Treegator watering bags.  We've been filling it up every other day since we planted it and looking at the tree over the weekend, I see some new growth.

So, hoping that whatever shock this thing will get from being transplanted into the ground is being absorbed by copious amo…

Vintage Flocked Christmas Tree With Happy Santa Topper - One That Got Away

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A few days ago, I posted a photo of some vintage window Christmas candle lights with these sweet orange bulbs that I came across at a church sale in Westmont.  I passed on the candles.  Right next to them (you can actually *see* one of the candles in the photo above) was this sweet flocked Christmas Tree that is adorned with fake poinsettias and this very jolly Santa Claus.  I took this photo and picked up the tree.  Thinking that I really only wanted Santa himself.  Then...I remembered my collecting mantra.  And set it back down on the table.  Hoping another owner came along and put this thing in it's proper place and saving this treasure from the dumpster.

So Long, Indiana Street. Thanks for all the fish.

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This one feels different than the last time.  I posted a similar picture and post back in 2015 when we moved out of our first house.  Today, we're living in our #newoldfarmhouse after moving out of this sweet house that we've been fortunate to live in for two years.  I'm so grateful that Equation Boy/Man and Vic were so generous to host us while we were homeless in their house.  We were just down the block and our family felt normal - somewhat.  This home provided us shelter and a place to grow our family.  Most of all, it provided us peace of mind.  We were safe and sound and we had the time to make a new, new plan and execute that plan.

I know we can't ever likely say 'thank you' enough to Vic and Equation Boy/Man, but I hope they know how grateful we are for their hospitality.

So long, Indiana Street.  This certainly isn't a good bye.   Just a 'see you later'.