Showing posts from 2019

There Is A Dragon's Lair Under Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland Paris

In my mind, Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland Paris is a hybrid of the two US park castles.  It has the 'feel' of the OG Sleeping Beauty Castle but it is built at the scale and style of Cinderella's Castle in Walt Disney World in Orlando.

But there's something different about the castle that is, kinda awesome. There's something called "La
Tanière du Dragon".

According to the Disneyland Paris Parks page:
Tip-toe through the dark dungeon "La Tanière du Dragon" underneath Sleeping Beauty Castle, where a monstrous prisoner lurks. Once the ruler of the skies, this defeated dragon lies chained against jagged rocks. It may be dozing, but tread carefully, as one false move will lead to a hot, rumbling surprise. Here's that 'prisoner':

This was a really neat experience that we just kind of wandered in to as we wandered on some of the park paths near the castle.  I remember being inside here, seeing the dragon and looking at Nat and both …

No Two-Finger Point At Disneyland Paris

There are a ton of familiar details at Disneyland Park.  The hub layout.  The castle...that is kind of a combination of Disneyland's castle at Disney World's scale.  But, I noticed one little detail that is different.  They don't two-finger point.  This is a photo I took of this Cast Member who was directing people around Disneyland Park.  I was sitting at a restaurant waiting for Nat and was able to watch this guy tell people where to go and what-have-you.  After seeing him one-finger point for about five minutes, I had to snap a photo.

What's the two-finger point?  From Travel + Leisure:
Disney is all about the details.  Sure, every Disney fan knows that the rides, snacks, and the parks themselves are meticulously designed and maintained so visitors can be delighted at every turn, but did you know that this very thoughtful mentality also extends to the park’s staff as well?  Take, for example, the fact that Disney park employees are banned from ever pointing with ju…

Luxembourg Gardens Has Wonderful Chairs

Have I fawned over our visits to Luxembourg Gardens enough here on the blog?  In the past few weeks, I've posted about how the flowers in our patio planter were inspired there, how I tried cocoa bean shell mulch because that's what they use there, how I want to build a green tree box from there, and how I really fell in love with these vines in between trees from the garden.

But there's a few more things about the garden that are worth sharing.

If you go back to the post about the cocoa bean shell/hull mulch, you'll notice that there's a couple of metal chairs in the photo.

Those chairs. You can see one above from Perigold.  That's their photo.

I think that our experience in the park/garden was driven - in large part - by these chairs.  They're everywhere.  People sitting on them.  Sleeping on them.  Eating lunch and talking on them.  In groups.  Alone.  Sometimes two at a time.  Sometimes two chairs for one person (extra one for feet!).

Nat found this ven…

Hicks Yews Acquired For Back Hedge - Spacing and Planning

That's a wheelbarrow full of 12 2# Upright Hicks Yews that are destined for our backyard.  #5 on my 2019 Garden To-Do List was to get some Yews into our yard with a hedge and now that I've waited for these to go on sale, I'm this much closer to getting this item crossed off my list.  What's the inspiration for these?  This curvy, swooping hedge from Bunny Williams' Instagram.    I bought Yews that were originally marked for $34.99 that Home Depot discounted all the way down to $9.

I bought Upright Hicks Yews - which Monrovia describes thusly:
An excellent evergreen shrub for tall hedges and privacy screens. The long, upright-growing branches with dense, glossy, dark green foliage naturally form a narrow, columnar habit that works well as a foundation plant, or placed in pairs at entries or doorways.  I've talked about my love of all things columnar - and that love extends to shrubs.

The spacing on the back of the card claims 8' to 12', but I'm pret…

Getting Our Chimney Swept - Summer 2019

I've posted here on the blog all about our firewood consumption over the past couple of Winters.  This past Winter, we started with a Face Cord of Cherry and a Face Cord of Birch.  Burned through both of those.  Then in February, we ordered a third Face Cord - a combo of Cherry and Oak.

The previous Winter, we ordered just one Face Cord and ripped through it in no time.  We also burned a bunch of wood that we had on hand when we bought the property.  Not quite a face cord there, but close.  So, all in, that's about five Face Cords that have been burned. 

We built the house new, so I *knew* that the Chimney was clean when we started.  But, I wasn't sure when we should get our chimney swept.  With the Summer here, I figured it was a slow time for the service providers, so I called one locally and set up an appointment. 

When he got there, he asked me some questions:  type of wood we burn and how often.  Told him we burn everyday and we burn mostly hardwoods.  When I told him…

Trained Vines Between Trees In Luxembourg Gardens

I could post for 100 days straight and I don't think I would run out of things to say and share about Luxembourg Gardens in Paris.  Yesterday, I posted about the green tree boxes.  Today are a couple of photos of a fountain area that is in the northeast corner of the garden.  It is a reflecting pool with a large fountain at the far Eastern edge that is lined by (I'm pretty sure that they're) London Plane trees or perhaps just Plane Trees since they're NOT in London?!?!
The trees themselves are magnificent.  There are four or five on either side of the reflecting pool that are placed in a line.  In between these trees is ivy.  You can see it in the photos at the top and bottom of this post.  The ivy is trained from the central base in between the trees - and the space in between the trees - and trained out in two angles.  Where it meets the trees, it is then trained back across in a straight line.  Look at it in the photos.  Amazing, isn't it?  The vines are massiv…

Versailles Green Tree Boxes - Paris Inspiration and Garden Dreaming

Yesterday, I posted about how after seeing the French gardeners use cocoa bean shell hull mulch in the gardens and beds in Luxembourg Gardens, I decided to try the stuff myself.  But, it wasn't just the mulch that made an impression on me during our visit.  So, too, did these large green tree containers.  They are all over Luxembourg Gardens and other parks/gardens.  They're really quite striking.

A little digging on the Web and I discover that they're actually called Château de Versailles tree-boxes.  There are a couple of sources that offer them.  But...brace yourself, they're not cheap.

What looked initially to me like wooden boxes turn out to be cast iron frames with wooden slats that make up the sides.  The corners and braces are all cast iron.  See here below:
If you've been following along on the blog, you might have seen the little planter box that I made for Natalie for our patio last week.  It is low and small and nothing like this at all.  And now that …

Like the French Do: Cocoa Bean Hull Mulch

On one of our visits to Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, we came across a crew installing some flower beds in the main area that is just north of the little circular pond where kids launch those sail boats.  You can see that they're using this white fabric template to put down flowers in a pattern, but you can also see that on the right of this photo, they use the template to just make outlines.  After that, they fill them in with (usually) one color.  As this was happening, we stopped to take it and looked around at some of their stuff.  One thing that I saw that grabbed my attention was their use of cocoa bean hulls as mulch.  They had bags of the stuff lined up ready to be installed after the flowers go in. 

I had come across Cocoa Bean Hull Mulch in bags at Menards, but didn't give it much thought.  Until now.  After we came home, I went off to Menards and picked up a bag of the stuff to see what it was all about.  Of note, Cocoa Bean Shell Mulch is toxic to dogs.  Just like …

Lawn Soil Tests Are In - July 2019

Back in June, I posted a photo of a couple of soil tests from Soil Savvy that I had purchased to try to ascertain the exact details of our soil in the lawn.  I thought it would be a good chance to get a baseline and to understand if we had differences in the soil that was left undisturbed in the far back of our lot and the more clay-like soil that is lying underneath the sod closer to our house.
I did exactly as the instructions said to do:  pulled up small samples from various parts of the lawn and mixed them together.  For each of the two samples.  Mailed them away and then waited a little bit.  A few days later,  received a couple of emails with links to the results. 
At the top of this post, you'll see the results from what I call the "far backyard".  This is soil that is totally undisturbed and grass that we inherited.  Based on my experience, it is softer, not as hard to pull a plug out of and A LOT less clay when I turn a shovel over.
Below, you'll see a comb…

Contorted Filbert Trees or Walking Stick Trees at Disney's Phantom Manor Disneyland Paris

We spent most of our time at Disneyland Paris trying to take in some experiences that felt familiar (walking down MainStreet, etc) and some that are unique to the Paris parks.  One of those unique experiences that we took in during our visit was a ride through the Phantom Manor in the Frontierland section of Disneyland Park.  Phantom Manor is the close cousin of one of our favorites:  Haunted Mansion. has a nice feature on Phantom Manor.  From that AllEars piece (go read the whole thing here):
Phantom Manor is Disneyland Paris’ version of the Haunted Mansion. It is neither better than nor inferior to its cousins around the world. It’s simply different. And these differences make it very intriguing for those of us familiar with the original version.  Phantom Manor has a more complete storyline than the Haunted Mansion. It goes something like this.  Henry Ravenswood made his fortune in the Big Thunder Mountain gold rush. With his money he built an elegant Victorian manor h…

A Duck Laid An Egg In Our Yard

How fascinating, right?  We had a pair of Mallard ducks hanging out in our yard recently and after a short stay, they left behind this beautiful egg.  We were hoping that they'd come back the next day or two to lay even more, but this one was left all alone.  Not exactly sure what was happening here, but we live just down the street from a large pond that has quite a bit of waterfowl.  Perhaps they got turned around?  Or, could this egg be a not-so-great one that they laid here on purpose - away from their nest? 

Either way, I'm excited to see it as it adds another layer to our 'Certified Wildlife Habitat" story in our yard.  If you'll recall that in early Spring of 2018, we applied and were granted Certified Wildlife Habitat status for our yard based on meeting the criteria.  Those criteria include the need to provide food, water and cover but also "places to raise young" - including places for wildlife to mate, bear and raise their young.  Check and c…

Disneyland Paris: Here You Leave Today Sign

There are these lovely little entrance plaques at some Disney parks that feature a quote from Walt Disney at the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim.  As you walk through the entrance tunnels, you can look up/over and see these and smile and remember that the whole thing was in one dude's mind.  Pretty amazing.

I posted the one at the Magic Kingdom in Florida here on the blog back in 2016.  This one, in Disneyland Park at Disneyland Paris is a bit different.  First, the dual language thing, of course.  But also the phrases are different.

Magic Kingdom: ...and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy. 
Disneyland Park: ...and enter worlds of history, discovery and ageless fantasy.

A Look At Our Peonies (Roundup for Summer 2019)

After coming home with some peonies from Trader Joe's a few weeks back, Natalie asked me why we didn't have any peonies in our yard?  After all, we had a bunch of them back in Elmhurst that had established themselves enough to flower pretty productively every year.  Here's a look at some of them from 2015.  That forced me to get outside and try to find the various peony plants that we have on hand and to start to chronicle them here on the blog.  These photos are a few weeks old, but sharing to start the diary entries on these.

First...let me remind you all (and myself) that we still have the most important peony plant out in Foster Care in Naperville.  It grew pretty well last year and I'm thinking that it has likely flowered this season.  Time to move it, soon, I believe.   

But, this post isn't about fostered plants.  It is about the five peony plants that we currently have on site.  The first one is above and was the only one that flowered.  All of these are e…

Wood Patio Planter - Plans and Project Kickoff

Back in April of this year, I published a list of seven additional or addendum items in my Spring/Summer To-Do List that included: "Work out the patio container situation".  We had a hodgepodge of containers in our back patio and Nat wanted to do something about it.  She shared a few photos of planters that she liked and we came across this plan from Gardener's World that featured a simple timber planter.  You can see it above and how it features a two-tiered planter with three sections.

After noodling it a bit and altering the plans a little, we ended up trying our own hand at making a similar patio planter.    Off I went to Menards and I ended up coming home with a van full of 2x3's of treated lumber.

That 'altering' of the plans included Nat's decision to lop off the top level and just make it a flat-topped planter.  Here's how it ended up:

Because I chose the cheaper route with treated lumber, I wanted to be clear about a couple of things:  First…

The Other Two Disneyland Roses (July 2019)

Last week, I posted a photo about our first Disneyland Rose and mentioned how I would get around to posting photos of the other two.  Welp, here's the post showing off the other two.  These were 10th Anniversary gifts from Nat's Mom and I planted them in October of last year.  October!  It was late, but that's when they were shipped to us. 

I put them on the southside of our house, in the kind of narrow space between our house and our neighbor to the south.  The top photo shows the Disneyland Rose that I put in a little bit more oriented towards the back of our house.  It has blooms! 

The photo below shows the other rose bush that I planted closer to the front of the house.  It does NOT have any blooms.  And in fact, it seems like half of the bush has perished (the back half), but the front half is full of green growth. 

If go back and look at the original plants, you'll note that the one that is doing better *this year* was also doing better when I put it in the groun…

Disneyland Paris Parks Map: Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios

I've posted some Disney Parks maps on the blog here over the years.  Mostly for posterity sake and because the parks have been doing a nice job of tailoring the maps to specific windows in time.  Most recently, I shared this Tokyo DisneySea map and guide that celebrates the 35th anniversary of that overall park.  And earlier this year, I posted a holiday-themed parks map from Disney California Adventure and a similarly-holiday-themed one from Disneyland.  And here's one from a Halloween-time Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.

Today's post shows off a map (or as they call it a "Guide to the 2 Disney Parks" at Disneyland Paris.  The cover shows the dates of January 7th --> June 28th of this year and features some legacy Disney Parks characters (Mickey the Mouse, Cinderella, Buzz Lightyear) and the two new, shiny objects:  Marvel (Spiderman) and Star Wars (Darth Vader). 

Inside, there's a double-sided map.  First for Disneyland Park - which is laid ou…

Chanticleer Pear Tree Leaf'd Out - Summer 2019

The last time we checked in on this large caliper Chanticleer Flowering Pear tree that is planted close to our front driveway was last Fall when it was totally off-cycle.  It flowered in early November.  But, I took that (oddly-timed) indicator as a potential sign of progress.  Looking back at this same tree in June of last year, I think that this year the tree is healthier.  It isn't perfect as there are still plenty of thin spots and some dead tips.  But, look at the photo from last year.  The leaves are a different color.   Darker green.  Seemingly more healthy, right?

The culprit was the clay bowl that this tree was planted in and how it was drowning the tree.  At least...that's what I *think* was happening.  I dug out part of the tree on the low-side of the planting bowl and then used a post-hole digger to dig through the clay layer to make a kind-of drainage spot so the water had a place to run.  After I did this excavation project, it didn't take long for the tree …

One Canadian Hemlock Tree Lost (2019)

Another week and (sadly) another tree is lost in our yard.  Just last week, I shared the news of one of our Earth Day 2018 trees - a Weeping Flowering Cherry Tree - died this season.  Today, you can see in the photo above, that we've lost one of our small Canadian Hemlock trees that I planted on the North side of our property out back.

This is the seventh tree I've lost since planting and the second of this season.

The other six trees that have died are:

Other "Lost" trees include: a Chanticleer Pear, a Dawn Redwood, a Corkscrew Willow, a Fraser Fir, a Canadian Hemlock, Weeping Flowering Cherry. And now *this* Hemlock.  This means it is the second Canadian Hemlock that I've planted that has died.  
The dead (or mostly dead) Hemlock in the photo above is the one on the far right of the photo in this post.  The other five of them seem to be doing well with all of them showing both a little stress and some new growth.
Here's the full list of trees that we'v…

Disneyland Rose In Bloom - June 2019

Our first Disneyland Rose bush is in bloom.  And it is a stunner.  We received it as an anniversary gift in September of 2017 and I planted it that Fall.  Wasn't totally sure it was going to make it.  But, survive it did.  And now the area where I planted it is a lush garden of green.  You can kind of tell from the photo above that it is surrounded with hostas and ferns.  But, compare this June 2019 blooming photo with the same Disneyland Rose plant one year ago.  Quite a different view.

Not just because of the filling-in of the rest of the bed, but also the height and bloom numbers of this particular plant.  It is doing really well and provides a great pop of orange and pink in the sea of green.  Love it.  
Last Fall, Nat's Mom gave us two more and I planted them on the side of the house.  They're, umm, not doing as well as this one.  But they are one year younger.    I'll snap a couple of photos of those as I get around the yard in the coming days.

Well I've Been To London And I’ve Been To Gay Paree

It's not dark yet.  But it's getting there

Had the time of my life with my partner as we fell in love all over again.