Showing posts from February, 2019

Planning Ostrich Ferns In Deep Rear of Yard - Per Our Landscape Plan

Just five days ago, I posted for all to see my top 10 to-do items for our yard and garden in 2019.  There were some significant items on there like dealing with trees and adding another espalier, but item #10 talked about planning for the 'outer walking path'.  I posted about considering a path like that in August of last year and then also discussed the idea of what material is right:  decomposed granite.   That path would wind all the way to the back rear portion of our yard. 

And that's where this post comes in.  To get my head wrapped around some items in the yard this Spring, I pulled out the landscape plan and revisited parts of it. 

Our plan was drafted by our landscape designer and I've shared portions of it here on the blog.  Here's the links to the various snapshots:
Our southern fence line with Hydrangeas and alliumOne of our rear foundation beds outside of our kitchenA look at the north fence line that we put the Frans Fontaine European HornbeamsHow we …

Ice-Covered Trees On The Metra Platform

After shuffling down the driveway and through the middle of the street to avoid slipping on the ice, I was greeted by this glorious sight at the Fairview Avenue Metra Station one morning this month.  This was one of the early mornings moments that I was able to enjoy the Winter instead of just keeping my head down and trying to survive the day.

Locally Sourcing A Columnar Norway Spruce

Back in November, I posted about how I was dreaming about a columnar conifer like this Columnar Norway Spruce that I found online.  The Tree Center is selling 1 gallon versions of this tree for $50, but with the pot being just one gallon, you can bet that that tree is tiny.

Then, just a couple of days ago, I shared my 2019 To-Do Garden List that included as #8 on the list:  do something *more* with conifers.  I mentioned this very Columnar Norway Spruce.

Funny thing that I just came across a photo on Instagram from Lurvey Landscape Supply - which happens to be in Volo, Illinois and is on the way to Twin Lakes.  I've long admired their place as we drove by, but I assumed that it was a wholesale place.  Turns out, I was wrong and they not only do retail business, they encourage visits via their social handles. 

(Side note:  this is a different place than I posted about in regards to their topiaries, but is ON THE SAME ROAD - as we travel to Twin Lakes.  I've noted in my own hea…

Lizzie The Snow Dog (Kinda) At 2.5 Years Old

We give Lizzie her breakfast and water in the morning.  Every morning.  It is part of our routine.  I wake up, go downstairs, let her out of her crate, take her out.  Then we do a food/drink dance.  After she eats and drinks, if I'm going downtown to the office, I shuffle her back into her crate for the morning.  Actually, she runs into the crate herself.  Then, a couple of hours later when Nat and the kids are up and around, they let her out and she has run of the house.

She's different than Maisy when it comes to food/drink.  Maisy only ate and drank when you were in the room with her.  We kept her food and water bowls in my office - where she lived.  I'd fill them up every day, but some days it seemed like she would barely eat.  And only eat when we were sitting in the office together.  Lizzie on the other hand devours everything you put down.  On the spot.  That includes water that she guzzles. 

So, we don't leave a ton of water out for her.  She gets it at certain …

Cooper's Hawk: Backyard Bird Visitor Log

Look who I spotted on our fence?!?  A bird of prey.  See him perched on the top edge?  In the photo above, you can see how close he is to the fly-thru feeder that we see a lot of song birds eating at most mornings.  I'm pretty sure he's a Cooper's Hawk.  But, I'm not too adept at identification of hawks and my phone's zoom only does so much in terms of quality photos.  I was too excited to spot him and wanted to be sure I got a couple of photos of him, so I never got around to grabbing the binoculars and peeping at him closely.  
For those keeping track at home, this is the second time I've posted about this kind of bird of prey visiting.  The first time was back in 2012 when I posted about a hawk coming into Nat's parent's backyard in Naperville.  Photo here
Turns out, identifying this particular hawk is not the easiest as according to the folks at FeederWatch, even more advanced bird identification experts get Cooper's Hawk confused with others…

Spring Garden and Yard To-Do List: 2019 Projects

Over the past year or so, I've posted plenty of dreaming/hoping/wishing/wanting items related to our yard and garden.  With Spring right around the corner (a guy can hope, right?), I thought I would round up all of those items that I've talked about/lusted after so I can have an organized list to attack this year.

Before I get to this year, I figure I should look back at some of the things that we accomplished in the Spring/Summer/Fall of 2018.

Last year, I got plenty accomplished including the planting of our European Columnar Frans Fontaine Hornbeam trees that will eventually form a hedge on the northern fenceline,  added our first evergreen with a Weeping Cedar tree, planted two more Disneyland Roses, took the inaugural inventory of tree heights, added a bird nesting shelf and a mason bee house, planted a tiny Bald Cypress and a few other trees, worked our terrible clay soil with some added pellet gypsum and had the guys lay on a thick load of mulch, removed a couple of in…

Aulani Pro Move: Bracelet Rainbow

Keeping the pool bracelets that they give guests (in an attempt to keep the resort pool to guests staying there only) on your wrist as a collection isn't just for kids.  It is also an Adult Aulani pro-move, too.  Nat didn't participate, but that didn't stop me from rolling the rainbow collection up my arm while we were there.  I mean....why not go down the tube slide with this many bracelets on your wrist, right?

Another Garden Wall Style Courtesy of Disney's Aulani

In early January, I posted about 2019 garden trends and highlighted gabion-style walls (retaining walls made of loose stone/other items that are kind of bound by wire/mesh fence) while discussing how the style was appealing in what we're thinking about for our own backyard.  But, while on vacation in Ko' Olina in Hawaii at Disney's Aulani, I noticed that they've selected a different wall style that they use across the resort.  You can see it above and below in two different uses.  Top is a waterfall along with retaining wall.  Below the photo is just a retaining wall. 

In both of these cases, they've used what I presume to be a stone/rock veneer that is all one color and irregular in shape.  Mostly round(ish) and stacked without thick mortar lines in most areas, but clean, straight lines at the top and on the corners/edges.  Kind of the best of both worlds:  natural shapes from the material, but clean lines from the edges. 

There's a stone veneer available at …

Cavalier King Charles Topiary - Frame And Materials For Backyard

On the way up to Twin Lakes Wisconsin, we used to drive by this garden center on Route 12 named Atrium Garden Center.  They had a beautiful nursery that seemed stocked with tons of trees, plants, shrubs and more.  We stopped a few times, but every time we drove by, I always admired one thing:  the topiaries that they displayed close to the road.  They had critters and shapes of all sizes.  Dolphins.  Guys with fishing poles.  Even a Mickey Mouse head.  You can see a bunch of their topiaries in some of these user-submitted photos on Google Maps.  Here are a few screenshots from people that have submitted them there.  (Note...these are not my photos and can be found in their original form here.)

On one of our trips there, I looked more closely at the topiaries to try to figure out what they were made up of in terms of plantings.  They had large, square-ish wooden 'pots'.  They weren't quite pots as they were more like wooden containers made of slats.  And, of course, there …

A Second Flower On Our Amaryllis

In January, I posted the results of how I successfully used an alcohol mix to limit the height of our amaryllis bulb.  This was the first year that I tried to keep it from getting too tall in an attempt to be not so top-heavy.  Welp, guess what?  This bulb has thrown up a second stalk and it looks like we're going to get a second bloom.  The photo above is of this second stalk that has emerged from the bulb.

And in the bottom photo below, you can kind of see the withered part of the initial stalk that I cut down at the top of the bulb. 

From a look around the web, getting a second bloom (in winter) isn't that rare, it is just something that our bulbs haven't delivered in the past.  Just look at the images on this sales page - where they show multiple stalks shooting up in some of their bulbs.

I haven't tried to keep an Amaryllis year-over-year, but now that I see this one paying off twice, maybe this is something we should try??

Aulani Breakfast: Banana Dolphin With Goldfish

Could there be anything more adorable (and Instagram-ready) than this use of day-old bananas at breakfast?  These banana dolphins are at breakfast at Disney's Aulani in Hawaii.  Along with those Mickey Waffles, this is a cute kids plate, right?  And, these would be so easy to replicate for a kids party, wouldn't they?

Sure, Disney does a great job being authentic to Hawaii at Aulani.  And they give you great customer service.  And they do a great job with the kids.  But they also do the little things like this banana dolphin that make the experience a little bit better.

New Mickey Mouse Parks Stickers from DVC Kiosks for 2019

If you're anything like us and have been to Disney Parks from time to time, your kids have probably been covered in various character stickers from cast members.  Most often these days, those stickers are coming from cast members (salespeople) who are manning Disney Vacation Club kiosks in the parks and in/around the resort hotels/property.

The stickers that are most common are of just Mickey the Mouse himself.  Either of his head by itself of his whole body.  There are other, what I'll call 'more rare' stickers that you can get inside the parks and I've chronicled some of those.  Most recently, we were given this 'Honorary Aviator' sticker from the guys at Soarin' in DCA.  Job-specific roles on the cast have stickers, too.  Here's one from a custodian.  And one from a Monorail pilot.  And we were given this Minnie Mouse sticker somewhere in the parks - which is less common than Mickey.

However, during our stay at Aulani in Hawaii, we came across t…

15 Years of Blogging - Milestone

Today is February 16, 2019.  And today marks my 15th year of blogging. 

15 years of doing anything is a lot, but 15 years of writing on the web feels like a good milestone and worthy of noting (at least here, on said blog.)

The first post in the archives here on comes from February 16th 2004.  Back then, it was either at or  But today, those are ported here.  And I've been writing here for a number of years.

I've failed to note this anniversary since 2016 when I hit 12 years.  Today....I'm at 15.  That's more than 1/3rd of my entire life. 

In that time, I've had a few jobs that involved media, digital and communications. But, never strayed too far away from the Web.  I fell in love with the ability to publish online and never looked back.  I was lucky that I wasn't lured in by the siren call of The Facebook or anywhere else that publishing happens these days.  I've stayed here.  In my ow…

The Cats Of Disney's Aulani Resort

If you're a Disney person, you've probably heard about the Disneyland cats.  This Vice story does a good job unpacking the whole feline operation in Anaheim.  There's more than 100 feral cats that live in and around Disneyland Park that are fed and tended to (even tagged and neutered!) by Disney cast members/staff.  All in the name of reducing the rodent population - which they do a pretty great job.

Just to be clear here:  We're not cat people in the Parrillo household.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to rain on your cat parade.  Just not going to be besties with Beth O and bring in cats to our house.   Seeing cats out in the wild?  Just fine, though.  And, for the record, this is the first entry into the archives with the [Cats] tag.

As a Disney fan, you likely know the Disneyland cats story.  But, here's something you may not know:  there are cats at Disney's Aulani in Hawaii, too.  Here's a couple of photos of them.  The one up top is a cat …

Gardening Advice From Ralph Snodsmith

In this piece on Garden Design that lays out eight landscape design principles, there are some things that I found interesting and wanted to share here.  Both for you, my dear reader, but also so I remember them.  To start, I thought I'd go with the final one on *their* list.  It was this final one  that caught my attention.  This little nugget is from a guy named Ralph Snodsmith who hosted a radio show about gardening in New York.  I'm sure he imparted quite a bit of knowledge to his listeners/callers, but it seems that he had one statement that stood above the rest.  This certainly feels like something I need to remind myself when I'm out in the garden:
"It’s better to plant a 50-cent plant in a $5 hole, than a $5 plant in a 50-cent hole." The Garden Design piece goes on to say that there's no greater planting wisdom than this.  Hole preparation, especially for folks like me who, due to new construction, have a clay layer that is in many of the beds around…

Mickey Mouse Shave Ice At Aulani

There are hundreds of unique things about Disney's Aulani Resort in Hawaii that we encountered during our stay and many of them were 'traditional' or true to Hawaiian culture.  But the most interesting ones (for me at least) were the activities and experiences that kind of sat at the intersection of Hawaii AND Disney.  And, I think that's what makes Aulani such a special place.  You get all the awesomeness of Hawaii PLUS the Disney experience.  That means great service.  Great 'show' (landscaping, buildings, etc).  And sometimes you get a little bit of Disney theme'ing. 

These Mickey Mouse shave ice cups that you see in the photo above is one of those things.  Aulani has a place that serves shave ice (not "shaved ice") called Pāpālua Shave Ice that is kind of situated on the island in the middle of the pool area.  The entire middle grounds of the resort - which includes the pool area and some restaurants is called the Waikolohe Valley Pool Area. …

Early February 2019 Firewood Update - Replenished

Just two weeks ago, I shared a photo in my ongoing tracking of our firewood consumption and mentioned that we had mostly exhausted our Fall supply of Cherry and Birch that we had delivered and stacked in our screened porch and side porch.  This photo you see above is from a week or so ago after we had a second, late-Winter delivery of another Facecord of firewood from Best Firewood in Aurora. 

This would be the third Facecord of wood that we've worked through since early October.  That's four months - at approximately 1/2 of a Facecord per month. 

The supplier that we use has a different type and caliber of wood available in late January/early February vs. what they have in September and October. 

So, this order included a wood that we haven't bought before:  Oak.   This is a Facecord that is split 50/50 between Oak and Cherry.  But, the Cherry is *different* than the Cherry we had delivered in October.  If you look at the rack in on the right, you will see the top sectio…

Nostalgia At Disney - Seeds Being Planted

I came across this little display and sign inside of the City Hall in the townsquare at the end of Main Street USA at Disneyland Park on our trip.  It is titled "Yesterday" and speaks to the idea of nostalgia.  Written/said by Imagineer Bruce Gordon.  I had never heard of him, but he was an Imagineer who died pretty young - at the age of 56 - back in 2007.  His work includes the creation of Splash Mountain, the 1998 renovation of Tomorrowland, the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and Tarzan's Treehouse.

Some Disney purists might look at his resume and think he's, ah...associated with some terrible projects.  The 1998 Tomorrowland renovation was panned.  The Tarzan Treehouse conversion from Swiss Family Robinson certainly has detractors.  Same with the Nemo submarine voyage.  Changes to "classic rides".

But, this Mercury News piece - which ranks the best and worst Disney ride/attraction makeovers lists Nemo as a win and …

Disney California Adventure Parks Map - Christmas Time

A couple of weeks back, I added a photo of the Holiday Season Disneyland Park map to the collection here on the blog and today, I'm adding the companion Christmas/Holiday Season Disney California Adventure Parks map.  You see Minnie and Mickey in their winter gear in from of a big Christmas tree in the cover photo.  The holiday decorations at DCA are fine, but they're not quite as special as the ones at Disney's Hollywood Studios.  The vintage tinsel-laden decor that they put up in Orlando is the best in any of the parks.

The full series of posts showing off various Disney Parks maps including both Tokyo DisneySea and Tokyo Disneyland along with some seasonal/special holiday party maps from the Magic Kingdom can be found here.

Winter Heated Bird Bath Full Of House Sparrows

Back in November of 2017, we installed a heated birdbath out in the backyard near our feeders that are located right outside of our kitchen windows.  This was the same feeder that we had in our house at Elmhurst but was in storage for a couple of years.  It is a heated one that doesn't have a pedestal, so I've set it on a little table.  Then about a year ago, I added a Water Wiggler to make the water move a bit.  Turns out, the Wiggler, while great to keep potential mosquitos from using the bath, made it hard for birds to actually use the bath as anything other than a drinking fountain.

Also, earlier this Winter, I came across this upgraded heated bird bath at Wannemakers and thought it would be a nice addition, but ultimately I didn't pull the trigger on it.

For this Winter, I decided to just dump the Wiggler and plug in the existing free-standing bath in to keep the water from freezing.  And for the past few months, I've watched a few curious birds check out the bat…

Mary Poppins Returns Props - Including the Kite @ Disneyland Park

Continuing on the recent Disneyland-centric posting journey, here's something we came across:  props from the movie Mary Poppins Returns.  In the photo, you can see both Mary's coat and blue shoes along with the kite and suffragette tail.  This post on the Disney Parks Blog shows all the props including Mary Poppins' bag.

A proper kite needs a proper tail, dontcha think?

Not from this version of the movie, but still makes me smile every time I hear it.

Olu Disney Pin From Aulani - Duffy's Turtle Friend

A week back, I posted a photo of the Christmas-themed pin from Aulani that one of the kids picked out and mentioned that we picked up a few other ones.  Today is the pin featuring 'Olu the Turtle.  He's "A Disney friend of Duffy".  Who is 'Olu the Turtle? And how did he meet Duffy? From the Disney Parks Blog:
As Mickey and Duffy sailed the islands on a quest to find the perfect birthday present for ShellieMay, rhythmic sounds of an ‘ukulele called to them over the ocean, leading them to a cozy cove and to ‘Olu, a kindhearted turtle playing happy music.  ‘Olu smiled and shyly greeted Duffy, “I play my ‘ukulele to make songs of love. Want to sing with me?” ‘Olu strummed a beautiful song for his new friends. “That will be the perfect present for ShellieMay!” said Duffy excitedly. Off to the party they went, singing the special song together for their birthday friend. He's exclusively at Aulani in Hawaii, so they have a full suite of 'Olu the Turtle merchand…

Growing in Disney Parks: Trees, Flowers and Plants

Having now recently posted about seeing *in real life* the Disneyland Roses in Anaheim and one of the espalier'd trees/shrubs in Fantasyland, I've now think it is worth creating a curated post about all the trees/plants that I've cared enough about in Disney Parks to post about here on the blog.  Consider this my "Growing in Disney Parks" roundup. 

Before I get to the posts I've created, in searching about some of the trees, I came across this site: Plants of Disneyland.  Pretty incredible stuff - including a nice look at the Belgian Fence espalier that I posted about last week.   

Here's the archives related to plants inside of and around Disney Parks on the blog:

1.  Disneyland Roses.  In a bed near the Disneyland Resort Gateway along Harbor Blvd in Anaheim. 

2.  A Belgian Fence Espalier at Disneyland.  Turns out it is made out of Firethorn.   

3.  A beautiful Life Oak tree at Epcot in the World Showcase

4.  There's an incredible Live Oak Tree at …

Aulani Coaster - Added to Collection #35

Have we talked about Aulani?  A little bit on the blog, right?  Welp, here's a coaster that I added to the [coaster collection] here on the blog from the Aulani Resort in Hawaii.   This is the 35th coaster in the collection and follows the most recent addition of #34 from the Lamplight Lounge at Disney's California Adventure.  This is the 12th Disney-related coaster in the collection - which means more than 1/3rd of them are Disney-themed.

The full Disney list includes:

1. The standard one you see in your rooms @ Walt Disney World resort hotels.
2. This black and white one from the original Disneyland Resort Hotel.
3. This *new* Walt Disney World resort hotel version that updates the look of #1 above.
4. One from the Irish pub Raglan Road restaurant in Disney Springs.
5. From inside the Magic Kingdom comes this one from the Skipper Canteen.
6. Right outside the Boardwalk Inn Hotel is where we got this coaster from the Flying Fish restaurant.
7. Back in Disney Springs, I found…