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Showing posts from March, 2019

Snowdrop Blooming - 2019

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I posted a photo of some of our tulip bulbs that have emerged from the mulch beds at the end of last week. And today we have our first backyard flower at Hornbeam Hill.  This is a Snowdrop and despite this being our second Spring in our new house, I don't think I noticed this thing last year.  It is along the north side of our backyard about half way back to the rear lot line.  There's just one of these blooms and it is in the side of the yard that we haven't spent a minute working on, so I'm not totally sure how it got there but I'm glad to see it!  We have a bunch of daffodils in various spots around our backyard (quite a few of them in places where we've grown grass!), so perhaps the previous owner bought some early Spring bulb sets and this was included.

Big Ten in Chicago - 2019

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The Big Ten Conference put up this B1G outside of the Daley Center during the Big Ten Hoops Tournament earlier this month.  Like seeing this way more than having it at the Garden.

Front Yard Tulips Emerge For First Spring - 2019

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Seems like this is the week for (finally) some action in our garden/yard that indicates Spring is actually arriving.  Yesterday, I posted a photo of what I think is a 'clump'1 of Ostrich Ferns.  Today, let's talk about bulbs.  
Last October, I planted 50 Tulip bulbs in one of our beds out in front of the porch, just underneath a giant Norway Maple.  At the time, I did my best to protect them from various critters, but as time went on, I noticed some digging in the area.  Between the skunks looking for grubs and perhaps squirrels with their eyes on the actual bulbs, somebody was pretty active shortly after I planted these bulbs.  
And the soil?  I've talked about the soil we have close to our foundation.  It is terrible right now.  All clay.  If you read my Top 10 2019 Spring/Summer Gardening To-Do List, you'll remember that #1 on my list was to continue to improve the soil.  But, I've only have had one full garden season to work the soil and the bulk of that e…

Ostrich Fern Clump In Late Winter/Early Spring?

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I was out back cleaning up some things and I came across this clump of plant life that was sticking out of the ground.  I was about to step on it when I noticed it amongst a bunch of leaves and what I think is leaf mold.  In looking at it, I'm pretty sure it is a clump of pre-furl'd fern fronds.  This clump is all the way in the back of the property close to where the kids climb a tree.  When climbing there, they also stomp around on plants and things, so I'm going to mark this with a stick or something to keep the kids away from it when the weather warms up.

What makes me unsure if this is a fern is the location.  I planted a whole bunch of stuff that we took out of my sister-in-law's lot before she tore her house down.  One of those items was a big fern that I transplanted that seemed to take last year, but that was on the other side of the lot.

I'll keep an eye on this to see if I'm correct and this is, indeed a fern clump.  This is an area of deep shade, s…

Winnie the Pooh Blanket Cape from Tokyo Disneyland

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Since my trip to the Tokyo Disney Resort, I've posted a bunch of times showing some of the  highlights and items that I brought back home including this pin marking the 35th Anniversary Celebration of the resort and the latest versions of the two park maps and the resort-specific bandaids - which I love. 

But none of the things that I brought home top this:  the fleece Winnie the Pooh Bear blanket or cape or shawl with a hood.  My middle child has a snuggle pal of Pooh Bear that she adores and after seeing this, I couldn't come home without it.    I mean...come on, right?  Just 'adorbies', as she says.  Nat took this photo and I couldn't help but share it here on the blog.

I found this product photo on this ebay listing that shows how it lays out:


Those dots are snaps that bring it together in the front.  I think they technically list it as a 'wearable blanket', but I'd rather call it a cape.  They had a bunch of characters like Mickey/Minnie and Chip/D…

Something is Wrong With My Squirrel Buster Plus Feeder

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We've had a SquirrelBuster Plus tube feeder for a number of years.  Nat bought it for me for my birthday sometime in the past five or six years.  And for the most part, I have loved the feeder.  With our current setup, I've mostly been using a small mix of seed including thistle seeds in this feeder because we've had larger, seed and nut-based mixes in our fly-through feeder.  The song birds seem to hanging out at the fly-through mostly.  The peckers and nut thatches spend their time on the suet cages.  And the little finches and sparrows and others seem to be using the tube feeder.   Here's a post from here on the blog showing an American Goldfinch perched on the feeder outside our kitchen windows.  It was working just fine back then. 

But recently, I've noticed that the SquirrelBuster is emptying really rapidly.  In about a day.  And I'm assuming that a squirrel is getting to it and shaking.  For most of its life, this feeder served it's name:  it busted …

Adding a Folding Saw To Garden Arsenal?

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I was out at the Walmart with one of the kids on a recent weekend and I naturally wandered into the garden section.  They didn't have the outside part open yet, but the inside was being stocked up for all your Spring and Summer needs.  There were pots of all various shapes and sizes, bags of soil and down at the end of the garden center was this display of tools.  They had pruners and clippers and shovels.  But they also had this:  a folding saw.  (oh...and yeah..there's a blade sharpener, too!  But, for this post, let's focus on the folding saw.)

Our yard is full of medium and some very mature trees.  Oaks and Maples.  And they loose a lot of little branches and limbs.  So, every Spring (and frankly...all Summer long), our yard is full of sticks.  Plenty of them are small little things.  I can crack them in two with my hands and I throw them in one of the fireplaces.  But others are larger and I can't handle them well. 

I don't own an axe - either a large one or …

Pruning Our Espalier Trees - Removing the Top of Lindens

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As the weather started to warm up, I was able to get out into the yard to do some late Winter pruning on a bunch of items around the yard.  I cleaned up the hydrangeas, used a new extension pruner (more on this at some point) to clip off some water spouts on trees way up in the air and even tended to this pair of Linden trees that we've espalier'd into a horizontal cordon.  Here's a post from September of 2017 where I shared photos and description of the wire setup.  The photo at the top of this post shows the state of these two trees before any pruning.  It is hard to really see all of the cordons or arms, so here's an annotated photo showing the position and lengths of the arms/limbs: 


The Greenspire Linden on the left has four levels of cordons and the one on the right has what I'll call 4.5 levels. 

I decided to try to prune off the top - what I found out is known as the "apical meristem" in an attempt to drive more growth into the existing arms/limb…

So Long Old Desk. Thanks For All The Fish.

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For the past 10+ years, I've been sitting at this desk for a couple of days each week.   And by calling it a 'desk', I might be being generous.  It is really a table.  With two tiny, slim drawers.  But, I call it my 'desk' when I refer to it.  "Put it on my desk."  Or "I think it is on my desk." 

Nat bought it at West Elm when we were first moving into our old house.  When she bought it, I was setting up a tiny home office.  Upstairs in what would become our little nursery outside of our master bedroom.  It is a stable, even surface.  And compact in size. 

When #1 arrived, I relocated downstairs to a first floor bedroom that was larger.  But, the small desk was going with me.  And there it lived for seven or so years.  After a few years in storage, we moved it into my new office in our new house. 

Until now.  Nat found me a new desk - a desk that I've admired but figured was out of our league price-wise.  But, thanks to the Crate and Barrel …

Tokyo Disneyland Resort Merchandise With The Parks Name On It Is Hard To Come By

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If you've been to a Disney Park here in the US, you can't swing your double stroller around in a store like the Emporium on MainStreet USA without seeing some form of merchandise with the name of the park on it.  There's shirts and mugs with Magic Kingdom on them.  There's tons of items with Epcot Center on it - including some vintage logo things like hats.  Same with Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.  Then there's all the merchandise that have the opening year of the entire resort on them like WDW '71.

But, one of the things that I noticed during my trips to the Tokyo parks was that there isn't a lot of stuff that they sell that actually has the name of the parks/resort on the merchandise.  There's ONE shirt that I found - a plain grey shirt with blue words on it that has the park names on it in each of Land and Sea parks.  No kids clothes with the name of the resort/parks what so ever.

What they DO have is what I'd describe as character-focuse…

Tokyo Disneyland Still Has Their Redhead

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I've now been on three different Pirates of the Caribbean rides in three different parks.  The first one I ever rode was down in Walt Disney World.  And it is great.  Has just one drop and what I thought was a really nice show.  But then, I rode the one in Disneyland.  Woah.  Totally different and ummm...better?  Like, first there's the pre-pre show.  The whole seeing the boats come around the Blue Bayou restaurant into the loading area.  Then the whole bayou scene with the guy playing the banjo and the fireflies buzzing around.  Then the drops.  There's more than one!  That was nuts to me.

And now I have these (admittedly) blurry photos of the Pirates of the Carribbean at Tokyo Disneyland.  The reason they are all blurry is that there are tons of signs advising one to NOT take photos on the rides and so I wasn't sure what to do.  I was worried about the brightness being seen from my phone screen on the ride, so I pressed the phone against my body, tried to put my fin…

Vessel Precision Phillips Screwdriver - Made In Japan

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I found myself in a Japanese hardware store in Ginza and discovered that a lot of the products are just like ours:  made in China.  But, there was a section that had some signage that proclaimed:  Made in Japan.  That's where I spent my time poking around to try to find something small and inexpensive that I could bring home for myself and for my tool-loving family members who had birthdays coming up. 

There on the rack were a series of these precision screwdrivers.  Or "micro precision drivers" as I think they were billed.  This Phillips head driver from Vessel has that red padded section that you can use to twist the screw into place while applying pressure to the base.  I have a set of precision drivers, but they're stuck in a case and it always takes me a second to pull them out.  Now I have a driver that I can keep in the coffee mug on my desk at home along with my most-used regular-sized driver and a pair of needle nose pliers. 

You can buy a full set of these…

Duffy's Heartwarming Days @ Tokyo DisneySea - February 2019

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Of the course of the past week or so, I've shared a bunch of details of my trip to the Tokyo Disney Resort including a stop at Tokyo DisneySea.  My trip there coincided with a unique celebration called "Duffy's Heartwarming Days 2019" that was taking place in the Cape Cod section of the park that seemed to be a particular draw for some guests.

The Heartwarming Days celebration features Duffy the Bear and his friends Shellie Mae, Gelatoni and StellaLou.  They had this display with little characters set up that you see above that had a super long line of folks waiting to take photos.

The Heartwarming Days celebration ran simultaneously with the 35th Birthday celebration of the resort so they had situations where you could get a photo of a 35th Birthday marker (like this nautical Mickey themed one) and the Heartwarming Days banners (on the roof and on the next building).  This had a shorter line - but was still having people take photos (I blurred this little girl'…

I Don't Think That's What They Had In Mind In Terms Of Imagineering

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I mean...Disney Parks and Vape things.  Both are totally about Imagineering the Future.

This Vape shop is past the security setup at Narita Airport in Tokyo.

Also, for those wondering at home, turns out Disney didn't invent the idea of "Imagineering".  But they do *own* it:
Imagineering is a portmanteau combining the words "imagination" and "engineering". Imagineering is the implementation of creative ideas in practical form.  The word is a registered trademark of The Walt Disney Company, and is well known for its use within the name of Walt Disney Imagineering; however, contrary to popular belief, the term was neither coined by Disney, nor did it originate there. The word was "invented" by Alcoa around 1940, and appeared widely in numerous publications of several disciplines such as urban design, geography and politics, evolutionary economics, corporate culture and futures studies.

White Noise and Bird Chirps On My Japanese Toilet

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I don't think I've mentioned how the addition of a Toto Toilet to our master bathroom has fundamentally altered my life.  And, that's probably best.  If she is reading this, Nat is seriously cringing right now.  So, I'll just move along.  TMI, Nat?  Sorry!  Briefly...I'll just say this: Yes...I'm proud to be totally #TeamToto.

But, before I move along, I wanted to flag this for all of you:  some of the public area toilets (think....bathrooms that are adjacent to a multi-tenant high-rise office building) have not just the normal front/rear wash and pressure but also the button marked 'privacy'?  And the 'volume' toggle underneath it?  That's basically a white noise function.  White noise, chimes and bird chirps.  For real.

During my time in Tokyo, I didn't come across this very often so I'm not sure if this feature is rare?

The first time I came across Toto's in public was during my time at Google.  Here's a post from all the…

Manhole Cover From Ginza Tokyo

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Just like street trees, there's a whole world of Web content related to manhole covers in Tokyo.  And for good reason.  Above is a photo of one of the many covers that I came across on my walks around the Ginza neighborhood on my recent trip to Tokyo.  
Based on this post from Japan Visitor, is either a combined sewage system or water supply cover and has the four icons in the middle light up in colors of orange, green and blue.  And the variety of covers that one could come across in Tokyo are there by design.  Literally.  From this story Japan Wonderland comes this description: According to some sources, in the late 1980s, there was a Construction Specialist from the Public Sewer Division, Ministry of Construction who advocated the use original designs for each municipality in the hope that it would improve the image of the sewage industry and make it more appealing to the general community. Everyone seemed to think that that’s a great idea. Almost every year competitions are h…

The Outer Gardens of The Tokyo Imperial Palace

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This is the view that I was greeted with most of the days I was in the office in Tokyo doing meetings and client work on my trip in February.  In the foreground where you see the yellowish/tanish ground is the Kōkyo-gaien or "Outer Garden" of the Tokyo Imperial Palace.  If you move your eyes more towards the upper portion of the photo, you'll see the buildings of the Imperial Palace grounds with the large stone driveway area in between the two.  The public grounds is the part that mere mortals like me are able to wander around in, but I think you can make your way around the Palace grounds and take in some nature.  Due to time constraints and uncertainty, I was only able to enjoy the front, public outer gardens you see with the yellow/tan grounds.  
And that part was pretty spectacular.  There's tons of things written on the Web about the plants/trees and animals that live in and around the Imperial Garden, but you can start with this entry on Wikipedia that details…

A Trip To Morimae Ginza Bonsai Shop In Tokyo

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As I've mentioned in a few different posts in the past month or so, I've been increasingly drawn into bonsai videos on YouTube.  Thanks to their recommendation algorithm, I've been wandering into a bonsai rabbit hole and have, I think, come to the conclusion that I should try my hand at some form of bonsai.  So, on my recent trip to Tokyo, I decided to seek out some bonsai in person.  I came across this post on Bonsai Empire that recommended this small shop called Morimae Bonsai in Ginza that was just a few blocks away from my hotel.  That story mentioned that the store was small and recommended a trip upstairs. 

I wandered over there and found the place and I went in.  It *was* small and had one person working in the place behind a counter.  The Bonsai Empire piece mentioned an upstairs, but I didn't notice any stairs, so I was stuck just looking around the little shop.  They had about a half dozen trees in the store and some tools. 

The tree that grabs your attentio…

Bonsai-Like Tree At The Peninsula Hotel Tokyo

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Just a couple of days ago, I posted about some Tokyo Street Trees and how the mature trees in parkways were being heavily pruned into a columnar habit and it seemed that for the younger ones that they had planted recently, they had been selected trees that appeared to have a more natural columnar habit. 

But, there are so many interesting trees around Ginza, Tokyo that I saw and this post hopefully will show even more of the diversity of both species and habits. 

This tree above is outside the front entrance of The Peninsula Hotel Ginza in Tokyo and caught my attention due to the training the trunk received to give it that curvy-nature.  I have been spending a lot of time on YouTube watching bonsai videos and learning all about how bonsai owners use wire to train the trunk and limbs to create these curves and add interest to the overall tree.  I can't help but wonder if this large tree - which I think is a Spruce or maybe a Pine - was trained with similar wires as it grew.  based…

Is This In Italy or Tokyo DisneySea?

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What do you think?  Bathroom sign in Italy?  Or at Tokyo DisneySea?  Here's the setting right outside the bathroom.  And those of you looking closely, pay no attention to the group of people wearing headgear featuring Experiment 626.  Squint a little bit and tell me that you're not transported to Italy, right?


That little detail of the men's restroom sign is just another data point on *why* Tokyo DisneySea is the most impressive of all the Disney Parks you can visit in the world.  Or at least...the most impressive one that I've been to so far.  I know Galaxy's Edge is going to change that, but for now, I'll stand by Tokyo DisneySea as the top dog.

Also, all of my posts featuring Experiment 626 - or who you might know as Stitch - can be found here.   Turns out, before now, they were all posts about Disney Pins that we either purchased or traded for during our trips to Walt Disney World.

A Ride on the Tokyo Disney Resort Monorail

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The two resorts at the Tokyo Disney Resort are connected with a Monorail that circles the property.  It makes a stop at a train station in between the two parks and to be honest, I've only been on this monorail twice and both times I did the same route:  DisneySea Station --> Disneyland Station.  So, I'm not totally sure where else it runs to and how long the route is, but I thought I'd share my experience.

The trip between the two parks is a really nice experience and one that is totally on-theme.  You exit DisneySea and head out to the station.  Buying your one-way ticket at a machine, then you get through the turnstiles and head upstairs to the platform.  A few minutes later...the monorail arrives.

And it is full of Mickey Heads.  The outside windows are Mickeys.



And so are the handles you use when you are stuck standing as the train moves.



Pretty simple, but adds so much to the experience.


There was this one last touch in the car I was in:  a "Funderful Disney…

Street Trees of Tokyo - Columnar Via Heavy Pruning

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Walking around Tokyo for a few days in February, I was struck by the parkway trees.  Or 'Street Trees' as they are called.  There's a whole site called "Street Trees of Tokyo" here.  In the photo above you can see two kinds of street trees.  On the left side, you see a more mature, but HEAVILY pruned tree.  And on the right, in the braces, you can see a much younger more columnar-by-nature tree that hasn't been pruned or touched in any way.

The trees that are heavily pruned take on an almost columnar form which helps in the narrow areas where they are shooting up in the parkways.  But, I can't help but wonder what they'd look like if they were allowed to grow out.  On the Street Trees of Tokyo site, they point out the pruning thusly:
Unfortunately, most of the street trees in Japan are excessively pruned under the excuse of preventing toppling of the trees during the typhoon season in autumn. Consequently, street trees in Japan are in average compara…

Tokyo Disney 35th Anniversary Pin

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I added this 'resort' pin from Tokyo Disney Resort on my most recent visit.  Pin trading isn't that big of a deal it seems at the Tokyo Disney parks and they have a limited number of pins.  The last time I was there, I grabbed a park-specific pin for both DisneySea and Disneyland, so this time, I figured I'd get something with the year on it.  The problem was that I didn't see any park-specific ones that also included the year.  In fact, they had a couple of character pins (Duffy ones, I think), but the only other ones were three:  the two previous park pins we already own.  And this one:  a 35th Birthday pin.

So, of course, I grabbed this one.  It features both Mickey and Minnie and has the 35 in the middle along with [Tokyo Disney Resort] in the banner at the bottom.  Since the 35th celebration spanned 2018 and the beginning of 2019, the actual year isn't on here.

I'll post this on the big pin board in the garage and try to get it close to the other two …