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Showing posts from July, 2019

View From The Office (Singapore)

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I spent the day in the office and after opening the blinds, this was the view from our conference room.  That's Singapore National Stadium on the left and there was some sort of event going on inside during the workday.

This is the latest in the [View from my office] series.

It's Smiling At Me (Singapore Duck)

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I walked through a food hall kind-of-place in Singapore and saw these birds hanging in the front of one of the places.  I'm sure it is delicious.  But....All I could think about was this scene that runs at the end1 of A Christmas Story:


1. [I say *end* of the movie, but like a lot of you, I watch this movie in constant repeat format on Christmas Day and the end blurs with the beginning - you know how TBS rolls the credits in a tiny format in the corner???]

More Street Trees Of Tokyo - Shinagawa In July

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With multiple visits to Tokyo now under my belt, I have come to realize that there are plenty of things that I am drawn to during my stays including the hospitality, the crazy products, work (of course) and maybe most significantly:  their horticulture.  Mostly their trees.

I've posted a bunch about the trees of Tokyo starting with my first visit where I saw the Cherry trees in full blossom in 2017.  Earlier this year, I posted some photos from a Spring visit where I saw some workers pruning street trees into a columnar shape and had the good fortune of seeing the deciduous trees without their leaves.  I also posted this photo of a carefully crafted pine tree outside of the Peninsula Hotel close to the office I was visiting.   The pruning they do starts young as I found a few very thin pine trees close to a building that have begun their pruning/training.   And...where I saw the most interesting collection of trees (mostly White and Black Pines) was in the outer gardens of the Im…

Honeycomb Setup At Tokyo Marriott Breakfast

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I stayed at the Tokyo Marriott on a recent trip for just one night, but this was the second time I stayed there.  However, this was the first time I had time for breakfast.  The previous trip, I had an early departure time and had to run out before breakfast.    At this Marriott - which has some terrific gardens that I'll post about another day here on the blog - is a converted hotel, so it wasn't built as a Marriott.  So, the layout isn't traditional, or at least traditional in my mind when it comes to a hotel layout.  The check-in desk is buried about half-way "back" in the hotel and is small and cramped with a low ceiling. 

In "front" of that check-in desk area is a giant atrium.  In the center of the atrium is the restaurant where they serve breakfast.  It is free for certain Marriott Rewards Bonvoy Members, so when I showed up, there were plenty of folks eating there.  The breakfast offerings are pretty robust and they have quite a few Western cho…

Cast (Non-Iron) Gnome For Our Garden?

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Every year, we attend something called "Fairy Fest" at the Growing Place in Naperville.  We build some Fairy garden stuff, have a little tea party, buy some tiny plants and then hang out with this guy in a gnome costume.  Or...a gnome.  He's pretty believable. 

One of the things he tells the kids is that any garden with a gnome is going to be happier, healthier and wiser.  I kind of glommed on to that statement and have been pointing out the one gnome we have out back.  I don't think I've ever posted specifically *about* him, but I do have this photo (scroll down) in this post that shows off the current gnome that inhabits our backyard.  He doesn't have a name, but I've had him for close to ten years.  I think Nat bought him from Target and he's done a fine job making our backyard happier, healthier and wiser.   He's cast iron and has weathered being outside for those (almost) ten years and I really like him.

However, you know what is better than…

Coaster Collection #36: Le Hibou In Paris

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It has been a while since I posted a coaster here in the [coaster collection], but I snapped a photo of this one from a cafe in Paris called Le Hibou.  I don't remember the meal at all other than we sat outside, so it might not have been memorable.    The owl is nice as is the custom coasters. 

#35 in the collection was this one from Aulani.  The last (and only other?) European coaster in the collection is this quasi-vintage Newcastle coaster that I found in my personal effects from my parents house.

Vintage Find: American Bricks Building Set

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At the Elkhorn Flea Market up in Wisconsin, I came across this American Bricks Building Set of red and brown bricks.  They're Lego-like, but they made their appearance twenty years prior to Legos making an appearance in America. 

This Google Arts & Culture page is really awesome.  It is from "The Strong National Museum of Play" in Rochester, New York.  Details from there:
The Halsam toy company of Chicago offered the first sets of American Bricks construction sets made of wood in the 1940s. The interlocking stud and socket system that held the bricks together was similar to the blocks in LEGO sets that arrived in the United States in the 1960s. The American Brick pieces were grooved on the outer face to resemble the texture of bricks. I think that the vendor wanted $30 for a few bags of them, so they weren't cheap.  And because of the price, it was easy to invoke my collecting mantra and pass on them.  Say it with me:
It is enough to enjoy the existence of things…

Garage Sale Find: Vintage American Dragoon and Minuteman Wall Plaques

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Look at these two beauties that I came across at a garage sale down the block.  They have a little bit of dust/lint on the red background and have a little bit of dirt on them, but they're pretty great, right?  If I was one of the people who run an instagram handle that is vintage finds and wrote some cutesy story about how these would be so 'darling' for your little boy's room and would look 'so good' next to that vintage felt banner you hung this Spring.... I could flip these from 50 cents a piece to $25 for the pair, right? 

A guy can dream.

Milorganite Spill Lawn Burn - Don't Believe the Non-Burning Hype

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I thought this stuff was non-burning?  I'm certain that this is the location of the broadcast spreader when I was loading my bags of Milorganite before the 4th of July.  I would normally not load on the grass, but the whole "non-burning" promise of Milorganite made me believe that it would be fine.  If you look closely, you'll see some black bits laying around. 

I've learned my lesson with Milorganite.  Don't believe the label when it says non-burning.

Here's a very close-up of the same spot:


See the Milorganite in there?  Turns out...it *might* burn your lawn and if you put down too much in one spot... it WILL BURN YOUR LAWN.

Espalier Fruit Trees At Luxembourg Gardens In Paris

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What's that you say?  Want another post about Luxembourg Gardens in Paris?  Well, good news for you:  here's a post about espalier'd trees.  Yes...one of my favorite topics.

I've posted quite a bit about this place on the blog:
The Chestnut trees that line the various paths.The metal edging on the paths.The chairs.  These amazing vines/ivy that have been trained between posts and trees.  These orangerie tree boxesThe fact that they use cocoa bean shell mulch in their beds.  And how I copied the color pallete of one of their beds in our raised planter box. In one corner of Luxembourg Gardens there is a section dedicated to the art of espalier.  They appear to be mostly fruit trees and this NYT story from 1971 calls them "century‐old pear trees". That's amazing, isn't it? These trees were more than 100 years old in 1971, so that means that *some* of them are 150 years old today?

If you've been following along at home, you likely remember that I&…

Lake Elizabeth in Wisconsin is 625 Acres in Area

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And, is "spring fed".  Based on this flyer that the Twin Lakes Sailing Club tossed on the dock.  They used fruit snacks to weigh it down - which was kinda cute.

Paw Paw Lake in Coloma, Michigan is 4,300 acres.  7x the size.

I'd been trying to figure out how they compared and now, thanks to the Twin Lakes Sailing Club's brochure....I have my answer.

Also, fun fact, it is technically "Elizabeth Lake".  And according to Wikipedia, Elizabeth Lake was named for Elizabeth Barrett Browning, an English poet.  Who, I'm guessing never visited the lake.

An Upright Hicks Yew Hedge - Starting Small

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About a week ago, I posted a photo showing the new little collection of Hicks Upright Yews that I picked up at Home Depot for a song with the intention of planting a hedge in the back.  Welp...I started that project this week.

If you've been following along, I'm using this Bunny Williams sweeping yew hedge as inspiration and after I get these established, I'm going to try to prune them into curving, swooping shapes.

I started to place them out and realized that the spacing wasn't going to work.  What you see here above and below is 3' (36") spacing between the centers of the pots.  Looks too far apart to me.



So, off I went to pick up 3 more shrubs and shrunk the gap down to 30".  
And after I dug the holes (remembering Ralph Snodsmith's advice about digging the holes!!!), I stuck them in the ground and threw some mulch that I had on hand on top of them. 
Here's the immediate aftermath of planting them.  I have to clean up the front of the bed, ge…

Chestnut Trees In Luxembourg Gardens - Paris

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By now, I think I've been pretty clear that this place - Luxembourg Gardens in Paris - has left a pretty significant impression on me garden-wise.  Just yesterday, I posted about the metal walking path edging and before that, the many love letters to this Garden/park include:
The chairs.  These amazing vines/ivy that have been trained between posts and trees.  These orangerie tree boxesThe fact that they use cocoa bean shell mulch in their beds.  And how I copied the color pallete of one of their beds in our raised planter box. Today, I'm sharing this photo above that shows off the 'bottom' of the pleached row of Horse Chestnut trees.  Pleaching is training/pruning trees that is kind of a close Cousin to espalier.  More here.

For a wider-view perspective on these Horse Chestnut Trees in Luxembourg Gardens, do a Google Image Search for [Horse Chestnut Trees Luxembourg Gardens].  Go there now and poke around.  Or just look at this image here.  Then come back here.

Ok..…

Metal Path Edging - Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

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Just a couple of days ago, I posted the latest in my love letters to Luxembourg Gardens with my post about the chairs they have there.  Prior to that post, I shared a series of things that I have been drawn to about the garden including posts about the vines growing between trees by the Medici Fountain, the tree boxes,the cocoa bean shell mulch and the colors of the flower beds that inspired our own raised planter mix

Today comes these little metal edges.  They're half circles or little hoops and they kind of overlap each other to form an edge to the walking paths.  What's that you say?  Jake...you've been talking about a walking path in your own backyard for a while now.  That's right!  I'd been thinking about using something a little bit more formal with uniform metal edging to keep the crushed granite in place, but this little bit of whimsy via Luxembourg Gardens has me wondering if I can think about using different types of edging?  I mean, this is NOT a pol…

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.  AllEars.net 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…