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Showing posts from 2020

367 Posts For 2020

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Today is six straight years of posting on my blog here.  Every day.  For six years.  And, it seems that I posted twice on one day in July.  And this is the ninth year since 2010 that I hit a post per day.  Seems the two years that I took off were in 2013 and 2014.  Why not go for seven years in a row, right?  Here's to an even better 2021 in the garden, yard and here on the blog. 

Finished: Harry Potter Puzzle - Christmas Break

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We started this 1000 piece Harry Potter puzzle on December 13th .  And by "we", I really mean "me".  The kids helped a little bit - mostly because the oldest one was desperate to get access to the project table in the screened porch where I set up.  That's become our LEGO and puzzle table.  By December 18th, I had the border mostly done and the colors sorted .  And by December 22nd, it was starting to come into focus .  Today is the 30th of December, but, I finished this back on the 23rd. Just getting around to posting it - what with the Christmas hysteria around the house.  A couple of busy, full days sitting and focused on the puzzle got it done.  You can see the complete puzzle below:  Or, really...complete in the sense that I'm done with it.  But, there were two missing pieces.  This puzzle was on loan from our friends.  They said there was one missing piece.  And now, I think we caused it to have a second missing piece.   This is the 3rd puzzle of quara

Swaying of the Spruce Trees - Morton Arboretum - Winter 2020

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 Like the creaking of an old wooden ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the Spruce Plot at the Morton Arboretum isn't just a sight for your eyes.  If you listen closely enough, you'll hear some of the trees swaying and rubbing against each other - way up in the air.  The sound is really quite an interesting part of your visit to this area.  You can go anytime during the year, but I think Winter provides the most striking difference in the area. Have a listen to the swaying of the Spruce trees at the Morton Arboretum : I've written a few times about this particular path at the Morton Arboretum this year - and talked about while COVID has taken so much from us, it has also given our family the Spruce Plot at the Arboretum. Here it is in late Summer - August of 2020 - where everything is still green . Here it is in late Fall - early December 2020 - where all of the leaves have dropped and the Sun is able to hit you *just right* in the morning.   The video above is in early Wint

Another Year of Visits From Our Elf On The Shelf Goldie - Christmas 2020

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You can't swing a dead cat and NOT hit a Pinterest board or wanna-be Instagram Influencer without seeing their Elf-on-the-shelf shenanigans.  But, I'm here to say that our elf, Goldie, thanks to a certain someone, killed it this year.  He arrived, had a good time and hit the bricks as fast as he came.  Here he is feeding the reindeer:  I've covered Golide before - most recently in 2019 when he met my guy Hulk Hogan  and when he had tea time with a homeless lady under our tree . 

2020 - Coming to the End of The Year - Stink, Stank, Stunk

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 I'll have more to say in a couple of days, but for now, I think a lot of people are celebrating the end of 2020.  And we're joining them.  Nat hung this ornament on our tree that reads:  2020 stink, stank, stunk.   I know others are marking 2020 with ornaments with masks on them, or toilet paper.  I think this one feels right for our house.  

Norway Maple Firewood Checking - Four Months Seasoned - December 2020

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Earlier this week, I posted a photo of some of our seasoned Ash Firewood that has been processed, split and on the rack for a year and is showing cracks at the ends - checking - in firewood parlance .  That Ash firewood was from our neighbor's house pre-tear down and besides the checking and cracks, the wood has taken on a much darker color and when you *clack* them together, they give you that good, seasoned firewood sound.   This year, we had a large(ish) limb come down from the Norway Maple in our front yard.  It dropped during the "El Derecho" wind storm that came through in August .   With the help my neighbor Matt (and his chainsaw), we processed some of that limb into rounds and stuck them up on one of the racks to begin to dry out.  My plan was to begin to process these pieces later this Winter when cabin fever got the best of me.   But, I was over by the racks straightening some things out earlier this week and noticed that some of these Norway Maple rounds have

Northbrook Mall Drive-Thru Light Show - Christmas 2020

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 We have quite a few Christmas traditions in our house.  COVID has caused us to change, drop or modify a bunch of them.  But, it also provided us with some new opportunities.  One of them was this new drive-through light show that took place in the parking lot of Northbrook Mall.  We went right before Christmas to celebrate the Babe's birthday.  It is called the "Let it Shine" lightshow and you can find all the details here on their site .  I don't know if this is a one-year thing (because of COVID), but based on our experience, I'm hoping it isn't.   We really liked it.   We packed a dinner and packed the kids in to the van and went up there.  There is something akin to Disney's Fast Pass that you can buy to get a shortcut in the line.  But, we didn't wait that long.  Maybe 15 or 20 minutes of waiting until it was our turn to wind through the light show.  I have to say...I'm not sure that was a terrible thing.   It costs $39.99 per car - which see

Front Yard Christmas Tree (And Santa and Reindeer Blowmolds) - Christmas 2020

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This year, after a couple of years off, we brought back our front yard Christmas tree.  You can see it in the photo below, along with our guy Santa and three of his reindeer.  This is the second year for these blowmolds being up on tomato cages and they look great .   It appears that this is only the second year that we put up a front yard tree since we moved to Downers Grove.  That first Christmas - back in 2017 - we had one (here) .  But, I can't find posts from 2018 and 2019.   This year, Nat tried to get some of our neighbors to do a tree in their own front yards and we saw a few of them do it - which is really nice.  We always loved Indiana Street being lit up with these trees. Here's the history of our front yard Christmas Trees over the years on the blog: 2020 - this post showing the tree and our blowmolds are back. 2017 - our first year in Downers Grove, I picked up a little tree at Menards for the front yard . Here's the photo and post from 2016 when we were at Vic

Happy Festivus - 2020

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 Just like in year's past , I wanted to take the space on December 23rd this year on the blog to wish everyone a very Happy Festivus.   I've posted about Festivus many times over the years here on the blog  and this looks to be the seventh (7th) year that I marked the moment.  Out of 16 years on the blog. Here's how I celebrated Festivus in 2019 . Here's how I celebrated Festivus in 2018 . Here's how I celebrated Festivus in 2017 . Here's how I celebrated Festivus in 2016 . Here's how I celebrated Festivus in 2015 . And the first post in 2010 about Festivus appears to be this photo of a real-life Festivus pole outside of a house in Elmhurst .  But, this year marked a new moment in our Festivus journey.  After many years of asking/hinting that we should include it in our Christmas card, she finally caved.  Our 2020 family holiday card included a tip-of-the-hat to Festivus.  Here's the back of the card with the kids all blurred out: Right there amongst Chr

Nine Days in: Harry Potter Christmas Break Puzzle

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Doesn't look like much progress, does it?  Feels like I've sat in front of this puzzle for multiple hours, but all that I have to show for it is PARTS of four scenes.  There are twenty-one (21) total scenes in the puzzle across five rows. I have one scene in four of the five rows started so far.  I'm running out of time but, I suppose that means that I'll have to focus even more on this thing in the coming days. As a reminder, I called my shot with a 'Christmas Break' project puzzle back on Sunday, December 13th .  Five days later, on Friday, December 18th, I did my first check-in that showed the border mostly done and some of the color pieces sorted into piles .  Today, it looks like this: I'm fearing that I did all of the EASY parts, so now the project might only slow down.  

My Christmas Tree Day Ballcap - 15+ Years On

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 I own exactly one camouflage item of clothing.  It is this Doug Hayse for Illinois State Representative camo ball cap.  Based on the data on the Illinois Department of Elections site , it appears that this hat is from the 2004 general election cycle.  That means that I've kept this hat for more than 15 years.  But, I only wear it one day a year:  Christmas Tree Farm Day.   Just filing this away as one of my Christmas traditions  - I've successfully been able to file this hat away in with the rest of our holiday decorations.  Just to be pulled out when the tubs of decorations come out each Thanksgiving-time.   I'm pretty sure it started because we had (historically) went down to the Tammen Treeberry Farm in Braidwood.  That was in, or pretty darn close - to the district Doug Hayse was running in for State Representative.  If I was doing - (which...NOTE TO SELF: I should do one this year, right??) - one of the "my favorite Christmas things" from this year, this hat

Checking on Seasoned Ash Firewood - December 2020

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  Here's a look at some of the Ash Firewood that I processed last Winter.  You can see the checking that is taking place as the log dries out and has properly seasoned.  I recently brought some of this in the screened porch to begin to burn along with the Cherry, Oak and Birch.  This is the same wood that I showed stacked on my far backyard rack .  It has come a long way since Summer with a much darker look and checking along the ends.

Front Room/Green Room Christmas Tree - 2020 Season

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 On Monday, I posted a photo of our family room Christmas tree .  That was the larger of our two trees from Evergreen Acres in Wisconsin.   I said at the time that the tree was the 13th Christmas tree that I've posted about over the years here on the blog and the fourth Family Room tree in our house in Downers - that we moved into in the Summer of 2017. But, that was wrong.  I forgot to include our Green Room Tree in 2019 to my list.  So, technically, Monday's tree was the 14th.  And this tree makes 15. For our new house, we've been here for four Christmas seasons: 2017, 2018, 2019 and now 2020.   In each of those three previous years - and again this year - we have a second tree in our house - a smaller tree in the front room.  Or, Green room.  Or, Library.  Depends on who describes it.   This year - like previous - we cut down a smaller Fraser Fir and Nat decorated it with vintage ornaments in our front window.  Here it is below: White globe lights, vintage ball ornaments

Week in - Harry Potter Puzzle - December 2020

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Less than a week ago, I posted a photo of my new Christmas break project:  a big Harry Potter puzzle .  I posted it mostly to force myself to finish this thing.  Like all of you, I started a puzzle during the beginning of the quarantine.  But, I gave up.  This one, I'm doing out on the screened porch.  Hoping location would get me further along than the last time appears to be paying dividends so far.   The photo below shows you where I am about five days after starting.  I have most of the border done - but still looking for a few pieces to finish it out.  And I've begun to sort by color.   Putting the greens and the blues and the yellows into piles that I'm hoping will get me going. There's plenty to do and the kids don't seem to be interested in helping me, but time is on my side.  When I check out for work for a while (soon), I'll turn to this during the days.

2020 Christmas Flower - Waxed Amaryllis

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 Each of the past few years, we've grown Christmas flowers.  They're always Amaryllis bulbs that I've bought at the Wannemaker's Christmas Open House in early November.  That timeline has usually given me enough time get close to blooms on Christmas Day.  Last year, we grew four different varieties.  This year?  We missed the open house.  (Thanks, COVID.)  And I never got around to buying bulbs.   So, to my delight, Nat came home from (I think) Trader Joe's with this waxed amaryllis.  The tag doesn't list the variety, so it will be a surprise when it opens.   It seems that with this waxed version, you have to do literally NOTHING.  No water.  No soil.  Just turn it a quarter turn every few days to get it to grow straight.   So, while this isn't the best we've done with Amaryllis bulbs, at least having this on our counter keeps the tradition up of growing these things for the holidays.  COVID can shove it.

A 2020 Miss: Staining the Patio Container - December 2020

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 I'm due for a final 2020 to-do list recap, but before I get to that full list, I wanted to put down a post here about just one item:  #12 - Paint/stain the Patio Wood Container.   Here's a link to a late-season (October) checkin on the list that at the time showed #12 being left uncompleted .  Here, below, is a photo of said wooden patio container and one of our larger glazed patio containers tucked in next to it.  And guess what?  It is STILL unstained.   I started this project back in Summer of 2019 - as it was an ask from Natalie. I used treated lumber and based on everything that I read, you're supposed to wait a while to let the treated lumber to breath on its own BEFORE staining it.  That meant that I let myself off the hook that first year.  But this year?  NO excuse.  Other than COVID, I guess. Posting this mostly to SHAME MYSELF into getting this back on the 2021 to-do list and to get it done in the Spring.  Nat wants it stained black - so I just need to get to th

Tree Science in Action - Morton Arboretum Collection Nets - December 2020

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We were out on a walk in the Morton Arboretum when we noticed a basket far off the path.  We wandered over to see what was doing with it and saw this tag that had the title:  Tree Science in Action!  And included a reference to a soil scientist at the Morton Arboretum:  Dr. Meghan Midgley . Here's a closeup (albeit blurry) of the tag: It reads: Tree Science in Action! We're collecting leaf litter to study the effects of trees on soil. DO NOT DISTURB Questions? Contact Dr. Meghan Midgley, Soil Ecologist The baskets appear to be collecting material as it falls from the trees.  This one was in/near the Spruce Plot on the main loop .    What is Dr. Midgley working on?  From her bio : As the Soil Ecologist at The Morton Arboretum, Meghan Midgley studies plant-soil interactions in a changing world. Specifically, she aims to understand how interactions among plants, microbes, and soil mediate ecosystem-specific responses to environmental changes. Her research encompasses two overarch

Our Christmas Tree - Family Room Tree - December 2020

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 Earlier this year, I posted about the new (to us) Christmas Tree Farm up in Wisconsin called Evergreen Acres and how we cut down a handsome pair of trees and brought them home.  One of those trees has gone in our front green room (more on that in a separate post) and the other one ended up in our Krinner XXL tree stand in our family room.  Here it is below: The tree is about two feet shy of our ceiling, so let's call it eight feet tall.  It is a lovely tree that is also drinking a TON of water - all the way up until now (mid-December).   Here's some of our previous Christmas trees from over the years. Here's our 2019 Family Room tree that we bought from Wannemakers . Was taller than 2020's tree. Here's our 2019 (small) Green Room Tree . Here's our 2018 Family Room Tree . Here's v1 of our 2017 tree - our first in Downers Grove. Here's v2 of our 2017 tree - the one in our family room . Here's our 2016 tree - our last one in Elmhurst . Here's o

Harry Potter 1000 Piece Puzzle - COVID Christmas Break - December 2020

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 When we started this whole global pandemic thing back in Spring, puzzles had a moment.  Everybody was bound to their own home and it seemed liked everyone was doing puzzles.  Here's what Google Trends has in terms of data to show the surge in interest in puzzles this Spring : We tried to do one back then, but failed.  Just never got out of the starting block.  I think it had to do with the location of the puzzle.  We had it set up in our dining room - which is like a ghost town.  But, in recent weeks, I put up our little card table out on the screened porch and put a 300 piece family-friendly Christmas puzzle on it.  Guess what?  Seven or eight days after I started it, we finished it.  Because, it was in a room where we all were hanging out.   So, today is Sunday the 13th of December.  I'm working the rest of this week and a little bit next week.  But, then we'll have some time together as a family.  And, because of that, Nat scored us a new puzzle.  Except this time it

Weird Winter Pattern In Back Lawn

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 I was looking out our bedroom window and taking in the yard when I noticed this weird pattern of dark green spots that have emerged in our lawn this Winter.  Have a look at it below.  At first, I just assumed that it was a result of nature.  But, take a close look.  This is TOO MUCH of a pattern to be natural, right? Lizzie fertilizer?  Maybe. But, I don't think so.  We *did* get the guys at Davey to come out and feed our trees this Fall.  Could these be the sites of the fertilizer injections?  That seems like the most likely culprit, right?

Rhododendrons In The Morning - December 2020

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If you look closely at the photo below, you can see a few of the lights on our Christmas tree inside the house as a tell for the time of year this photo is taken.  This is what I see when I go out to feed the birds and critters in the morning:  our rhododendrons looking sad and curled up from the cold.  By midday, they've recovered and seem to be just fine.    I've come to really appreciate these two shrubs on either side of our back stoop.  This year, I didn't apply any Wilt-Pruf to them, so not sure what impact that might have on their overwintering.  They did, however, get a nice layer of new mulch this season, so I'm hoping they're tucked in nicely and will - once again - surprise me by surviving.  Having SUCH a tropical look in the middle of Summer is a real nice treat for me up here in Zone 5b.  Surviving the Winter in Zone 5b just strikes me as an oddity based on their look during Summer.  Guess that's why I'm drawn to them.

Palos Bowl - Flashback to the Aughts

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 This past weekend, we were out and about and ran by the Palos Bowl.  Immediately brought me back almost twenty years.  Place is still there.  Sure there would be group of dudes like us rolling in there on the weekends if not for the pandemic.  Hope it lasts another twenty years.  

Vintage Christmas - Non-Survivors - December 2020

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 Christmas is coming.  And the goose is getting fat.  But, we're also (thankfully) paring back some of the little decorations and vintage Santas that we have out and about.  This is a box of items that didn't make the cut this year.  There are guys in here that I've collected from garage sales, estate sales and even the Randolph Street Vintage Christmas market.  There are angels, carolers, a couple of planters and a really cute Santa with his sleigh and reindeers on reins.   With no Christmas parties to go to this year (thanks, COVID.  Seriously...the introvert over here says "thanks"), I suppose these can't serve as host/hostess gifts.  They'll have to sit and wait for another year.  

Morning in The Spruce Plot - Morton Arboretum - December 2020

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 Back in September, I posted a photo of one of our favorite spots in the Morton Arboretum called The Spruce Plot .  Or...The "Spruce Plots" as I mistakenly call them.  We were over in the Arboretum recently and - of course - found our way to this area for a little walk.  The sun hits differently in the morning during the Winter at Morton as all of the deciduous trees have dropped their leaves, so the sun comes through the forest and lights up the trunks of the trees.  Here's how things looked when we looked straight East as the sun began to rise in the morning: COVID has taken away so much from all of us - and from our family.  But, one of the really great things that it has GIVEN us are these walks.  

Lego Disney World Castle - Finished - December 2020

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 Quarantine is a funny thing.  We stay home and some days, we get NOTHING done.  Other days, we power ahead with a bunch of projects.  One of those projects is the Lego Walt Disney World Cinderella Castle that I've posted about recently .  After a few years of dormancy (seriously...years), you can see that we finally put the last few pieces together and finished the castle.  See below: The Babe and I put the final touches on The Castle (that's what we've been calling it) and now we have to figure out where we should put it/where it should live.  We knew it was big, but the height of this thing makes it such that we can't put it on a lot of her shelves in her room.  

Big Bird of Prey - Backyard - December 2020

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  This isn't the first time I've posted about a large hawk hanging around our backyard.  But, this time it certainly was the BIGGEST hawk.  And the photos don't do this beast any justice.  I opened up the door to let Lizzie out the back and *woosh* I see and hear this thing take off from a lower tree limb and fly away towards the taller trees in the far back of our property.  I'm pretty sure it was hanging out, stalking either the squirrels or the small song birds that hang at our feeders.  But, I interrupted it. The photo at the top of this post shows that bird hanging in a large tree.  But, you can't tell from look at the photo, I'm guessing.   Here's an annotated version.  Doesn't do him justice.  He was H-U-G-E. He *might* be the same one that I saw in October of this year .  But, not sure (of course).  

Winter or Late Fall Conifer Damage - Container Gardening - December 2020

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Back in October of this year, I posted a photo of the new growth on this unknown conifer that is in a large container on our patio and remarked at how good it was doing this growing season .  I had overwintered this in our screened porch last year - which was OPEN to the elements, but it was protected from some of the harsher aspects of Winter including a little bit of the wind being cut down and a roof over the top of it.   I mentioned that I was going to bring this one in this season , too.  But, I was just outside and saw that I had forgotten to bring this one in and it now looks like this:  almost maroon-ish in color.   What is going on?  Drying out?  Sun scald?  Winter damage?  Seems a little early, doesn't it?   I'm going to bring this in to the porch TODAY and give it a little water to see how it responds.  

Lionel Christmas Train - Setup - December 2020

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  Before we got too far into December, I wanted to put down a marker in memorializing that we set up our Christmas Train.  Well, the KotBT and I set it this past weekend and used his brand new train (more on the train in a later post as the train was given to him from my Dad for his birthday this year and is pretty neat.) that features a diesel locomotive and three passenger cars.  We made a simple Lionel Fasttrack oval on the floor upstairs and set up my transformer.  We spun it around a few times, but this is a vintage train, so it both LOUD and an energy hog.  We didn't set up our Christmas train last year and this year, with the basement being what it is, had to put it upstairs.  This is our fourth Christmas in our house, but I'm pretty sure this is just the third time we set up the Christmas train:  2017, 2018 and now 2020.

Evergreen Acres Christmas Tree Farm - Wisconsin

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  I've been going with Nat and her family to cut down Christmas trees the day after Thanksgiving for 15 years.  And in that time, we've gone to a place down in Wilmington called Tammen Treeberry Farm.  When we moved into our house in Downers, Nat decided to have two trees inside.  One smaller one for the front room and a larger one for our family room.  That worked fine in theory.  But, what we found down at Tammen Tree farm was that they had a good selection of small and medium-sized trees.  However, they lacked in what I'd call "larger" trees.   That meant that last year, we called an audible and ONLY bought one tree down at Tammen.  We ended up buying the second - "larger" tree that was pre-cut from Wannemaker's in town here .  And with that decision, we paid *double* what they were charging down at Tammen, but we had a really lovely tree.   This year, Nat's folks decided to try something new.  A trip to a whole new tree farm - one up in Wisco

Lego Disney Cinderella Castle Build - Early December 2020

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 On Monday, I posted an update on our Lego build - the Walt Disney World Cinderella Castle - that has been going on for more than a year and a half.  I mentioned that we were on step #626, but I thought it would be good to post a reference photo - and I failed to do that in Monday's post.  So, here's where we are as of today.  Two steps forward (#628) and the build is focused on the tan portion on the left of the photo below.  The grey portion on the right is the lower section and is complete.  After we continue to build this part on the left (tan part), we snap-it into the part on the right.  Doing two posts in one week on this build certainly ups the ante on getting this done before Christmas, doesn't it?

Broken Nintendo Switch Right Joycon

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We've had the Nintendo Switch for a year or so now and it finally suffered some damage at the hands of the kids.  Just to be perfectly clear:  they're TOTAL screen-time addicts.  At least two of them.  And the Switch - with Animal Crossings New Horizons - had made them lose their minds on the regular.  So, it wasn't a surprise to me that they would drop the thing and break off one of the joycons.   Here's a look at it - the front above - and the back below.  I was able to pry the battery out and unplug it from the controller.  Not sure what we can do with it, but I figure we can hold on to the battery and toss the rest, right? Seems like Goldie - our elf - might have to bring a new JoyCon to the house this Christmas season?

Lego Cinderella Walt Disney World Castle Build - November 2020

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Step #626.  That's where we are RIGHT NOW on the Lego Disney Cinderella Walt Disney World Castle that we started in July of 2018.  Yes, you read that right:  17 months ago, we started this build .  And it was 11 months ago that I posted here on the blog how I worked with Lego customer service to source some of the parts that have gone missing.  That was January of this year.   You would think that the pandemic would have gotten us going a little bit faster on this thing, right?  But, it wasn't to be.  However, now with the colder weather + us sitting around inside AND staring down Christmas where the kids will likely get EVEN MORE Lego sets, we have a deadline we're facing.  I want to get this thing done in the next week or two.  But, we're at a stage where we're - once again - missing parts.  Between opened bags and just flat out MISSING bags in our set, we have to go back-and-forth between where we're building this (in the screened porch) and the Lego storage

Do Outside Winter Hose Faucet Covers Really Work? - November 2020

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  I don't think anybody really knows the answer to that question, do they?  I suppose the low cost (just a few bucks) and the low-tech solve they provide, it isn't the worst insurance you could buy as we head into Winter, right?  In our house, we have frost-free hose bibs, so I haven't really worried about our hose spigots very much during the Winter, but what happens when things change in the interior of your house where the supply pipe isn't being heated the same way as it was the previous few Winters.  Feels like a good time to think about using something like this?  But, I'm not alone in wondering.  There's a thread on StackExchange that details some thinking here . 

Stacked and Ready to be Processed - Ash Firewood Rounds - November 2020

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 Last month - right at the end of October - I posted a couple of photos and talked about how I had sourced some Ash firewood from one of my neighbors .  They had a crew there to take down a dead Ash tree and I was able to get some of the wood dropped near by so I could get to it.  I left it just laying there for a couple of weeks, but recently, I decided to tidy the place up and get it stacked to it can begin to season and put it in a spot where I can start to process it.  I ended up laying down a couple of 16' 2x4's and rolled the large rounds on top.  Everything (well...almost everything) needs to be cut down to size, so I'll need a chainsaw.  Then, from there, I'll need to split the rounds.  This is one tree, but here's how it is looking all stacked up with some longer limbs that I've sourced from around the yard laying on top.   I have one rack in the back of our lot that is 3/4 of the way full, but I also have the lumber to make a companion rack that I'

Hormel Cup N Crisp Pepperoni - Nice Cups - November 2020

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Just about two years ago, I posted some photos of the new (to me) Ezzo pepperoni that I bought online that was billed as 'cup and char' pepperoni .  I was a little bit late to trying the Prince Street Pizza square that seemed to have kicked off the cupping pepperoni trend, but I was able to get to it in April of 2019 and found it to live up to the hype .  For me, the Ezzo stuff was hard to get (had to order online), so it wasn't something that I was getting all the time.  I had a really nice, thick-cut replacement that Mariano's carried, but they stopped carrying it for some reason during the pandemic. That's when I put my antenna up about new pepperoni.  Over the past year or so, I've been hearing/reading about Hormel introducing something called Rosa Grande .  It is, however, foodservice only.   After reading up on the PizzaMaking.com forums , it turns out that most people there believe that this latest market entrant:  Cup N Crisp from Hormel is really the sa

Seeing It Is Thanksgiving... 2020

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 Nope, not The Last Waltz.  I suppose that's ok.  With the pandemic and all, right?   Instead, here's a little Elton John and John Lennon singing my COVID mantra:  Whatever gets you through the night.  Elton was on Howard Stern recently and talked about playing with John.  The video below has *real* audio, but there doesn't seem to be video from the night.   Whatever gets you through your life It's all right, it's all right Do it wrong, or do it right It's all right, it's all right  Oh, I'll still watch The Last Waltz today.  But, 2020 being what it is, felt like I could snap the line of annual posts here on the blog .  

Sandhill Crane Migration - November 2020 - Northern Illinois

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I was out for a walk over the weekend when I heard a bugle-like noise and looked up to see a row of Sandhill cranes flying south high above the Western Suburbs of Chicago. Here's a video that I took of them - that if you turn your volume WAAAAY up - you can hear what they sound like: The DuPage County Forest Preserve District has this post up from one year ago that talks about these birds and their migration patterns .  They mention that there's a place in Indiana that sees thousands of these guys every year.  On the Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area DNR site , they have a count.  As of this past week, they had more than more than 16K Sandhill Cranes there on site.  Woah. 

Frans Fontaine Hornbeams - Lost Leaves in Fall - November 2020

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Just yesterday, I posted a photo of our barren Oak trees in our backyard .  These two mature Oaks have historically kept many of their leaves well into Winter thanks to the phenomenon called foliar marcescence.  In that post , I mentioned that we were seeing something similar on other trees that normally behaved the same was as the Oaks.   Today, you can see the photo at the top of this post showing all eight Frans Fontaine Columnar Fastigiate Hornbeam trees that have lost all of their leaves by mid-November.   Just two weeks ago, I posted about how one of these trees shed its leaves , but the rest were keeping them.  This tree (#4 from the left) has done this same thing before in 2018 .   But now, ALL OF THEM have dropped their leaves.   And that is, umm, alarming. Here's what these same trees looked like one year ago - on November 19th, of 2019 .  FULL OF LEAVES.  Dry leaves.  BUT FULL.  Have a look at this post showing these columnar Hornbeam trees in January of this year .  The

Mid-November 2020: Mature Oak Trees Have Shed Their Leaves - Northern Illinois

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Yesterday, I posted a photo in the garden diary of the recently set buds on our very small caliper Northern Red Oak tree that was planted just this year.  In that post, I mentioned that both *that* young Oak tree AS WELL AS our two larger, more mature Oaks have lost all of their leaves.   Notable, I think - as we're seeing a very different timeline than last Fall/Winter.   I posted this photo of both of the mature Oak trees in our backyard on December 16th 2019 - a little bit under a year ago - showing that both of the trees had A LOT of their leaves clinging to the limbs.  At the time, I poked around a little bit into the concept of foliar marcescence and how it might be a behavior that is aimed at assisting the tree by retaining some of the leaves until Spring to be used as an organic material delivery system when the tree needs it.  Here's what those two same trees look like right now:  barren. Wonder what caused this change year-over-year.  It happened with another set o

Northern Red Oak Tree Buds - Fall - November 2020

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The leaves have come off of our Oak trees.  The large ones have just a few clinging on, but this tiny one that I planted this year is naked.  This was planted back in May of 2020 and seemed to do just fine back in this location.   The larger trees looked like this all the way into December - thanks to foliar marcescence.  That now has me thinking that I should get a post up in the [garden diary] showing the leaves being off the Oaks by late November this year.  But, back to this small Northern Red Oak tree - and the buds in has set in particular.  Like the other trees in this [tree buds] series, these ones are unique ( thanks Rutherford Platt !) and have some unique characteristics.  First, the color - is what I'd call caramel.  Reminds me of the newish high-end vehicle interiors that you are seeing.  Kind of like a brand new, unused football.  They're also pointy.  In the image below, you can see how there are three of them at the tip of one of the branches with some other o

Hot Pepper Suet Cakes - Winter Bird Feeding - November 2020

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Yesterday, I posted a photo of our new suet nugget feeder and talked about how we normally hang a suet cake (that's what I call them) out on our feeder, but the nuggets seem complimentary to the cakes.  Or, at least, that's my hope. I didn't want to forget what kind of suet that I put out, so I'm posting it here in the birding diary:  We're starting the season with this no-melt hot pepper suet dough.  Why?  Well...most importantly, it is inexpensive and available for curbside pickup at our local Home Depot.  But also, because we've used it in the past and it seems that the squirrels *do* indeed NOT like the hot pepper stuff and stay away.