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Showing posts from February, 2020

Firewood Consumption: End of February/Beginning of March 2020

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The last time I did a firewood consumption check was with this post on January 20th of 2020.  A little bit over a month has past and we've exhausted probably 3/4 of the face cord that was delivered.  That's a fast pace.  In 2019, I ordered the backfill face cord in mid-February, so this year was running three weeks ahead of last year. 

Last year, it seemed that the firewood lasted until right up at the beginning of Spring.  This year, I'm not so sure it will. 

One of the things that we learned last year is that we wished we had firewood for during the Summer and Fall - to burn in our outdoor fireplace.  So, that means that if we burn through our rack in March, we won't have anything to burn - unless we turn to the Ash firewood that we picked up on our block.

Knowing we're now in year three of buying and burning firewood, we might need to consider ordering more in the Fall or doubling the second order.

2017/2018: Ordered one face cord in January
2018/2019: Ordered …

Disney's Aulani in Chicago - #AlohaWindyCity

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On most days, I commute to and from work through Chicago's Union Station and barely notice the station as I hustle off the train, down the platform and up/out of the station. But a few weeks ago, Nat sent me/tagged me in a friend's Instagram post while I was at the office.  At first, it didn't seem like anything out of the ordinary.  Brooke's post is embedded below and if you're following her on Instagram, it shouldn't come as a surprise that her photo features Mickey Mouse.  But, then the caption hit me and realized that she was talking about *my* train station.  She was there, on a fake beach with Mickey the Mouse.  What the What?



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Mickey and some friends from @disneyaulani showed up at Chicago’s Union Station today and reminded me how much I love that Hawaiian paradise. Brb checking flights. 😎🏝🌺✈️ . . . . . #alohawindycity #disneyaulani #disneyvacationclub #hawaii #mickeymouse #hawaiitravel #oahu #dvc #dvcmember #hula #chicago #u…

Vintage Santa Mickey Mouse Christmas Ornament With Candy Cane

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This might be the killer crossover.  For me, at least.  This is a vintage Mickey Mouse Christmas ornament.  Sits right at the intersection of vintage Disney and vintage Christmas and is perfect for our house.  I was given this as a gift by Nat's Mom recently.  Mickey himself is in great shape and has almost no wear on him.  He's holding a big candy cane and some holly and waving with his other hand - covered in a green mitten.  He has full eyes - he's not 'pie eyed' - so someone with some history with Disneyana can likely date this particular ornament. 

There isn't a sticker on him, but on the back of his belt there seems to be a little bit of residue that a sticker might have lived.  I imagine a 'Made in Japan' sticker was there, right? 


I have a few pieces of Disneyana here on the blog including this Estate Sale Disneyland pennant (which...reminds me to post about something else soon).  The other items posted here are:

First was this Pooh Bear for Pr…

Patio Trees, An Expanded Patio, A Stream and a Pond - Backyard Dreaming

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Welp, here we go with even more backyard planning and dreaming.  It was just a couple of days ago that I posted my 2020 to-do list with 25 things that I'd like to prioritize.  And then just yesterday, I went ahead and posted my initial findings about Japanese Maples - which weren't even on that list. 

In a few posts talking about the priority areas for the yard, I mentioned that the hardest part I have with gardening right now is STICKING WITH MY PLAN.  I'm like a bug drawn to the bright light of garden centers and see plants and trees that are NOT in my initial plan.  I have to remind myself:  prioritize and stick to the plan.  Once that is done, we can explore enhancements.

Welp...this post is all about what I'd call a major 'enhancement'. 

And how I got here was the whole research about Japanese Maples.  And thinking about their placement.  I started to think about our patio and the patio trees that I've been thinking about since we moved in.  Right now,…

What about a Japanese Maple Tree?

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Over the past few years, I've posted a few times about Japanese-inspired gardening and how I'm increasingly drawn to it for various reasons.  I spent a bit of time walking around Gotenyama Gardens in Tokyo and as I walked down the steps into the kind-of sunken garden, I was surrounded by a lush garden in the middle of a metropolitan city.   And that fascination with Japanese gardens has manifested itself in a couple of things, but mostly columnar trees.  But, there are other elements that I've talked about including ferns and this Japanese Forest Grass, too.  One of the types of tree that I don't seem to have covered at all here on the blog is a Japanese Maple tree.  I've seen them at the garden center over the past few years and they're always tempting (and pricey), but I didn't know too much about them to ever make a decision on them.  This Winter, I started to poke around them as thinking about this part of our yard and wanted to get a little bit smarter…

Winter Lawn Domination Line And Potential Bed Extension - February 2020

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I posted (in jest) last September a look at what Allyn Hane calls the 'domination line' in our front yard showing the fruit of the efforts of tending to the turf look like after most of a season.  Back in September, you can tell that the grass that I had fed over the season appeared darker.  Today, I'm posting a photo that I took recently to add to the [garden diary] of what our front yard grass/turf looks like after a rough Winter.  I'm including the 'domination line' as a way to see the difference in my grass over time. 

The photo above is shot from the sidewalk toward the house with my yard on the right side.  The brown-est part in the middle of the photo (closer to the bed) is also the 'highest spot' in that area.  So, I'm not certain that it has to do simply with feeding or if the contours or grade of the yard is involved, too. 

I have a gutter that comes out in the area of the bed near the house that runs each time it rains and the I have to …

Building A Backyard Bocce Court?

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Just took one day for me to have to add other items to my 'backyard dream' list.  Yesterday, I posted my 2020 to-do list and today, I'm talking about adding something to our yard that WAS NOT on that list.  I supposed that's ok, because this isn't something that I am going to add THIS YEAR.  I suppose this could be something that I'd put on my 2021 or beyond to-do-list.  Let's call this just simply a [backyard dreaming] post.

In yesterday' post, I included #11 which calls for me to "build something" and I mentioned a couple of ideas including a garden chair, a Versailles box, a Raised bed, some Insect houses, a Wattle Fence.  and finally a bird nesting box/platform.  Today, I'm adding to that potential 'build list' with a Bocce Ball Court.

I came across this post on the Landscaping Network site that lays out the details of adding a Bocce Ball Court to your backyard.   They talk about the materials, the dimensions/space needed, some…

2020 Yard & Garden To-Do List

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The time has come to call my shot on the yard and garden plan and overall priorities for the year.  I've done enough thinking and planning and dreaming and posting.  Walt Disney has said that "Everyone needs deadlines".  This is my version of creating a deadline.  By creating a list of projects/items that I want to tackle this year.   In what has become the second annual version, I did this, for the first time, last year when I posted my inaugural list in February of 2019 - one year ago tomorrow.

This is intended to provide focus for me as we enter the Spring frenzy.

That initial list from last year had ten items on it.

Then, in April (when Spring had actually sprung), I added seven items to the list in an addendum.

When the season wound down, I graded myself at the end of October 2019.  12 of 17.  C-.

But, in that same scorecard post, I also began to turn the wheels on what my 2020 list would look like.  I mentioned (at the time) 19 things I thought should be on my 202…

Belgian Fence Apple Trees: Need Pollinators

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I've been talking about a Belgian Fence Espalier since we saw a nice setup at Disneyland in a couple of spots.  In my mind, I'm going to likely want to use fruit trees like Apple trees because the ones at Disneyland are made from Pyracantha - which I think is not hardy down to our zone 5b.

There are a couple of spots that I'm thinking of/considering for the placement of the Belgian Fence.  The first is kind of as the 'backdrop' for that priority area #3 along the fence.  This is southern-facing.  You can see the approximate location in the red arrows below. 


The second spot is on the south side of our house where we've planted the pair of Disneyland Roses.  This is a somewhat narrow spot that having a set of trees clinging to the house would work well.  We also have a big space of blank wall. 

As for impact, I'm thinking that the first spot - next to the Frans Fontaines is of higher 'impact' in terms of being visible from our house and patio, but it…

Backyard To Do: Build a Bird Nesting Box or Platform

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Yesterday, I posted a photo and a short video of (a first-time) male Cardinal visiting our window-hung bird feeder box that had been up for more than four months.  In that post, I mentioned that I was a skeptic of window-hung feeders and nesting boxes, but now my own eyes have shown me that - in the right conditions - a bird will perch on something right outside your windows.  It also had me wondering if one of those window-hung nesting boxes (where you can *see* the nest and eggs from the inside of the house) would actually work.  I'm still not sure that they're viable (based on the Amazon reviews), but going down that path also had me nose around for plans for nesting boxes and platforms.

After all, we're a Certified Wildlife Habitat and that comes with a requirement of providing shelter and places to raise young.  To that end, a couple of Summers ago, we built a bird nesting shelf and hung it in the back of the yard.  It hasn't gotten much attention/action, but it i…

Cardinal Visit To Our Window Bird Feeder (Finally)

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Back in the Fall, the KotBT had a birthday and one of the gifts that we gave him was a window bird feeder.  The kind that use suction cups to attach to the window.  The one we have is this one from Amazon that they say is their #1 best seller in the category.  We have a variety feeders already - including a fly-through, a couple of suet cages, one of the smaller Squirrel Busters and a squirrel 'big ole' cob' bungee feeder.  But, those are all set out in the yard a bit.  In a spot where we can see them and observe the critters/birds, but also far enough to have any critters not want to make a home close to our house/patio.

These window feeders have been around forever and I've been skeptical of them.  I mean...birds get spooked by people.  And...from what I know, they don't love windows and the reflections off of them.  So, mounting a feeder on the window seems like a long shot in terms of getting any action on it.

We talked about putting it in various places inclu…

Cherry Nymph Amaryllis - Top Heavy But Flowering

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It has been just about a month since the last time I posted photos of our 2019/2020 Winter Amaryllis flowers in bloom.  At that time, the largest bulb - the Cherry Nymph was going strong and was putting on a pretty great (red) show.  The rest of the bulbs were mostly exhausted.  Fast forward to this week and you can see that the Cherry Nymph is STILL going strong - with a set of double blooms.  This late into February.  Pretty great.

You might also note that there's a stick that I stuck into the soil and then used some wire to affix the stem to the stick and keep the bulb from falling over - and the entire pot from flipping over, too.

I didn't use the alcohol mixture on this one and it shows:  it is long, tall and leggy.  And the blooms being SO BIG means that the thin stalk stems can't support the flowers.  Lesson learned:  focus on the alcohol mix all the way through the growing season.

Below you'll see another look at these flowers.  I've come to the conclusion…

Backyard Priority Project #3: Behind Yews & Along Fence (Walkway + Screening)

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You can't swing a gardening blogpost around the Web these days without people warning gardeners like me (beginners!) to be VERY careful of plantlust and Spring Black Friday mania.  That means...don't fall in love with plants and then 'find a home for them'. That's what I've done far too often. Instead, all the gardening bloggers/experts (dare I say....ummmm..."influencers") will tell you that having a plan is the KEY to a garden design.

In an effort to reinforce this notion with myself, I'm publicly committing to trying to stick to my priorities this year.  We have a large yard that is NOT anywhere near done.  We need so much plant material.  But, we also have a professional plan.  And, instead of winging it, I'm going to try to stick to it as best I can.  And, because I did some "winging it" over the past two Summers, that means adapting the plan to incorporate some of the existing materials.

This is the third in the series of back…

16 Years of Blogging - A Web Publishing Anniversary

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Today, February 16, 2020 marks my 16th year of blogging.  I started in 2004 with this post on February 16, 2004 that originally lived at JoinTomCross.com and then moved to RhodesSchool.com and finally moved over her to my name url.   Last year, I marked the occasion in similar fashion but because it was 15 years, it felt important. 

I haven't marked this anniversary every year on the blog, but have done it a few times.

2020 - 16 year Blogging Anniversary
2019 - 15 year Blogging Anniversary
2016 - 12 year Blogging Anniversary
2014 - 10 year Blogging Anniversary
2013 - 9 year Blogging Anniversary
2011 - 7 year Blogging Anniversary

This post marks the 3319th post on the blog.  That's 3319 days or more than 9 full years of posts. 

16 years means my blog is old enough to get it's license.  It means that I've been doing this for 39% of my life.  I've been a blogger longer than I've been a husband and father.  It is the same amount of time in my life that I was in 1s…