Monday, November 28, 2011

Yarn Bomb Detonated in Lisle, IL

No need to take cover, just head out to the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL to see "Lichen It!" by Carol Hummel, part of the Arboretum's Nature Unframed outdoor exhibit. Hummel worked with dozens of crocheters to create patches that resemble lichen on this Yellowwood tree (Cladrastis kentukea) using nylon cord. The patches are meant to symbolize our interdependent, nurturing relationships with nature and each other.

Yarn bombing has received a lot of attention lately. Also known as guerilla knitting or grafitti knitting, it's a type of street art that uses knitted or crocheted material instead of spray paint. It was recently featured in the inaugural issue of Leaf Magazine. There is even an International Yarnbombing Day (it's June 11).

Why would anyone do this, you ask? For beauty and interest, primarily. Yarnbombing was originally intended to brighten up bland spaces with color and texture. Cold steel items like lampposts, mailboxes, and fire hydrants, even cars, buses, and bridges have all been yarnbombed since the artistic act became popular in the last five years or so.

Want to start your own yarnbombing movement? Check out these links:
Grafitti's Cozy, Feminine Side
Yarn Bombing: The Book
Go Bomb Something With Yarn

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Garden Blogs I'm Reading Now

I consider myself a "voracious" reader. I read every night, most mornings, during meals, in the car (as a passenger, of course), and any other spare minutes I might have sprinkled throughout my day. By far, what I love reading most are novels, memoirs, and biographies. With this cooler weather, I love nothing more than to take a blanket out on my front porch and read a good book.

Earlier this year, I got an ipad, and a new addiction hobby. I love reading blogs, mostly those focused on gardening/landscape design, interior design, parenting, and food. My magazine subscriptions have nearly all expired because I can use the blogs for that same purpose - short, informative articles with nice color pictures.

Check out some of the gardening blogs I like:


Designers on Design

Happy reading!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights

Have you heard about the Chicago Wilderness Leave No Child Inside initiative? I posted earlier this year about Nature Deficit Disorder, a condition where children (and adults) suffer from too little time in nature, experiencing attention problems, obesity, anxiety, and depression.

I'm sharing the Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights with you because I think every parent and teacher should know about this initiative, and as a reminder to myself. With colder weather upon us, I do find myself getting lazy about getting the kids outside, opting for indoor activities instead. Kids deserve to be outside everyday, even when I'd rather be snuggled up with them in our pajamas under a blanket!

My girl, exploring Lake Michigan
Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights
Every child should have the opportunity to:

1. Discover wilderness - prairies, dunes, forests, savannahs, and wetlands

2. Camp under the stars

3. Follow a trail

4. Catch and release fish, frogs, and insects

5. Climb a tree

6. Explore nature in neighborhoods and cities

7. Celebrate heritage

8. Plant a flower

9. Play in the mud or a stream

10. Learn to swim

More information:
Nature Deficit Disorder
Leave No Child Inside

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Elephant Tree - Fagus Sylvatica 'Atropunicea' (Copper Beech)

My four-year-old has two favorite trees. She absolutely loves gingkos, and are fascinated by their fan-shaped leaves. The other is "The Elephant Tree" as she calls it. This Fagus sylvatica (Copper Beech) is located near the Morton Arboretum's Visitor Center and always captures my little girl's attention, especially this fall.

Fagus sylvatica is a purple-leafed beech that exhibits incredible coppery fall color. Old trees, like the one pictured, develop beautiful grey elephant-skin bark. Because this tree gets so big (70-80ft), and branches so closely to the ground, it is usually not appropriate for the residential landscape, unless you've got a lot of property. If you do, this tree is one of the finest trees available for a large-scale landscape.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - A Fall Hike

Okay, so maybe a few words. This is my entry for the November Gardening Gone Wild Picture This! Photo Contest. November's challenge is to capture photos of people in the garden or out enjoying nature. I love participating in this contest (of which there are no prizes) just for the garden/nature photography tips and constructive criticism. And of course, I'll take any opportunity to show pictures of my kids! This is my little guy on a hike at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dry-Erase Picture Frame - Save Paper!

Try this for a way to clean up your desk and save paper. Take an unused picture frame, remove the picture, place a white sheet of paper beneath the glass, and use a dry-erase marker to write your To Do list! Saves the frame from the trash, and eliminates all those little pieces of scratch paper laying around. I love this green idea!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Residential Landscape Defined By a Lack of Plants

In September, I had the unique opportunity to tour the The Frank Lloyd Wright designed Edward R. Hills House (also known as the Hills-DeCaro House), a historic landmark in Oak Park, IL. The Hills House is an example of Wright’s transition from his traditional prairie style of architecture to his experimentation in Japanese architecture (note the pagoda style roof features). Wright believed that the house should blend in harmony with the natural surroundings. The landscape of the Hills house does just the opposite – the current owners, Mark and Sallie Smylie, did not want plants to detract from the magnificence of the house.
The landscape at the Hills House is in stark contrast to the residential landscape of today, where we design foundation plantings that smooth the sharp angle of the house and the yard.


If you owned this home, would you change the landscape? In a sense, I agree with the homeowners, that foundation plantings might detract from the home. But my own personal style might lead me to incorporate a landscape that was more in concert with Wright's style, perhaps a Jens Jensen inspired landscape that tied the house closer to the original ecosystem (which I would guess in this area would be an oak savannah). What would you do?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Connor Shaw’s Favorite Woody Plants for the Urban Landscape

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of hearing a lecture on native woody plants by Connor Shaw, owner of Possibility Place Nursery, an 80 acre native plant nursery in Monee, IL. Connor is super engaging, funny, and so knowledgeable about native trees – I could have listened to him all day. Here are some of his favorite native woody plants for urban areas, selected for their hardiness, beauty, and wildlife benefits. As always, before selecting a tree, research the conditions it grows best in, and site it correctly.
  • Quercus macrocarpa (Bur Oak)
  • Quercus bicolor (Swamp White Oak)
  • Quercus alba (White Oak)
  • Quercus ellipsoidalis (Hill’s Oak)
  • Celtis occidentalis (Hackberry)
  • Carya ovata (Shagbark Hickory)
  • Gymnocladus dioica (Kentucky Coffee Tree)
  • Aesculus glabra (Ohio Buckeye)
  • Ostrya virginiana (Ironwood/Hophornbeam)
  • Prunus americana (American Plum)
  • Carpinus caroliniana (Blue Beech/Hornbeam/Musclewood)
  • Staphylea trifolia (Bladdernut)
  • Amalanchier ssp. (Juneberry/Serviceberry)
  • Celastrus scandens (Bittersweet)
  • Corylus americana (American Filbert)
  • Ribies americanum (Wild Black Currant)
  • Viburnum prunifolium (Blackhaw Viburnum)
  • Viburnum acerifolium (Mapleleaf Viburnum)
  • Viburnum rafinesquianum (Downy Viburnum)
  • Viburnum cassinoides (Withe Rod Viburnum)
  • Rhus typhina (Staghorn Sumac)

Amalanchier (Serviceberry)

Carpinus caroliniana (Hophornbeam)
photo credit

Viburnum prunifolium 'Summer Snowballs' (Blackhaw Viburnum)
photo credit

Rhus typhina (Staghorn Sumac)
photo credit

Quercus macrocarpa (Bur Oak)
photo credit

One of my favorite native woody plants is Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf Hydrangea). What's yours?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

How to Make Organic Fruit Leather

Once your kids come down from their Halloween candy high, try this!

My kids LOVE fruit snacks. You know, those bright, chewy globs of sugar and chemicals? They adore them. My neighbor Tanya and I were lamenting about some information she found about unhealthy foods that you might feed your kids thinking they are somewhat healthy. Like, yogurt in the individual squeeze packs, hot dogs, and worst of all, fruit snacks. I found this article that really explains why fruit snacks are unhealthy, and how companies are trying to trick us into thinking they are more than "glorified candy" (the ingredients are so similar).

The good news is, you CAN make your own fruit snacks, and it's simple. Granted, these are more like fruit roll-ups, but they serve the same purpose. You've just got to have a dehydrator, a blender, and some organic fruits, veggies, and a little fruit juice. If you don't have a dehydrator, get one! Especially if you grow your own food. There are so many things you can make with it - beef jerky, kale chips, red pepper flakes, and so much more. Dehydrators can sell from $35 to over $200.

Place the fruits and veggies you want to use in a blender. I used strawberries, mango, and spinach, then added just enough juice to get it all blended. Once it was smooth, I carefully spooned it into the fruit leather tray of my dehydrator. Just be careful not to overfill it.

Turn on the machine, and it should be ready in five to ten hours, depending on what brand of dehydrator you are using. Check it at around four hours and about every 1/2 hour after. It will be done when it is firm and pliable, and not sticky or gluey. It should peel cleanly off the fruit leather tray. For a fruit roll-up style snack, cut into strips and wrap each strip tightly in plastic wrap. One dehydrator manufacturer recommends storing the wrapped strips in a paper bag and closing it with tape for maximum freshness. It will keep like this for two months, or in the freezer for a year. That's it! Easy, right? Now you've got healthy snacks for kids on-the-go.

Just to drive the point home:
My fruit snacks: Organic strawberries, organic mango, organic spinach, and organic apple juice.

Their fruit snack (I won't mention the brand, but they're all similar): Apple juice from concentrate, corn syrup, sucrose, food starch-modified, gelatin, lactic acid, sodium lactate, citric acid, ascorbic acid, natural and artificial flavors, coconut oil, sodium citrate, carnauba wax, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1.


As a side note, earlier I mentioned my friend Tanya. She and her sister have started a project in honor of their brother Luke who beat leukemia. They are making funky hats and headwear for kids with cancer and delivering them to Chicagoland and Michigan hospitals. Check out Luke's Lids for Kids!