Category Archives: Forest Park

The Lanai, 2019

Hello from freezing Forest Park! It has been so cold! This weekend it got down to the low 50s and, while it’s great sleeping weather, it’s not great weather for sitting outside. It’s also been rainy, so at least my plants are happy and everything is still alive as of this week. Our lanai furniture set-up is the same as last year, but we have lots of different flowers and I decided not to make any rainbows this year. It didn’t translate well from the sidewalk below, anyway. Oh, and last summer, Naoto painted the floor so it’s a steel grey now instead of that weird pale green. We really like it. We’ve barely been able to have dinner outside because of the cold weather, but we’ve enjoyed plenty of mornings out there reading in the sunshine and cool breeze.

I got this fantastic almost-neon begonia at Empowering Gardens and it’s so bright and full, it even pops from the street below.

Last year, I mentioned that I can never find good yellow and orange flowers. This year, I have plenty of orange and orangey-red flowers, but still no yellow. I’d love to add some yellow in with those bright pink petunias. Hopefully I can find something good while I’m out later today.

We also have some climbers and radish sprouts growing from seed and I transplanted some mint from the community garden, so hopefully we’ll have enough mint for cocktails soon since it tends to spread like wildfire…

That’s all from the 2019 lanai…it’s supposed to warm up eventually so I’m looking forward to spending some days and evenings outside. Naoto and I are already planning our Tanabata celebration in a few weeks and I’m sure it will be blazing hot by then!

 

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Plot 6 in 2019

We have had SUCH a weird, cold, and rainy spring! Our poor garden plot was pretty neglected until last week when we took advantage of a warm, sunny day to finally plant some seeds and our baby tomatoes. I wish I had taken a picture of our plot before we cleared it off. Because of our late fall trip to Japan last year, we missed the end of the gardening season and then it started snowing shortly after we got home. Our plot didn’t get cleaned for the winter, so I had to tear out dead tomato plants and dried herbs this spring. And we had a giant hemlock plant growing in the center of the plot. Thankfully, I was able to remove it, roots and all, so hopefully more hemlock doesn’t reappear this summer. What a nightmare!  This is what our plot looked like the other day…we’ve had some rain since, so hopefully some of the seeds are sprouting! We planted seeds for edamame, Welsh onions, thyme, basil, bush basil, chamomile, dill, and nasturtiums. And we transplanted four tomato plants (Brandywine, Black Krim, Mortgage Lifter, and some Japanese-but-really-Russian? tomato that Naoto picked out) and our rosemary plant from the seed swap. The walking onions, garlic, and parsley all came back from last year. We still need to stake the rest of the tomatoes, and put up some markers so we don’t accidentally pull some of our seedlings. I have a little map of where everything went, though with all of the rain we’ve had, I’m sure a lot of the seeds travelled! I do regret not planting the tomatoes closer to the center of the plot, but hopefully we can keep the jungle tame enough…

How is your gardening going?

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Maker’s Market

This Saturday I’ll be at The Lantern Loft in Forest Park for the brand new Maker’s Market! I’m very excited to do a local show. It’s fun to meet fellow neighbors who love handmade. There will be a light focus on Mother’s Day since it’s the next major holiday but I’ll have some new cards and framed quotes for Teacher Appreciation Week (coming up May 6-10,) graduations, and Father’s Day. And, as always, a mix of sweet and snarky handmade greetings for everyone else on your list.

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Seed Swap 2019

A few weeks ago, Naoto and I attended the 9th annual Forest Park Community Garden Seed Swap! We’ve been going for quite a few years, both as gardeners and volunteers. It’s the perfect spring kick-off and a chance to meet other gardeners and start thinking about our plots for the summer. For the second year in a row, Empowering Gardens did a presentation for us, this time about soil and seed starting. They brought rosemary seedlings for everyone to take…mine is currently wilting in my kitchen. Please send it your thoughts and prayers. Other than our rosemary, we picked up a lot of herb seeds (thyme, parsley, basil, and shiso,) some more edamame, and arugula. And I picked up some pretty poppy seeds that I’m going to attempt to plant in the communal area at the community garden. Of course on top of all those herbs and edamame, we’ll be planting our usual tomato jungle…it’s inevitable.

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St. Patrick’s Day Parade 2019

Last weekend, we walked in the Forest Park St. Patrick’s Day Parade with the Community Garden again. Every year, the garden chooses a vegetable or a flower seed to hand out.Last week, we had a little winter garden happy hour at The Heritage and then we met up to pack Swiss chard seeds to hand out at the parade. We usually pack about 2000 envelopes to hand out, but this year we ran out of seeds and had to substitute with some lettuces at the last minute. It was really a great day for a parade on Saturday. It was about 32 degrees (Fahrenheit) and sunny with a chilly breeze. When I first started walking with the garden, I thought people might scoff at seeds, but people get really excited for the seeds. Last year, some drunk lady almost ripped my arm off because I missed her and it’s not uncommon to hear “SEEEEEEDS!” as you walk along handing packets out. It’s so much fun! Naoto walked with us and he was so cute. He kept telling children to eat their vegetables. Another parade in the books…next up is our seed swap on Saturday. If you’re in the area, please stop by! Go here for details and free tickets.

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Snow Mail, No Mail

The weather has been insane in Chicago lately. After a very snowy weekend, we had sub-zero temperatures on Wednesday with wind chills of 45 below. It was colder here than it was in Alaska. It was so cold, the entire area was pretty much shut down. No school, no work for many people, no Metra trains, even no Trader Joe’s and no mail service since Tuesday! (Update: mail arrived Saturday night!) It was almost as cold on Thursday and it snowed some more Thursday night, but now this weekend it’s warm and rainy. Now every thing is a mess of slush and dirty snow. (Dirty snow is my least favorite part of winter.)

I took some inspiration from the weather and used some of my wintry Japanese stationery to kick off the Month of Letters. The snowflakes are an old Midori set I bought a few years ago and the polar bears are from Maruzen. And the washi tape is old mt and I was kicking myself because I have other snow washi, but I packed it away with the Christmas stuff…

I sat under a blanket right next to my space heater while I wrote the letters…a cup of hot tea and a warm kitty nearby. It was a cozy to kick off the month.

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Summer Book Report, Part 2

summer reading, a good man is hard to find, we have always lived in a castle, a country doctor, consequences, convenience store womanI gave myself until the technical start of fall to finish my goal of reading ten books, and I’m going to call it complete. I finished my last book on Tuesday, and one of my choices is technically a short story, but…it’s all good. I’ve been reading up a storm, finishing all of these this month. (Don’t be too impressed…one book was a layover from August and the others are quite short!)

A Country Doctor by Sarah Orne Jewett (1884): This was for book group and it was kind of meh. The writing is really lovely, but many parts were too verbose and I didn’t feel the same connection to the characters that I have in other books. Oh, and it’s another single woman, finding her way in the world, struggling between career and marriage…I’m not complaining. I love those books. This just wasn’t my favorite.

“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor (1953): It’s a short story that I can’t believe I’ve never read. I can’t tell you anything. Don’t read about it. Just get it and read it. It’s perfection.

Consequences by E.M. Delafield (1919): Another spinster novel…I loooooved this. It took me almost a month to read it and I had to take a break from reading it to read for book club. But, every time I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. It is a tale of a misunderstood child turned single woman who makes many bad choices in life (a life constrained by society’s expectations and restrictions) and has to live with the consequences.

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (2016): Oh look! It’s a book written this century! Naoto’s sister recommended this book to him a couple years ago and it was the book that got him back into reading. He read the Japanese version and I was a little bummed because it wasn’t available in English when he told me about it. Then, I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Work Over Easy, and I was reading this post thinking “huh, this book sounds like that one Naoto read!” and sure enough it was! I immediately ordered it from the library and read it in one day. I loved it so much, but it’s hard to explain why. Weirdly enough, it’s another book about a single woman who has made some “non-traditional” choices. I loved the main character and I loved how the author paints the perfect picture of life in a convenience store. (Sidenote: convenience stores are way better in Japan…perhaps I need to write a new Japan Does It Better post.)

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (1962): I haven’t read enough Shirley Jackson. “The Lottery” is one of my favorite short stories ever. This was the perfect introduction into my spooky October reading. The book was creepy and captivating and funny…and the first paragraph is one of the best ever written:

My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.

For book club next month, we are reading Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and I just started Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto, another Japanese book that I read about in the New York Times review of Convenience Store Woman. Perhaps I’ll be back with a fall review soon! In the meantime, here are some of my favorite book club reads from October!

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In My Neighborhood: Empowering Gardens

empowering gardens inc, forest parkEmpowering Gardens is one of those unique places that makes me thankful I live in Forest Park. It is a local garden center with a mission to provide job opportunities for people with disabilities. Everyone who works there is so knowledgable and friendly. And EG offers such great plants, definitely heartier than some of the stuff at the big box garden centers. Plus, their prices are competitive, which means you can buy more and help a good cause.empowering gardens, fall pansies, fall flowers, garden center, mumsRight now, they have a gorgeous array of pansies which love this fall weather that we’re just dipping into, and tons of mums–tiny ones and giant ones in all different autumnal colors. empowering gardens, ornamental pepper, fall flowers, garden centerThey also have a few varieties of ornamental peppers, which are so cool! (I’m kicking myself for not buying this one.) They also have some ornamental cabbages, fall grasses, cold weather vegetables, and plenty more. Pretty much everything you need to give your porch or garden a boost for the new season. empowering gardens inc, forest parkHow cute would one of these be on a Halloween porch? empowering gardens inc, forest park, Naoto at Empowering GardensWe bought a couple of small mums and this really neat black plant…I need to clear off the balcony of all the dead summer stuff and I’ll share the living fall version next week. (It’s really a mess out there on my lanai!) I really wish I could trust myself to water the pansies because they have so many stunning colors! And, this Saturday, I’ll be at Empowering Gardens selling my cards at the Music, Art & Wine event! I’m so excited to participate in this event that combines my love of gardening with my love wine and music and handmade art!

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Garage Galleries Recap

galaxie safari at garage galleries 2018We had such a great time showing at Forest Park’s Garage Galleries last weekend! It is such a neat local event and we are so happy that we participated. Our Forest Park neighbors came out in full force–we had over 140 visitors* in our garage! galaxie safari at garage galleries 2018Here was our garage set-up. Jerry was our host and he had a huge, clean garage with doors that opened on both sides, which was perfect for sunlight and a light cross-breeze. It was so hot and sticky on Saturday. He also had a beautiful garden that was a great place to retreat to when traffic was slow.

I shared a garage with Claire, a young artist who was showing her work for the first time, and Jason, who was a total pro with his own gallery walls and lighting. galaxie safari at garage galleries 2018So many people recognized me from the Review article, so it was fun that they sort of knew my style already. (Who says print is dead?) And of course so many people recognized Naoto from Trader Joes. It was fun meeting fellow artists and art lovers from our village. galaxie safari at garage galleries 2018Usually for each show I create something new, a framed piece or a card, and this time I sold out of a few new things, so this week, I need to beef up my stock and add some new pieces on Etsy. I have three shows coming up in September, so I need to get a jump start on what’s looking like a busy month!

Thanks to everyone who came out and showed your support! We hope to join in the fun again next year!

 

*I actually have no idea if this was a good number or not, but it felt busy and people seemed to be having a good time.

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Garage Galleries 2018

garage galleries, forest park, ILOn Saturday, I’ll be participating in Forest Park’s Garage Galleries, a neighborhood art walk where artists show their work in local garages. I’ll be in a garage in south Forest Park, 1306 Marengo Avenue, with two other artists. I’ll have my greeting cards and framed pieces ready to sell, but it’s a nice casual way to enjoy art of all kinds. There are forty artists from all over Chicagoland spread across sixteen garages, so you can meander your way through Forest Park and see it all, or pop into a cluster of garages and get a taste of what’s happening. The Forest Park Review did a story about it if you’d like to learn more.

I hope to see my local friends there!

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