Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Garden in Utah

I'm on the 2nd leg of my trip, when I left my sister's in Chicago, I boarded a plane to Salt Lake City to visit my brother.  They live in the suburbs of Salt Lake, and their backyard is the nicest view of  Utah Lake.  I've written about it before, but it deserves another mention.  Utah Lake is the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River.  It certainly is stunning.  Wouldn't you love this to be your backyard?
My brother's neighbor gave us a tour of her garden.  It was so cool!  She built this raised bed out of stacked rocks.  I really loved the look of it. 
Here, they are harvesting carrots.  They harvested over 100 pounds of carrots.  Amazing!  Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos of the harvested carrots.  They were beautiful nice sized carrots.  She told us that she didn't even bother with spacing out the carrot seeds, but rather, she just sprinkled the seeds all over the soil and let them grow.  She also didn't bother with thinning out the seedlings.  Yes sure, some of the carrots didn't have enough room to grow and grew super puny and thin, but for the most part, the carrots were nicely sized.
I was amazed by her tomato bed. The plants were jammed in there and she said they were big producers.  It was like a giant bush of tomatoes! 
She had a nice strawberry bed in her side yard. She said she planted 12 everbearing plants and it sent out runners and multiplied like crazy.  I saw that some of the plants had ripe strawberries still on it.  And she said it produced berries all summer long.  I have to invest in some everbearing plants to round out my Junebearing ones.
The most impressive part of all is when she showed us her canning stockpile.  And she said... "This is only the kitchen stockpile, I have lots more in the basement."  Wow!!!  All the jarred tomato sauce are from tomatoes grown in her garden.  The apple sauce she said, some were apples from her apple tree, and others were apples picked off of neighbor's trees.  She said that she went around the neighborhood in search of fruit trees ripe with fruit. She would go and  ring the homeowner's doorbell to ask if she could harvest the apples.  In exchange of harvesting, she would give them jars of processed apple sauce.  What a great exchange if you ask me!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Chicago Bound for Art!

Since my sister and her family lives in the suburbs outside of Chicago, I visit about once a year. Of all the times I've visited, I've never been to the Art Institute of Chicago. During this visit, I made sure that I take a special trip downtown to go see it, afterall I did study Art History in college.  It was my Major. My sister had to work a half day, so I took the Metra downtown to her office to meet her for lunch prior to going to the museum.
The Metra is so fast and such a convenient way to travel downtown. 
Got off at Union Station, and luckily my sister only works a few blocks from here.
The one thing I always notice immediately about Downtown Chicago that is so different from NYC is that the streets are SO CLEAN.  There is hardly any litter in sight.  Amazing!
We decided to eat at Roti, a "fast food" Mediterranean style restaurant.  I ordered the falafel plate with couscous, pickled cabbage, and hummus.  Wow, it was so good.   
We walked off our big lunch by walking to the Art Institute.  It's a good 15 minute walk from where we ate lunch.  We walked passed the famous Chicago Theatre.  One day, I'll have to catch a show here.
We also walked passed Millennium Park, and I took a picture of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, the bandshell designed by Frank Gehry.  I've been to this park many times, so we didn't spend any time here. Just a quick walk by.
I noticed that many of the flowers in the gardens were still in bloom at the park!

We also walked passed "The Bean" or the Cloud Gate sculpture.  Millennium Park definitely has some cool works of art to look at!  Again, we didn't stop here because we've seen / visited it many times.
Finally, we spotted the lions, and we were at the front steps of the Art Institute.
Once inside, I was excited by the museum's amazing collection.  I especially loved this Buddha statue.  Wow, would I love one of these stone statues in my garden!  Maybe I'll buy a replica one day to grace my garden! That would be awesome.
Chagall's stained glass windows stopped me in my tracks.  They were indeed gorgeous!  I could have sat there and stared at the windows for hours.
I loved seeing Grant Wood's American Gothic.  The painting was surprisingly smaller than I thought it would be.  I love this painting!
I also love still life.  Especially vegetable still life.  :)  Vegetables in it's pure form is so beautiful, it's not wonder artists painted it. 
After walking around the museum for 4 hours, we needed a break, so we headed to the cafe and got ourselves a snack.  I picked out an Orange Cream soda from the local Chicago brewers Goose Island.  They are more known for their beers, but apparently they make great soda too!  I love trying local eats and this drink was delicious!  If only I could bring a case back with me to NYC!
The last thing we saw at the Art Institute was this chalkboard at the Windows on the War exhibit. The board said that visitors could write a message on the chalkboard upon viewing the exhibit. 
So I decided to just leave the following remark, written in pink chalk.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Walk in Cantigny Park: Part 2

Cantigny Park is vast, a whopping 500 acres, therefore I had to write 2 posts about the park. There was a lot to see and so many different types of plants I've never seen before.  On our walk, we saw these Reeds.  I'm not sure what they are called, but they were beautiful.
Here is a closeup of the Reeds.  They felt really soft to the touch.  I would love to grow this in my yard.  Aren't they cool looking?  I couldn't find a sign that identifies these Reeds.  Do you know what these are called?
There was a succulent plant near the Reeds that I really liked called Killimanjaro.  I really want to grow these!  Since these are planted outdoors, I am guessing that they grow back like Sedum?  Do you grow these?  How well do they grow in colder climates? 
The plant that I really loved was in their "Idea Garden".  On the Cantigny website it says that the Idea Garden is a garden that seeks to inspire creativity.  There are more than 300 varieties of vegetables, herbs, shrubs, and flowers in the Idea Garden and it sure was inspiring.  Like check out this Giant Rhubarb.  Wow!!  I wish my rhubarb grew this big!
They had these little pepper plants growing as well.  Not sure what type of peppers these were, they were small plants and very low to the ground.
I'm not sure if they are ornamental or edible peppers.  Does anyone know what these are?  They come in red, orange and yellow color.
I really liked this trellising system that had birdhouse gourds growing on them. 
These are really neat!  Like I said above, I'll have to grow these gourds one day, they are so cute and would definitely make nice birdhouses!
There was a lot of whimsy in this garden.  Check out the wheelbarrow with flowers growing out of it.  Adorable.
And they had this really cute homemade wind chimes.  Can you see what this wind chime is made out of?  How adorable!  This Idea Garden has definitely given me a lot of ideas!
My favorite whimsy item in the garden is this garden border made out of glass beer / wine bottles.  I love this look.
After the walk around the park, we were so tired that we decided to order some food rather than cook.  We went to Portillo's and got some Italian Beef Sandwiches with hot peppers.  Delicious!  A perfect meal for a perfect day!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Walk in Cantigny Park: Part 1

This past Sunday, my sister's family and I went to the annual Buddy Walk in Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois.  From their website, "The Buddy Walk® was established in 1995 by the National Down Syndrome Society to celebrate Down syndrome Awareness Month in October and to promote acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome."  My sister and her family attends every year and I was happy to be visiting during this year's walk.  We had the most perfect weather for the walk, a sunny 83F degrees!
My sister's eldest has Down Syndrome so this walk is near and dear to our hearts. The walk is about a mile long and it raises millions of dollars for local and national programs for children and adults with Down Syndrome.
The Buddy Walk in the Chicago area takes place at Cantigny Park.  Cantigny is a sprawling 500 acre public park and recreation area left by Colonel Robert R. McCormick, the former owner and publisher of the Chicago Tribune.  The grounds was formerly his farm estate and upon McCormick's death was turned into a park.  The grounds is spectacular, it includes a golf course, greenhouse, museum, and truly amazing gardens (a formal garden, a rose garden, an idea garden, and a prairie garden).  The park is a beautiful place to host a Buddy Walk.
I was surprised to see that there were hundreds of roses in bloom! It was such a spectacular treat for the senses.  It smelled and looked just amazing!
Roses of every color and type were on display!  How I wish my roses could grow like these!  They were so healthy and lush.
One of my favorite parts of the rose garden was this beautiful water feature display.  It was 3 large flower pots with a fountain in each of them.  It was beautiful.
The grounds had lots of gorgeous pergolas.  I love gardening structures and this one was so pretty.
I definitely would love a pergola one day.  What a nice place to sit and enjoy the surrounding scenery.
I took a lot more photos of the other gardens, to be posted in Part 2.

Monday, October 10, 2011

In Search of the Perfect Pumpkin

This weekend, I went with my sister's family to Keller's Farmstand in Oswego, Illinois to go pumpkin picking. Pumpkin picking is one of my favorite activities in the Fall.  We set out into the patch to find the perfect pumpkins to decorate the yard.  What is nice about this farm is that you can walk out to the patch and cut your own pumpkin!
The pumpkin patch is expansive!  So many pumpkins to choose from!  It's wonderful to see all this farmland with all these pumpkins growing.
Those will make nice Jack-o-lanterns for Halloween!
Once we found the perfect pumpkins, into the wheelbarrow they went with a kid in tote!  The kids loved riding in the wheelbarrow.
Next to the pumpkin patch, they had some very large greenhouses growing all sorts of vegetables.  Wow, this was amazing!  They sell their vegetables at their farmstands and on this farm.  I saw a lot of really ripe tomatoes on the ground!  When I see fruit on the ground at large farms, I always think, I hope they get picked up and not left there to rot.
Keller's farm is also very kid friendly.  They had a petting zoo for the kids... and for the adults like me.  Hee hee.  :)  They had these cute little lambs with black faces.   How cute are they?  They were also so very soft.  It's no wonder we make sweaters out of their wool!  
They also had 2 baby calfs.  They were sleepy and didn't want to get pet at all.
Next to the petting zoo area was a large play area where they had different types of playhouses.  This one was a castle that the kids liked to climb and explore.  My nephew Max especially liked this one.  Here he is inside the castle.
There were also these toy tractors that the kids could ride around in.  How incredibly cute are these?  I want one as lawn decoration! I wonder where I can get one!  Too cute!
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