After sharing my modest yard, it dawned on me that the yard I should really be celebrating doesn't belong to me at all. It is my mother's. If I have any sort of green thumb, or artistic bone in my body, it is all due to Mom.

Growing up we lived in a typical 70's ranch in a family-friendly neighborhood development. All of our homes looked alike. But our yard stood out even then. The back had a three-tiered garden, constructed from railroad ties, full of vegetables, flowers and trees. The front housed a Wishing Well built from a wine barrel. It was so fun for us kids. Then, once we all fled the nest, my parents did too and bought their then-dream home. Currently they are considering an even bigger move to Montana! But until then, they are most happy to live on a cliff above the Rock River in a rustic house with vaulted ceilings and a fireplace. It's a hidden gem on the edge of town.

And so in my mother's words (with interjections from me in italics because I can't help myself):

This garden started out as vast sections of open grass area, surrounded by mature Oak, Walnut, Maple and Pine trees. Under those trees are the ever encroaching Mulberry bushes. I set out to make beds to compliment the natural landscaping and began planting.  

{The house is surrounded by natural woods on three sides and open to the river on the fourth. It's situated on a busy street and the woods serve as much-needed privacy and sound barrier.}

The perennial plants in my garden all came from my previous home. One plant for each species. Each year they have been divided to fill in the flower beds. The pine trees were transplanted from the forest line into areas where they could reach more sun. I made the mistake of planting them too close together and will one day have to decide which tree will have to go, so the other can continue to thrive. Opening up the forest floor allowed for sleeping wildflowers to come to life.

{This entire area was grass when they first moved in. My mother is a gardening BEAST! At one point she relentlessly gathered grape vine from the woods and made a border around all of these beds, even edging a trail to the neighbor's house.}

This is the Southwest corner. It gets mostly filtered sun so anything grows well here. I planted all of these pine trees as seedlings.

{Mom and Dad love nature in all its forms and as such, have two big dogs and three small cats. There's a Yellow Lab named Norman in this shot.}

Each season brings a different color of the garden to emerge. Right now in mid-summer, splashes of purple, red/orange and white compliment the different shades of green. After 17 years of transplanting, composting and pruning, the garden is now mature enough that my only chore is to keep the wild edge of the tree line at bay. And of course weeding. The rest of the time I can lay in my hammock and enjoy all that I have done.

{This is arguably the best spot of the yard. It's the most sunny, the most open space and the BEST view. You can see Rockford's Fourth of July fireworks from here! To the right is also our little pet cemetary. My childhood cat Sam is here as well as other beloved pets and animals.}
This is the entry into my shade garden, a mixture of ground cover carpets the floor beneath a variety of Walnut, Ash, Oak & Maple trees. I've tried to plant Hostas, but they just seem stunted. Creeping Charlie runs rampant, but at least it covers the ground beneath the Walnut trees, where nothing else will grow. Other natural clumps of Lily of the Valley and Lambs Ear also grow well here. The vine growing on the pole holding the hummingbird feeder is Hops! Maybe I should learn to make my own brewed beer.

{Mom, you should! We harvested Lily of the Valley from this yard to make my wedding bouquet. I love this flower so much and it has meaning to us. It used to line the driveway of my Grandmother's house.}

Ok, I'm taking over from here. Let's head into the woods shall we? If I had one word to describe my parent's yard it would be "meandering." I love the whimsical, organic way you walk through.

There is no identifiable "front" and "back," instead you lean over here because something smells good, or you are drawn over here because, Mom, is that a giant frog?

It perfectly reflects my mother's personality. She is a free-spirit lacking order and rigidity. She just is that way. One idea is born of another, ideas are reactions to what one experiences at the moment, now. Yes, let's put a duck here.

Summer flocks blooming along side soon to bloom, Tiger Lilly. This, and then that.

This year she started a Fairy Garden in some corner of the woods...

...because these scream "umbrella," of course!

She is obsessed with nature and art. One of her biggest blessings, she would say, is that there are eagles in her yard. It has born a passion for photography, birds (which actually, she has always had) and downright eagle activism.

And this is relatively new, the turkeys. They march across the backyard every morning. Where on earth are they going? Show off.

I could go on and on because truly, there is an endless amount of detail we haven't even grazed. This yard is ever-evolving, nontraditional and truly loved. It will be amazing to see what she does next!



I'm totally not ashamed to pick something out of the trash. I like to think I "have vision" and if there is even an inkling of rehab and potential, if the cost is $0, I'm likely to throw whathaveyou in the back of my Jeep. Such is the case of my most recent acquisition. Behold:

What? Looks like trash to you?

I spotted this beauty (yes, beauty) while trolling the Free listings on Craigslist. The Free listings are my oasis, and sometimes I get on kicks wherein I check it constantly. Not sure why I do this. Avoidance? Probably. And usually, a total waste of time. But I have had some recent scores, this being one of them.

After a little research I learned I did, in fact, find a gem. A 1963-64 Paoli rocker. You heard me. A rocker. And when it's all done up, it has some value and a whole lot of style. As evidenced here and here. So exciting! But first things first because my Paoli rocker is a mess.

It's obvious the chair has been reupholstered and this bouclé-like nubby fabric has become threadbare in spots, torn in others. Which is to say, it has really taken a beating. I hope to recover it too, sooner than later. I'm actually waiting on quotes from a couple local upholsterers, really hoping it's within my means!

But in the meantime, I'm cool with enjoying as-is. After a serious cleaning of course. The chair was D.I.R.T.Y. So stinky, so hairy, so very dusty. Hence, we set it up in the backyard because as it were, it was not worthy of going in the house.

Determined, I got right to it. First was a serious session with the Dyson. Immediately following was a good dose of steam clean with my Little Green. Then I let it sit outside for two days to get some air.

It still looked shabby but not stinky. And I no longer had concerns about hidden wildlife, ala, Penny's garbage find...

Dying to get to that wood, I brought it to my workspace in the sunroom.

Looks like salad
As all good bloggers do, I referenced Morgan at The Brick House and her tutorial for refinishing wood. Very good tips here but I don't have all of those materials on hand. I had Murphy Oil Soap though so I started there. (In case it isn't obvious, I use old socks for my dust-free cloth.)

Well, actually I started with the light sanding she suggests. Of course the wood had some good scuffs, scratches and paint swipes, etc. I used 220 all over the place. The Murphy Oil was definitely gratifying, nice to see all that dirt come off.

Next, I wiped it down twice with Goddard's lemon oil. I do plan to pick up the Howard's Feed-N-Wax at some point, but I'm happy to end here. It's clean and replenished and good for now.

My terrible patch job. Hilarity. I lucked out with an extra swatch of the fabric. They were using it draped over an arm. I gave it a soak, let it dry, then pinned it over the rip. This is terribly janky but I think it's a decent fix for now. My hope is to prevent further tearing, just until I can get it to the pros.

After all of that, I brought it upstairs to its new spot in our living room. It's filling an empty spot with just the right touch of mid century. I am confident in its cleanliness, enough so that I'll let my daughter sit here.

We can enjoy it as-is and in the meantime, I'll fantasize about what it could be. Do I cover it in a modern pattern, something Skinny Laminx in nature? Or go period with a solid color, be it orange, gold or avocado. I'm leaning toward a greyish yellow in a tight tweed, but we'll see. I don't want to be boring, so nothing too neutral! Save that for the couch.

In all of this, did I mention how comfortable this chair is? The seat is deep and wide, perfect for nursing if I were still doing that. The rocking is the goodness. It's the perfect reading chair with Thora as we can both sit side by side.

I am grateful for this find and for being able to bring back to life a piece of furniture that is over 50 years old. How amazing is that?



I hate how often I don't get to post on here. It's a casualty of our current lifestyle, I suppose. Any time that is not devoted to my child, is devoted to my job. That's just how it is. Ever since becoming parents, Mike and I both have to squeeze what were 40+ hours/week jobs into 5 hours a day, more or less depending on urgency of deadlines. And lately, I've had a lot of deadlines.

As you know, the blog suffers.

But when I get a hot minute to do something I want, and with "what to blog about" floating in the back of mind, I tend to gravitate towards gardening. I do love getting my hands dirty, the fresh air and the gratification of growing things.

When we first moved in to this little house back in 2009, the backyard wasn't too impressive. In 2010, it got a lot of love (reminisce here, here, here and here). 2011 garnered an infant and the yard was all but forgotten. I don't remember 2012, I think we mowed once or twice? Anyway, 2013 is the summer we kicked back into high gear. I've been a gardening fool. Let's go left to right, shall we?

The backyard is a big square, with perimeter gardening beds and one of those metal sheds in the corner. When you come out of the sunroom and look to your left, there is a long herb garden. Take a gander at that giant tree in my neighbor's yard. I have a love/hate relationship with that monster. I hate it because it is messy with its dropping of the leaves and seeds all the time. I love it because it offers up partial shade and makes a wonderful wistful noise in the wind. (Speaking of shade, our yard actually has three separate climates, something you can really only tell by living in your house for a few years and keeping your eye on the sun. This side only gets late afternoon sun. Bad for Kangaroo Paws. RIP.)

N'ere you mind the grass. I'm in the process of killing that weed factory with hopes of replacing it with soft sod goodness.

For food, we have two Rosemary bushes, Camomile, Mint (in the black pot, invasive you know), Lemon Thyme, Basil, Parsley, Sage and Oregano.

It's not all herbs though. I also have some Alyssum and succulents peppered throughout just for looks. The two big pots still hold Papyrus, which I think is just the coolest. Sadly, they aren't as lush as they used to be. I blame 2011. But they are on a comeback. I added Baby Tears to fill in the pots so the bottom doesn't look so much like death and neglect.

Check out that Oregano! Grew from seeds three years ago. I'm just a little proud.

The Mint was from seed too (as was the Sage). I've learned with Mint, it can't get too dry. And even if you aren't drinking a lot of Mint Juleps, you have to keep it trim otherwise it gets super leggy and just plain ugly. BUT, it is so resilient! Blows my mind. I have hacked this thing to bits and it keeps coming back. I'm impressed by plants like that.

Now look straight ahead and past the ugly yet highly-functional metal shed, here is our eating area.

We painted the arbor/trellis/death trap black quite awhile ago and it is starting to show it's age with a bit of flaking and things. I am not bothered, it still looks good. It's a spider haven however, man alive! We hit it with a broom quite frequently and that helps hinder the Munster vibe. The Ikea Ammero set still looks brand new despite being left outside all last winter.

Side note: When I watch HGTV and they redo an outdoor space with tons of seating and pillows and trellises and flowing fabric every which-a-way, all I think about: spiders.

I am so psyched by my Asparagus Ferns and Black Mondo Grass that runs along the fence. What a triumph! This spot is shady all the time and these plants, as well as the larger Fern in the corner, love it here. The way the fingers creep over the edge is exactly the look I wanted. LOVE. You can't really see in this shot but the Black Mondo Grass has been multiplying and one day should fill all of the gaps.

I planted this Jasmine Vine with the hopes of growing it up and to the left. But it is proving really hard to train. Every time I tie back shoots to go the way I want them, it chokes to death. My new strategy is to cut, no more forcing. We'll see how it goes. And argh, it almost never flowers. It grows like mad during the rainy winter, then the summer threatens to dry it up. I water it all the time.

Beyond the dining area is the veggie garden. I built those raised beds myself I did and they have held up fabulously. We also added a swing for Thora and an extra 4x4 beam to support it (which has yet to be painted black).

We got a late start in the spring, but everything is doing really well and of course, I'm on it now. Right in front of the bed is a Begonia which has yet to flower and a poor little hosta that is being devoured by an invisible nighttime predator. Hmm. Most of the bed itself gets sun all day long. We have Romaine, Beets, Carrots, two Green Peppers, one Jalapeno, Pole Beans (SO CUTE!) and a cucumber.

We also have straight squash in the pot.

To the right of all that are tomatoes in the Earth Box. Can they look more pathetic? I can't figure out what is wrong here. But they are producing and growing...

The right side of the yard is home to our two fruit trees, a lemon and an orange. Mike saved these trees when we first moved in. Both had huge suckers which rendered them freaks (i.e., football size lemons! huge spikes!) and he hacked them both down to less than 4' tall. It's quite amazing really. The lemon recovered relatively quickly while the orange took a bit longer. But today, they both produce tons of fruit. The kind you can eat!

This part of the yard gets the most sun, although under the trees is a different story. I've been through a few rounds of plants down here and am thrilled with what I currently have going on. It's a combo of native grasses, three in 'Olive Oil' and two a wonderful green with orange tips. It starts off with an Orange Nectar Agastache which I just recently planted for color and to attract humingbirds. The Dragon's Blood, which I am using as a ground cover and border softener lines the front edges. At the far end is a Lamb's Ear, a plant I've always wanted. It's growing really well but fighting a dusty white mildew. Growl.

Can I hit you with some artsy shots of the Dragon's Blood? Because seriously. Dragon's Blood.

And lastly, as you come full circle, you are faced with this:

Ah yes, the sunroom. A sad and frustrating little reminder of all the projects that are not yet complete on this 1922 bungalow. Ripped screens are the least of my problems here.

But if I get up early enough, before my toddler and before my emails, I can sneak out in my pjs, with a cup of coffee and just maybe spot little creatures and moments like this, in the heart of the city:

I love our backyard.



I'm supposed to be working right now. And oh, won't my client be angry to see me blogging instead! But the heart wants what it wants, or rather, my lack of creative focus has stifled me and I need a side project so I can reboot. Does that make sense to anyone other than me?

And so, in attempt to thoroughly clear my head and ultimately get back to work, Thora and I made a quick detour to the Home Depot garden section.

I tell you, if you need a healthy distraction, hang out with my child. She is chock full of ideas for things to do and ways to see the world in different ways. She can turn a jaunt through HD into a trip to Wonderland. She loves the ceilings, the huge aisles, the labels on a can of wood stain, hinges, the water fountain set up near the house plants, and succulents in teeny tiny teeny pots.

We bought three. Plus two more.

I chose this grouping of three to put in a trio of vases from days gone by.

It sits behind my desk, sending me get-to-work creativity vibes.

The other two are identical and I placed each in its own Ikea Asker container-turned-planter. These planters have been sitting empty for a while. Well, since a failed attempt at keeping maidenhair ferns in Thora's room. WHY can't I keep a maidenhair fern alive?! I swear.

I don't know where in the house I want to put these lovelies yet, but they do make me happy. And that amazing redness in the background? What is that? That, is a fantastic and terribly rundown hutch we found abandoned in our basement when we moved in. It's been living in the garage but I recently convinced Mike that I can bring it back to life and make it appropriate for our kitchen.

Gotta love a project. Work or otherwise.