Sharon Sorenson looked outside of her kitchen and saw what would look like a small gray bird with touches of yellow. To her it was a vision bordering on the miraculous, writes Mary Jo Bowling, a Houzz Editorial Staff Member. Sorenson has transformed her yard from 2 acres of grass dotted with a small stand of birch trees and some juniper bushes flanking the driveway into a landscape abundant with plants that produce nectar, seeds, nesting material and shelter.  Naturalist Alan Gehret, curator of collections at the John James Audubon State Park Museum & Nature Center in Henderson, Kentucky, says “Over the last 10 to 20 years, we have seen some bird species populations drop dramatically — some as much as 50 percent. This is largely due to loss of habitat and alteration in their environment,” he says. “When it comes to creating habitats, every little bit helps. When someone creates a place like the Sorenson’s, it provides safe havens for birds and makes a difference in their survival.”  Sorenson story is amazing, her photo's breathtaking and she would like us to consider new ways to garden.  Read and see more:


Landscape Design Wilmette, Illinois Schmechtig Landscapes

Published in Landscaping
Friday, 13 March 2015 10:05

17 Ways to Work a Deck

Layer it, bump it out, wrap it around a tree. Get inspiration with these ideas for adding a deck to your yard says Laura Gaskill, a Houzz Contributor.  Laura continues saying, a deck can beautifully bridge the gap between indoors and out, providing an inviting, comfortable space from which to enjoy your backyard. And far from being a basic rectangle at the back of the house, a deck can be customized to fit your house and lifestyle. Read on for 17 deck designs to get your creativity flowing:



Ipe Decking Idea around Pool, Winnetka, Illinois Landscape Company, Schmechtig Landscapes

Published in Landscaping

 It's time to begin preparations for your landscape, lawn and garden areas for the year.  In order to keep your outdoor spaces looking beautiful it is best to make a good plan.  It is tempting to go out and purchase a variety of plants to plant anywhere you have a place. This is not a good idea since it can detract and reflect a confused look.  Developing a landscape design will map out where to add new plants.  As you develop your landscape plan consider important factors like plant height, size, and color to add interest and depth. You must consider the climate of your area before adding any new plants. For example, a plant that needs lots of sunlight will not thrive in your backyard under the big oak tree, and so on. Be sure to research how to care for the new garden plants. For example, some bulbs need to be planted in a particular time before spring. If they are planted too early, they will die in the ground. Some plants can be high maintenance and others require little or hardly any care throughout the season. 



Spring Landscape Patio Design with Lighting,  Lake Forest, Illinois Landscape Company, Schmechtig Landscapes


It may be a wise to consider hiring a landscape and lawn company.  A professional landscape firm will develop a landscape maintenance care program including landscape design tailored to your budget.  They will present garden ideas including plants, walkways, paver brick driveways, patios, outdoor kitchens, fire pits, ponds, 4 season color gardens, vegetable gardens, and caring for your entire property - from weekly lawn mowing service to lawn fertilization, weeding, pruning, mulch and more.  When you hire a full service professional landscape company you will in turn truly receive the gift of time to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends.



Landscape Design and Landscape Maintenance Front Yard Ideas, by Barrington, Illinois Landscape Company Schmechtig Landscapes



Published in Landscaping
Tuesday, 10 March 2015 13:23

Slow Down: The (Lost) Art of Laziness

Do you go to bed with to-do lists flashing through your head? Give yourself at least one weekend day off and find places around the home to slow down and recharge. Try one of these ideas to give yourself a break from Liz Durnan, a Houzz contributor & freelance writer and editor. 

Read and see more of Liz's ideas:


Landscape Design Ideas with Fire Pit, Long Grove Illinois Landscape Company, Schmechtig Landscapes



Relaxing Features to include in your Landscape Design: Pool and Spa Design Idea, Northbrook, Illinois Landscape Company Schmechtig Landscapes



A Relaxing Landscape Design with Pond and Waterfall Feature, Barrington Hills, Illinois Landscape Company, Schmechtig Landscapes



Published in Landscaping

 Now is the time to get your landscape, outdoor plans in place for the coming season.  Here are 20 Outdoor Kitchen and Grilling stations ideas from to help you imagine what you can have this season. Read and see more :


Outdoor Kitchen Ideas, Winnetka, IL. Landscape Company, Schmechtig Landscapes


Outdoor Kitchen Ideas, Schaumburg, Illinois Landcape Company, Schmechtig Landscapes, HGTV Project


Outdoor Kitchen Ideas, Schaumburg, Illinois Landcape Company, Schmechtig Landscapes, HGTV Project

Published in Landscaping
Thursday, 26 February 2015 10:11

Recipe Thursday - 30-Minute Coq au Vin

A Classic coq au vin can take up to two days to prepare, including marinating the chicken overnight. Food Network shared with us all the shortcuts to make this fabulous dish in 30 minutes. The recipe calls for making the red wine sauce with bacon, mushrooms and pearl onions - frozen variety to skip the tedious peeling, and rotisserie chicken parts to warm through.  Enjoy!


4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch strips (about 4 1/2 ounces)
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, halved or quartered (Cremini mushrooms are just small portobellas, so diced portobellas would work)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup red wine
1 1/2 cups frozen pearl onions
2 sprigs fresh thyme or pinch dried thyme
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
Pinch sugar, optional
1 cooked rotisserie chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Put the bacon into an unheated large, high-sided skillet.
Cook over medium heat, stirring periodically, until the bacon is browned and crisp, about 8 minutes.
Transfer the bacon to a small bowl with a slotted spoon; set aside.
Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat in the pan.
Increase the heat to medium-high.
Add the mushrooms, 1/4 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper and cook until browned, 2 to 3 minutes.
Stir in the garlic, flour and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the tomato paste darkens a little, about 1 minute.
Add the chicken broth, wine, onions, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt and more pepper.
Bring to a boil, then let simmer until thickened, about 4 minutes.
Turn the heat down to medium, and whisk in the butter a little at a time.
If the sauce tastes a little too acidic, add the sugar.
Nestle the chicken and cooked bacon into the sauce, and simmer gently until the chicken is heated through, 6 to 7 minutes.
(This could take up to 10 minutes if the chicken is cold, or as little as 3 minutes if it is warm.)
Spoon the sauce over the chicken pieces periodically to coat completely.
Toss the chicken in the sauce, remove the thyme stems, sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

Total Time: 30 min
Prep: 5 min
Cook: 25 min
Yield: 4 servings
Level: Easy
Recipe courtesy of Food Network Kitchen

Published in Landscaping
Tuesday, 24 February 2015 09:40

Gray Gardens: 34 Shades of Gray In the Garden!

Gray is a hot interior design color, so why not take the chic outdoors? There are plenty of ways to incorporate gray in the garden, from silvery pussy willows and thistle to galvanized metal says Felicia Feaster via HGTVGardens Crew.  Feaster says, Gray is the new taupe, and design fiends like the folks at freshome are heralding the appeal of gray in the home. "Modern and edgy, yet timeless and classic" are the virtues of this very "in" color says freshome. Take that tranquil, minimalist tone outside for a truly distinctive garden. See more:


Glenview, IL Landscape Company Schmechtig Landscapes, Using gray stone and crushed stone in your garden ideas

Published in Landscaping
Friday, 20 February 2015 09:27

16 Great Patio Ideas

Whether you are planning to redo your patio or want a few patio decorating ideas, consider adding features such as a seat wall, outdoor rug, new outdoor sofa or futon, fireplace or firepit, or pergola. Check out these tips and inspirations from Kelly D. Norris and Better Homes and Garden.

Read more:


Firepit Idea, Winnetka Landscape Schmechtig Landscapes



Backyard Design Ideas for your Patio Schmechtig Landscapes HGTV project- outdoor kitchen, outdoor fireplace, outdoor dinning room, outdoor living room 

Published in Landscaping
Wednesday, 18 February 2015 09:40

Keep Your Landscape Safe from Winter Salt

Winter weather, particularly snow and ice, requires some action on our part to keep our families safe from icy sidewalks and driveways. Pouring a bag of salt on the front walk might melt the ice, but it can damage both turf and landscape plants. While a de-icer might be necessary in harsh winters, using no more than the recommended amount, along with a few other strategies, can help minimize yellow lawns and injured plants says, Leah Chester-Davis.  Here are Leah's recommendations in Better Homes and Garden:


Published in Landscaping

Don't use Hamburger Helper and you can substiute the beef with ground turkey or chicken!

Here's an easy and quick homemade Beef Stroganoff Hamburger Dinner in a Skillet.  
Ingredients: * note below
1 pound lean ground beef (you can use ground turkey or chicken)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Essence, recipe follows see below
2 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped yellow onions
2 cup sliced white button mushrooms
2 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 pound small elbow macaroni or wide egg noodles, cooked
1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup sour cream
 Grated white Cheddar, optional
 Chopped parsley, for garnish
Directions: * note
Season the beef with the salt, pepper, and Essence. 
In a large cast iron skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.
Add the seasoned beef and cook, stirring, until well browned and all pink has disappeared.
(If using ground turkey or chicken cook thoroughly)
Drain off any excess oil in the skillet.
Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring until the mushrooms have released their juices, about 4 minutes.
Add the macaroni (or egg noodles), beef broth and sour cream.
Cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens slightly, 10 to 12  minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and spoon the mixture onto 2 large plates.
Sprinkle each portion with the cheese, if desired, and chopped parsley and serve immediately.

Prep: 15 min
Cook: 25 min
Total Time: 40 min
Yield: 4 servings
Courtesy of and Emeril Lagasse

* note:
We doubled original recipe and times to yield 4 servings. View original recipe here:
Emeril's Essence Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast)
You can make it yourself or purchase Emerill's Essence at your local grocery soter in the spice aisle:
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Published in Landscaping
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