Tuesday, 08 October 2013 07:35

How to Pick the Right Garden Ceiling

Canopy, umbrella, tree or sky — for the finishing touch in your garden, consider what's overhead...

This article is written by Billy Goodnick, a regular Houzz.com contributor.

"You're sitting in your garden. You look up. What do you see? Robin's egg–blue sky and cotton ball clouds? A leafy canopy shimmering in a breeze? Perhaps it's an umbrella, a gazebo or a rose-covered trellis.

Every part of your garden has a ceiling, even if it's the sky above. Now this may come off a bit "gloaty," but when an architect chooses a ceiling inside your house, it's pretty simple: He or she selects from wood paneling, plaster, acoustical tile or maybe a skylight. But garden designers have a more robust array of useful and decorative choices that can be grown, assembled or constructed.

The main purpose of a home's ceiling is to keep out the elements and prevent the people sleeping upstairs from falling through to the living room below. But a garden's ceiling can do so much more." Read more: http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/7620120/list?utm_source=Houzz&utm_campaign=u367&utm_medium=email&utm_content=gallery24

Published in Landscaping

It's Recipe Thursday and here's one of my favorite easy dinners!

Parsley Bread Crumb Baked Chicken


1 chicken cut up about 3 lbs

1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs

3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 450 F.

Sprinkle the chicken all over with salt and pepper.

Place the pieces skin side up in a baking pan and bake for
30 minutes.

While chicken is baking, in a bowl combine the bread
crumbs, parsley, garlic, oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Brush the chicken with the mustard.

Sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture, patting it on so
that it sticks to chicken.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes more, or until the juices run
clear when the chicken is cut near the bone.

Serves 4 (hot or cold)


Arugula Salad

1 bunch arugula, washed and dried

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper

1 ounce parmigiano-reggiano cheese



Cut off the arugula stems.

Tear the leaves into bite sized pieces.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, and
salt and pepper to taste.

Add the arugula and toss well.

Pile the salad on two plates.

With a vegetable peeler, shave the cheese over the salad.

For variety add sweet grape tomatoes.

Serves 2

Published in Landscaping
Tuesday, 01 October 2013 11:28

It's Fall and Time for Fire Pit Season

The cold crisp air signals fall is here and means we cannot do all the outdoor activities we enjoyed during summer. But, if you have a fire pit you can extend the use of your backyard. A fire pit provides heat on those cooler days or nights when it's too gorgeous to stay indoors. Having one installed affords you time to be outside without being uncomfortably cold.


Lake Forest, IL., Schmechtig Landscapes

The use of firepits and fireplaces is an outdoor design trend that has spread nationwide. Incorporating an outdoor fire pit or fireplace structure creates a beautiful backdrop to outdoor entertaining and extends the use of your landscape into the fall and throughout the winter. Imagine lighting a fire on a beautiful winter evening; staying warm while enjoying the winter sky.  Integrating a fire structure can be as simple as adding a portable fire pit to your existing patio or by having a fire pit built to work with your existing design. Retail stores like Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart and Cabela have many models to choose from.


Long Grove, IL., Schmechtig Landscapes

There are pre-manufactured units that can be installed to create a truly custom look, talk to a landscape architect to design a full-scale fireplace.  You can integrate these structures into existing patio layouts with coordinating brick or stone choices.


Barrington, IL., Schmechtig Landscapes

If you are designing a new landscape, consider a fire pit or fireplace to be the focal point where you, your family and friends gather.  The warmth and relaxation of a fire pit or fireplace will be enjoyed for years to come.

Published in Landscaping

"Texture is an element of design that can be used to create distinction among harmonious items; for gardeners that means plants in the landscape.  Foliage texture is what allows us to "see" plants in the landscape even when they are of similar size, shape or color," states Jocelyn Chilvers in her Houzz.com article.  Read more...http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/17074321/list/Texture-Talk--4-Foliage-Types-for-Distinctive-Gardens


Published in Landscaping
Friday, 27 September 2013 08:03

Fall - A Cool-Season Vegetable Garden

Late summer, fall and spring are great times to plant cool-season crops like salad greens, spinach, beets, carrots and peas says Marianne Lipanovich, a California-based writer and editor and Houzz Contributor. Marianne's suggestions are perfect.  Here' her article: http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/3439193/list/Get-a-Jump-on-a-Cool-Season-Vegetable-Garden


Published in Landscaping

I am so proud to share my longtime friend Laurie Bakke's recipe and cookbook. Part of the "Dinners to Go" line-up from Laurie's Cafe Laurie, this wonderful dish makes an excellent choice for Sunday football games, a dinner party, family meal or for a great sandwich the next day. I invite you to explore Laurie's website and her unique cookbook "Behind the Scenes from Cafe Laurie" (a great gift idea!) http://lauriebakkeskitchen.com/


Stuffed Gourmet Meatloaf with Spinach, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Olives and topped with Mozzarella Cheese

Serves 8 to 10

1 lb.. Hot Italian Sausage - casings removed
1 lb. Ground Chuck
1 Medium Onion - finely chopped
3 Cloves Garlic - finely minced
1 1/4 C. Dry Bread Crumbs*
1 C. Fresh Italian Parsley - finely chopped
2 Tbsp. Fresh Oregano - finely chopped
2 Large Eggs - beaten
1/2 C. Tomato Sauce - fire roasted, if available
1/2 C. Red Wine
2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil - high quality
2 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 1/2 tsp. Fresh Ground Black Pepper
2 C. Fresh Spinach - roughly chopped
4 oz. Smoked Sun-Dried Tomatoes - sliced and chopped *
1/2 C. Kalamata Olives - chopped
1 lb.. Mozzarella Cheese - shredded

1. In a large bowl, combine the sausage, ground chuck, onion, garlic, bread crumbs. parsley, oregano, eggs, tomato sauce, wine, olive oil, salt and pepper. With hands, combine the mixture until blended. Do not over mix because this can cause the meatloaf to dry out.
2. Spread the mixture into a 12x15-inch rectangle on a large sheet of waxed paper; making sure the mixture is smooth on the top and the edges rounded. Spread the spinach on the rectangle, leaving the edges uncovered. Top with the tomatoes and olives; layer 3/4 of the cheese over the filling.
3. Roll the meatloaf to enclose the filling, using the waxed paper to begin the roll. Remove the waxed paper and press the edges to seal. Place the seam side down in a foil-lined baking pan.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until cooked through. Top with the remaining cheese. Bake just until the cheese melts.
5. To serve, slice the meatloaf on the diagonal. Serve immediately The meatloaf can be refrigerated for another dinner, for sandwiches or frozen to use in the future.

* I prefer Panko-style breadcrumbs because of its course, yet light texture.
* Smoked Sun-Dried Tomatoes can be found in the tomato section or sometimes in the produce section.

This dish pairs wonderfully with Stuffed Red Potatoes with Basil Pesto and Balsamic Grilled Asparagus with Goat Cheese. Both recipes can be found in Laurie Bakke's Cookbook, which is for sale on her website www.lauriebakkeskitchen.com . Check it out!

Published in Landscaping

Fall is one of the best times to improve your lawn, trees, shrubs, and garden. The basic maintenance you do during this "second spring" after summer will pay off in healthier growth and fewer problems next spring and summer. The soil is still warm despite the falling temperatures, the weeks ahead are an ideal time to put many plants into the ground. Here's the first of three blog installments on your fall landscaping checklist.

Part One: Lawn care
Fertilize - Fall fertilizing helps keep lawns vigorous and healthy where growing seasons are long and reduces the length of a dormant period during which the lawn is an unattractive brown.
Weed - Dandelions, broadleaf plantain, and ground ivy, can be pulled out by hand anytime. But autumn is when they're most vulnerable to weed killers.
Continue mowing - until grass has stopped growing.
Seed - fall is a good time to lay seed so that your lawn gets a head start in the spring.
Water your lawn thoroughly - Rains have been sparce recently, apply plenty of water, even if temperatures are cool. Lawns that enter winter stressed from drought are more likely to have damage by cold weather and arrive weaker in the spring.

Published in Landscaping

The recipe can be made with yellow squash or zucchini or a combination both.


4 to 5 medium yellow squash/zucchini or combination (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1 and 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1 cup thinly sliced red onion

2 garlic cloves minced

Salt to taste

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper - to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup shaved fresh Parmesan cheese



Shave squash into ribbons using a vegetable peeler. (stopping at core and discard seeds)

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.

Add onion and garlic to skillet and cook 1 minute, add squash and cook 3 minutes or until onion is tender, gently stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat.

Add salt, red pepper, and black pepper, and toss gently to combine.

Sprinkle with cheese.

Published in Landscaping
Tuesday, 17 September 2013 11:34

Fall Check List for Your Home

Now that the days appear to be getting shorter,

here’s a quick checklist to get your home in order during the fall months:

1.Start to put away items left outdoors during the summer months such as barbeques, outdoor furniture and gardening tools. It is time to winterize pools, drain and winterize outdoor faucets and irrigation systems. Store garden hoses and Install insulating covers on exterior spigots.

2.Caulk and seal cracks and joints around windows and doors. Caulking keeps your house weather-tight and helps lower heating and cooling bills.

3.Protect your home from critters by installing grates, securing your trash containers, and installing humane traps. Caulking also helps to keep insects and critters out of your house.

4.Inspect your roof for damaged or curled shingles, rusted flashing, or leaky vents.

5.Clean the gutters and downspouts, they work hard to protect your house from moisture damage.

6.Inspect your patio, sidewalks, driveways and steps and take action to repair uneven, loose or damaged areas.

7.Clean and inspect and your storm windows and doors to get them ready to install. Storm windows and doors help save energy during the cold months.

8.Check fireplaces and wood stoves for soot or creosote build-up with a meeting from a reputable chimney sweep.

9.Inspect your dryer vents to prevent fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. Check the outside dryer vent while the dryer is operating to make sure exhaust air is escaping. If it is not the vent may be blocked and needs to be cleared.

10.Clean and vacuum vents your baseboard heaters and cold-air returns. Dust build-up in ducts is a source of indoor pollutants.

11.Get your heating system checked by a qualified professional. Cleaning and servicing will save you money later. Ask about boosting your furnace's efficiency and how and how often you need to replace your furnace filter for a clean filter as particles in the air get trapped in it helping to reduce indoor pollutants.

12.Give a fresh look to your interior rooms by painting. The fall allows you to keep the windows open while you get your rooms ready for the fall and winter gatherings you will be having.

13.Now that your walls are freshly painted shampoo or replace carpets.

14.Perform a home safetyTest smoke and CO monitors, inspect fire extinguishers, review fire escape plans with your family members and recycle old papers and magazines and refuse other fire hazards.


Published in Landscaping

Chicago Botanic Garden – this weekend and beyond...

Check out what is happening at the Garden.

A few notable events include: this weekend's garden chef series with chef Armando Gonzalez of Libertad on Saturday, September 21st  (a casual, chef-driven neighborhood restaurant in Skokie featuring Latin American inspired cuisine); Thursday, October 10th from 6 – 8 p.m., the Autumn Brews: Seasonal Beer Tasting; Spooky Pooch Parade on October 19th and Hallowfest for your kids on October 26th and 27th.

There is something for everyone at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Visit http://www.chicagobotanic.org/

Published in Landscaping
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