Wednesday, 16 July 2014 12:41

10 Ways to Enjoy Your Outdoor Room More

Step up the comfiness and convenience of your porch, patio or yard to make time spent outdoors even better.  Hanging out in a backyard haven is a wonderful way to savor warm weather. But what about those less-than-pleasant aspects of outdoor time, like bugs, rain and blazing-hot sun? Here are 10 tips from Laura Gaskill, a Houzz contributor, to help make the time you spend in your outdoor rooms more comfortable. Read More:



Outdoor Pool and Spa Northbrook, Illinois. Schmechtig Landscapes as featured in CS Interior Magazine


Outdoor Fire Pit Ideas, Winnetka, Illinois, Schmechtig Landscapes


Outdoor dinning - table setting ideas with outdoor kitchen, Schmechtig Landscapes, Winnetka, Illinois



Staycation Plan: outdoor kitchen, dinning, lounging, pool, and fire pit. Schmechtig Landscapes, Winnetka, Illinois

Published in Landscaping

Thoughtful touches and smart planning make summer visitors feel right at home.  Being a good host is something of a lost art. Balancing the roles of tour guide, innkeeper, cook and friend (while still managing to have fun yourself) can be challenging, to say the least, says Laura Gaskill.  Read More:



Unwind with your guests and family around a firepit.  Firepit Ideas, Winnetka, IL., Schmechtig Landscapes

Published in Landscaping

Break free from choosing plants by cold-hardiness zones for a beautiful landscape that thrives year-round. Learn more from Houzz contibutor Benjamin Vogt.  Here are his thoughts and photo inspirations:


Plant Ideas For Your Garden, Wilmette, IL. Schmechtig Landscapes


Winnetka Landscape Company, Schmechtig Landscapes, Plant Ideas for your property


Published in Landscaping
Friday, 11 July 2014 09:18

Light Your Patio, Extend Your Evening

Cast a magical spell on a summer night with decorative outdoor lighting as sleek or as rustic as you please. A perfect summer evening? Indeed. But you can make it last even longer, says Mike Dietrich, a Houzz contributor, just by adding lights to your patio. 

Here are a few ideas:

Lake Forest, Illinois, Schmechtig Landscapes, Outdoor Lighting Ideas, Patio Design Ideas

Published in Landscaping
Thursday, 10 July 2014 08:17

Recipe Thursday - Cajun Shrimp and Rice

An easy dinner recipe that will take you 20 minutes to prepare from start to finish!

Cajun Shrimp and Rice
• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
• 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact
• Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
• 4 plum tomatoes, chopped
• 2 bunches scallions, chopped
• 3 cups cooked white rice
• 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
• Lemon wedges, for serving (optional)

Heat the butter, olive oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the Cajun seasoning and shrimp and cook, stirring, until the shrimp begin to curl, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the tomatoes and scallions to the skillet and cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Add the rice and 1/4 cup water and continue to cook until the rice is warmed through and the shrimp are opaque, about 3 more minutes. Stir in the parsley and serve with lemon, if desired.

Published in Landscaping

July is great time to tackle outdoor chores, from curb appeal to lighten up your home from clutter to energy bills. Here are 12 ideas from Houzz contributor Laura Gaskill.  Read More:


Curb Appeal Idea, Winnetka, IL., Schmechtig Landscapes.  Blue Stone and Brick Paver Front Walkway with seating area and container pots.

Published in Landscaping

When you show up at a neighborhood barbecue, dish in hand, you want to make sure that what you’ve brought will be a hit—but you don’t want to spend all day making it. Pamela Rothbard, from Make It Better has it covered for you. ( )

Here’s a salad hearty enough to stay crisp in the heat and some treats that will disappear before you can wind your way to the dessert table.

Red, White, and Blue Berries
These treats are more craft than recipe. Give your kids a little independence of their own and let them take over making these. Last Fourth of July, I brought these to a party and they were gone before the hostess put them out—everyone who passed through the kitchen gobbled one up until all that was left was an empty plate with my name on it.

• 1 quart of strawberries, washed and dried, stems intact
• 1 cup white chocolate chips (or baking chocolate)
• 1/2 teaspoon canola oil
• Blue sprinkles

1. Prepare tray with wax or parchment paper.
2. Put chips and canola oil in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in microwave for one minute, then stir. (I find that using a fork mixes the chips best.) Continue heating in 30-second increments until melted.
3. Hold each strawberry by the stem and dip into chocolate, leaving a little red still showing at the top of the berry.
4. While berry is still wet, dip bottom into small bowl or ramekin of blue sprinkles. Place strawberry on tray to cool. Can keep in fridge for several hours.
Tip: Don’t make more than eight hours in advance because strawberries will start to give off juice and chocolate will loosen.
Alternative: Make using blue Pop Rocks instead of sprinkles for a “fireworks in your mouth” experience.

Gail’s Bok Choy Salad
This is my mother-in-law’s yummy recipe for a picnic-ready salad that will easily eclipse that supermarket potato salad sitting next to it.

Combine for salad:
• A few bunches of bok choy, chopped
• 1 bunch scallions, diced
Combine for topping:
• 3/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
• 3/4 cup slivered almonds
• 1 package dry ramen noodles, broken into small pieces (discard the flavor packet)

Combine for dressing:
• 3 tablespoons soy sauce
• 1/3 cup white vinegar
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup canola oil (can substitute vegetable oil)

1. Right before you head out, toss together the salad, topping, and a drizzle of dressing. Bring the leftover dressing on the side for those who like their salads soaked.

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes
Makes approximately 40 mini cupcakes
Summer and lemonade are perfect party partners. And when it comes to party desserts, it’s best to bring hand-held treats in small portions—that way no one has to balance their plate and fork while crooking a drink in their elbow. I made these as mini-cupcakes; people who won’t commit to a regular-sized cupcake will down three of these in one conversation!

 • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 2 cups granulated sugar
• 4 large eggs, at room temperature
• 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons lemon zest
• 3 tablespoons sweetened lemonade-drink powder
• 1 cup milk
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, beat butter for two minutes until smooth. Gradually add sugar and beat three minutes until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the flours, lemon zest and lemonade-drink powder; add to mix in four parts alternating with milk and vanilla extract. Beat well after each addition.
4. Line two mini-cupcake tins with liner cups. Spoon batter into cups, filling nearly to top. Bake for 10 minutes, then check for doneness (cake should spring back when lightly touched); cook longer if needed. Cool on rack.
Shortcut: If you don’t have time to make from-scratch cupcakes, buy a box of white cake mix and combine according to box instructions, then mix in lemon zest, lemonade-drink powder and vanilla extract in amounts above.

Pink Lemonade Frosting:

• 1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1 pound confectioner’s sugar
• 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 3-5 tablespoons frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed

1. In a large bowl, beat butter for two minutes until creamy.
2. Mix in two cups of confectioner’s sugar. Add vanilla extract and lemonade concentrate and beat three minutes or until smooth. Continue adding and mixing confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time until desired consistency. For smoother frosting, beat longer.
3. Frost cupcakes and embellish with blue and red sprinkles or mini flags.

Published in Landscaping

Show your patriotic pride with a flag on your home’s exterior for the Fourth of July or all year round.  Alison Hodgson, Houzz Contributor, shares photo's and ideas to inspire you. Read and see more:


Published in Landscaping

There’s no denying that the sweetest fruits are those picked off the tree at the peak of ripeness, whether it’s a bunch of cherries you’ve chased the birds away from; a peach so juicy, you have to bend over to avoid staining your clothes; or a crisp fall apple. So it makes sense that if you love fruit, you’ll love having your own fruit tree or trees in your garden, says Marianne Lipanovich, a Houzz Contributer. Read more:

Published in Landscaping

 For all you meat lovers, enjoy this absolutley delicious Recipe Thursday summer grilling dish from my longtime friend and talented chef Laurie Bakke - "Black Pepper Steaks with Red-Wine Vinegar, Lemon and Feta Vinaigrette".  See more of Laurie Bakke's recipes at and visit her store, Sage Gourmet in Hendersonville, North Carolina   This steak recipe is ready in 20 minutes and serves 2.


• 2 Steaks - your choice: Filet Mignon, Ribeye or NY Strip
• 2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil*
• 1 tsp. Balsamic Vinegar*
• 1 Tbsp. Applewood Smoked Peppercorns*

For Vinaigrette:
• 1/4 Cup Red -WIne Vinegar
• 3 Tbsp. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil - use Lemon Oil*
• 1 Tbsp. Fresh Garlic - peeled and minced
• 2 Tbsp. Fresh Italian Parsley - minced
• 1 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Thyme - minced
• 1Tbsp. Fresh Basil - minced
• 1 tsp. Fresh Dill - minced
• 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
• 1 tsp. Honey - nice quality*
• Juice of a 1 Lemon
• Zest of 1/2 Lemon
• 1/2 Cup Feta Cheese - crumbled
• Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

•Turn on gas grill or light a charcoal grill.
•Place the steaks on a plate and pour the olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the steaks. Sprinkle the pepper over the steaks and begin to work the oil, vinegar and pepper into the steaks. Use more pepper, if desired. Set aside.
•In the meantime, prepare the vinaigrette. In a medium size bowl, combine all ingredients except the feta cheese. Once mixed, add the feta cheese and let stand at room temperature.
•Once the grill or fire is ready, place the steaks on the grill on medium-high heat. Sear for 2 to 3 minutes on first side and then flip the steaks and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes, for medium-rare. With a thermometer, place the tip in the largest part of the steak. For medium rare, the steaks should be pulled at 125 degrees.
•At this point, the steak should be allowed to rest for 5 minutes covered with foil. This allows time for the temperature to adjust and meat to settle down from the grill.
•When ready, transfer the steaks to serving plates, and spoon the vinaigrette over the steaks. Garnish with additional herbs, if desired.

Published in Landscaping
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