Archive for the ‘Decorating’ Category


IMG_8771Our prairie garden is flush with native species and an abundance of prairie grasses, while the perennials in the front islands bravely attempt to establish their permanence amid a colony of advancing ferns.

Then, there are the aggressive appetites of the wandering herd of white tailed deer. What’s a gal to do?

Front island:July

Well . . .

. . .  I have been  experimenting with composing prairie inspired floral arrangements, cutting armfuls of grasses out back and small snips of what the deer don’t eat from the front.

Prairie Arrangement:#2

Oat grass, Big Bluestem, Monarda, Indigo, Joe Pye weed, and a curtsy to Queen Anne’s Lace, which was frolicking too close to the road for me to resist just a few of her lacy caps.


These flowers, both tamed and wild, pose quite fashionably in vases, jars, and other containers that are scattered around the house. A few arrangements have even made it to friends’ homes and a graduation party. Prairie Arrangement:2#3

Prairie arrangement:#1

Prairie Arrangement:#4

Part of my daily routine is to wander, clippers in hand, from garden bed to garden bed, observing what is blooming and what is spent, what the deer might have munched on and what I might cut and bring inside.

Sometimes,  just a few buds pinched back from overflowing pots are all that is needed to bring the garden indoors. Have you ever used parsley or basil in a vase? Snipping a few stems not only helps the plant regenerate, but, it brings fragrance into the kitchen and is a quick herb to pinch for extra flavors in a simmering pot or summer salad.

IMG_9229 - Version 2

I love the abundance of summer.

Here are a few more flowers from our garden, and a bouquet I picked up from a vegetable stand where I buy locally harvested sweet corn. The owners are growing flowers and herbs in raised plots behind the barn and selling them from the stand as well.

Farm:Arrangement #1

Do you keep floral arrangements outside on your patio, porch or deck? Do you pick from your garden, a favorite floral shop, or grocery store? Do you have favorite flowers for bouquets?

Prairie Arrangement:#5


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IMG_6484A mid-afternoon errand took me into La Grange, first to the post office, then Trader Joe’s, where they were holding some flowers for me to use in an arrangement for our garden club’s luncheon. Once those stops were made, I crossed over the tracks and my car just did what it often does, it veered left (when I should have been heading due south). I heard that a new florist had opened, and, well . . .

. . . this is what I found.


Bloom3 is a unique florist with unusual flowers as well as garden inspired objects,


and through this door, which looks like the original door to what must have been a safe, was another long table and chairs. Such an atmospheric space can be used for small gathering, planting workshops, and, I suppose, wherever one’s imagination might wander. I can imagine a garden club making arrangements, or a group of youngsters learning how to transplant violets, or even a small bridal shower.  What a fabulous place to bloom.





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IMG_6084On a recent Saturday morning, a contingency of garden club members, clippers in hand, were led by library staff to the basement. They were on a mission of horticultural concern. The library, Elmhurst Public Library to be precise, was preparing for an open house in celebration of their 100th anniversary. The Elmhurst Garden Club, which is celebrating their 90th anniversary, was asked to make table decorations.

What an exciting, innovative time the early 1900’s must have been. All around the Chicago suburban area (not to mention the city of Chicago itself) growth was apparent. Passenger lines, such as the “L”, were winding their way out to the suburbs, where forest preserve park districts, local park districts and libraries were being established. These were visionary folks who looked toward the future with a sense of the common good that should be found in their communities. It was also a burgeoning time in which women’s organizations were formed; clubs where women had a chance to gather, but, more importantly, where they could do good things and make a difference outside of their homes.

So it was that on this particular Saturday morning, for several hours, at least a baker’s dozen worked, under the expert eye of Marie, arranging flowers in slim bud vases, chatting and laughing as women are wont to do. A few members took what was left of the flowers to make more substantial bouquets for the library’s reception desk, circulation desk, etc. They were beautiful.


The next morning, many of us wandered in for a delicious pancake breakfast. Imagine that!  Pancakes! In the library!  I keep saying, dear reader, that the most “happening” places today are local libraries.  Several of us, plates of buckwheat, s’more, or apple fritter pancakes found tables in the children’s section, while a combo played, and I enjoyed the best conversation on bakeries with my friend Jean’s husband.

Eventually, we were invited upstairs to one of the study rooms, where we all grabbed vases of flowers.  Imagine us, if you will; flower girls, again.

One of the best treats of the morning was hearing my name called out. “Penny”. At first, I thought it to be the aforementioned Jean, but, quickly realized it was the woman behind her. Well, by gosh and by golly, it was none other than Dawn of Petals. Paper. Simple Thymes. We have been trying, for ages, to meet up and there we were, face-to-face, in a place we both love – the library.

Dawn and I met up again, upstairs. We chatted some more and decided to have our photo taken. What fun! As we walked out, a staff member asked if we would like to scan our photos and send to our phone, email, etc.  Isn’t it amazing?  100 years after its inception, in a public library, perhaps working on a term paper – or looking to build a chicken coop – you can scan the pages of a book and send it to your computer or phone?


But wait. There’s more.

Many libraries now have meeting rooms for big groups or small. Card holders can check out tools and blenders, knit with friends, watch a movie or attend a lecture. One can request a book, from another library, and have it waiting for you, and many libraries now have designated spaces for teens.

As a teenager, I was often in the library. I relished the day I was old enough to go the main branch of the Maywood library. I loved browsing the shelves, doing research for a term paper, and discovering all sorts of magazines I never knew existed, but, I did so in a hushed atmosphere, where even turning the pages of a book were quiet pursuits. Today, teens can meet up in a room like this, work on projects, write on a glass-like board, study, or, just hang out. Pretty wonderful, I think.

Happy 100th Anniversary to the Elmhurst Public Library!




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IMHighland Park:benchG_1861

There were two open gardens at the Garden Conservancy Open Days this past Sunday. One was Mettawa Manor, the other was in Highland Park.

The Highland Park home does not have the celebrity of Mettawa Manor, but, it is rich in architecture and lush in texture. The wooden bench, above, is just one of many features in this garden that were both beautiful and inspiring.

This bench also provided these two characters, who were flitting about, a quiet spot to rest their feet after oohing and ahhh-ing as they strolled about and had a delightful time talking with the homeowner.

Tom & Penny:Wood Bench:Highland Park

Since I was one of those characters, the one who talks too much, I’ll be silent now and show you a few highlights from the Highland Park garden,



Highland Park:foxglove

Highland Park:red mandivilla

“I think I hear someone calling your name, Penny” said Tom.

“Look who it is”

How nice it was to run into Jan and Mike.


Meanwhile, back at the Manor . . .


Head #1Head #2

IMG_1987Mettawa pond:close up:plant

Mettawa pond

Speaking of manor houses, look what’s coming to Chicago’s Driehouse Museum.

Downton Abbey (PBS) Season 1, 2010 Shown from left: Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern

Downton Abbey (PBS) Season 1, 2010
Shown from left: Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern

image from here.

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Run, run, as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!

Ah, but I did catch him. I spied him hiding in between vintage china and gently used baubles on a table in one of the booths of the La Grange Antique Mall, looking DSCN6955 - Version 2rather handsome with a plaid ascot around his chubby brown neck. Right then and there, before he could run away, I snatched him up, thinking he might feel right at home on a plaid tablecloth tucked in away in drawer.

As I roamed about the mall, I eyed a small plastic bag filled with tiny boxes wrapped in plaid paper and gold ribbon and an idea for a holiday tablescape was born.Santa holding gingerbread

Over the next few weeks, as I wrapped presents, baked goodies, adorned the trees and tabletops, little bits of plaid pleasure emerged, including a box that Dottie and Rick gave us last Christmas, with a Santa glittered and garbed in PLAID! It wasn’t until I placed the jolly old elf on the table that I realized he was carrying two gingerbread men.

How fortunate it was to then remember a simple candle idea I had actually bookmarked. I mentioned it to my Antler Man whose mind was in sync with mine. Lickety split, up he came from the root cellar, carrying a box of small canning jars.

Penelope's ProgressOn and on it went; Penelope’s progress in pursuit of plaid. The cloth was laid and a cookie tin appeared. Cranberries rolled out of the refrigerator. The little plaid napkins I purchased at T.J. Maxx for half off of half off of the price some long ago Christmas past found their way to the table as well.

The pièce de résistance was to be had among my collection of Penny Books. Rather vain, I know, but, really, with a name like Penelope, books with my name in the title are few and far between. There, sitting atop my dresser, was none other that “Penelope’s Progress” clothed in a tartan wrap. A bit of irony is that I discovered it many moons ago in very same antique mall where I captured the gingerbread man.

It is nice, is it not, when a little light shines into our lives, gifting us in the simple pleasures among the rescued treasures along this road we call life?

 I hope you all had a merry little Christmas and for those of you celebrating Boxing Day today, enjoyment. Wherever your heart and spirit is, I hope a little light shines – and you catch your own gingerbread man.

Candle Jar

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DSCN4326DSCN4311Come April, our garden club hosts its annual luncheon. We get all “gussied” up, meet somewhere different from our monthly venue, and have a floral related presenter who awakens us to all the possibilities of flower arranging. We take time to thank our retiring officers, dutifully swear in our newly elected ones, and enjoy each other’s company. A member is honored as “woman of the year” (congratulations Jan).  Among a bevy baskets, filled with wonderful raffle items, lively conversations ensue -and we all feel a little lighter for a few hours.

This year, the luncheon’s theme was Stepping Out. It was one of our very best, due in large part to the efforts of the event’s chairwomen and the committees that worked to make it enjoyable. It was topped off with tablescapes that were a phenomenal potpourri of the creative juices of our members.

The centerpieces are usually constructed by our Designs and Exhibits committee. Sometimes, however, they are made by the members at large. Several months ago, we were given the challenge of individually crafting centerpieces – using shoes! You can, I am sure, imagine women and their shoes, but, can you visualize round tables, adorned in white tablecloths with black burlap runners and every possible make and model of shoes on top? From the small Mary Janes of a grandchild and seaside “flip flops” of a sand lover, to golf shoes and sequined high heels, the soles of our members tripped fantastically across the tabletops, giving way to the young girls hidden in all of us.

Here are but a few of the shoes that were allowed, for an afternoon, to dance atop our tables.

Do click on for a better look.



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The Christmas Room

DSCN3584Isn’t it amazing what children remember? This past summer, when our Minnesotan contingency came down for a visit, the first in  eighteen months, Keziah sat in the dining room, a room she designated as where she will always eat breakfast, and recounted her Christmas in the living room. The interesting thing is that Kezzie was only 18 months old the last time her family had been to our house for Christmas. Nearly half her lifetime ago. There she sat, telling about where the Christmas tree was, where her mommy sat, and how we opened presents.

Since early summer, to our pleasure, they traveled down several times. With each trip, the living room has developed a persona of its own.  Kezzie began referring to the room as the Christmas Room. “Yia Yia, can I go in the Christmas Room?” was suddenly queried. It is now a favored spot for us to cuddle and read a story, or for her play the “pinano” with Uncle Jason, and Papa and Kezzie watch for the deer and squirrels out the expansive window – all in the Christmas Room.

When Tom’s eye surgery was postponed with an unknown date lingering, we thought about putting up the tree earlier than usual. When Katy’s family decided to come down for Thanksgiving,  visions of sugar plums began to dance in our heads, and the idea was cemented.

Our little lass waited patiently, through the Thanksgiving feast, then Papa stringing the lights, and Friday night’s feast of the leftovers. DSCN3605Finally, the ornament boxes appeared.  The time for “making the Christmas tree” had at long last arrived. Auntie Jenny got Kezzie started, pulling out birds and balls and angels, showing her how to attach the hooks, and reveling in the joy of a child trimming the Christmas tree. By the time Tom and I entered the Christmas Room, Kezzie was going full throttle, with birds aligned, all in a row, on the same branch, for birds do need to keep each other company,  and sheep cavorting with sledding penguins. A new world order in a small Cutoff corner. She worked for two hours, never leaving the Christmas Room, independent and determined to place each and every (and I mean every) ornament in just the right spot. Owls, you see, must face the outdoors, so they will know what is going on.

We are not yet sure how our days of December will play out this year. We are , however, sure of exactly where all of our wildlife ornaments are. There is some small comfort in that. They are, of course, all on the lower branches of the tree, where they will  remain, no matter what may be, building new memories and new traditions, in our Christmas Room.


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Juliet Batten

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