Dear Lincoln Park Conservatory: I’m sorry I ignored you for 15 years…

Most days I feel comfortable saying that I’ve seen pretty much everything my home city has to offer. I’ve been to the tourist traps and the holes-in-the-walls. I’ve ventured to all corners of the city, and after 15 years in Chicago I thought I’d pretty much nailed down what to do and what not to do here.

But then I went to Lincoln Park Conservatory.

I have no idea why I’ve never been there.

It was a stupid cold and sleeting winter day in spring (read: late March in Chicago) and the weather threw a monkey-wrench in a scheduled pre-wedding “Meeting of the Moms.” In searching for indoor, get to know you activities, the conservatory seemed like a great alternative to window shopping in Andersonville, because moms like flowers, right?

Right. Continue reading

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I did a Pinterest thing that didn’t totally suck.

I’ve had my fair share of epic domestic fails, particularly when trying to recreate things that I find from Pinterest. I think I can be pretty capable in the DIY department, but, you know, Pinterest forces us (or at least me) to set unrealistic expectations about what is actually DIY-possible.

We moved into a slightly bigger apartment a few months ago, and it’s been fun to get to settle in and figure out where things go. Our kitchen is bigger, with a huge butler’s pantry. It’s the Ritz Carlton of kitchens, as far as I’m concerned, and I’ll tell you more about that later. We’ve also now got a nice big deck, and I managed to plant some flowers out there this summer. The only problem is, the deck is shaded 90% of the time, so, not ideal for growing herbs and veggies. I’ll tell you more about that later, too.

I’ve pretty much given up on the idea of community gardening, not because I don’t believe in it, but because I’ve spent the last two summers paying $75 to watch a bunch of vegetables die. Even though our garden was only a mile a way, getting there was hard, because, life. When I was able to go, there was this walk of shame past all the beautiful, bountiful beds to our pathetic little patch filled with green beans, three strawberries, dead tomato plants and a bunch of weeds.

Anyway… where was I? Right. DIY. Continue reading

The Beautiful Garden that I Only Sort of Grew…

I am fulfilled.

$75 and some prompt attention to the Vedgewater registration deadline landed me a little plot of earth to play with for the summer.  I love apartment living, but really miss digging in the dirt.  With less availability for farming this summer, this little 4′ x 8′ raised bed is all I need to get my gardening fix.  Shortly before leaving for Wyoming we planted a bunch of stuff before it really should have been planted, and then there was a cold snap that killed some peas and onions and nearly zapped the overly-expensive tomato plants from Gethsemane Garden Center. So even though I left a note on the community board and gave friends free reign to play in our garden I fully anticipated returning home after three weeks to a wooden frame of dead plants.

Instead, there was this:

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Beans, carrots (hidden under a mountain of squash), cucumbers, tomatoes, and strawberries.  Along the perimeter of the bed are marigolds from recycled seeds and three heads of lettuce that were harvested for dinner that night.  It’s still rather astounding to me that I can put a few little pellets in the ground and grow my dinner, but deserting a garden that sits on top of a concrete slab in Chicago for three weeks and returning to a fully grown dinner is pretty frickin’ mind-blowing.

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Apparently a hands off approach + three weeks of rain = Bountiful Urban Garden.

Yeah. Mind-blowing.

I think the abundance of worm poo added to the bed had a lot to do with it, and I’m pretty sure I used up every morsel of good gardening karma I had left, but for the bowl of lettuce alone I’ll take it.

An end of summer second attempt at a window garden

If you’ve been following closely, you’ll know that I recently downsized from a house back into an apartment.  While I love the apartment, I can’t say I don’t occasionally miss having a little plot of land to dig in the dirt.

To fill the void, I spent a good portion of my summer digging in someone else’s dirt.  A lot of it.  I worked at Midnight Sun Farm this summer and got free vegetables in return.  We also planted a little window garden at the apartment.

Which was really beautiful.

Until it died.

Record heat, no rain, and too many jobs were the culprit in killing the little window garden.  But fear not, I managed to save the marigolds for a little while, and one of the pansy plants lives on!

Using the basil plant I got in the CSA box a few weeks back, and two geraniums I picked up at the farmer’s market last week, and the garden is back in action and looking lovely.  As I write this I’m gazing out my sunny dining room windows, past my little pink geraniums toward Chicago’s far north skyline, and thinking, life is pretty good, Lauren.

P.S. Seeing as I killed a bunch of Marigold plants, I thought now would be a good time to save seeds for next year. Inspired, I made this rather shoddy video showing you how!

Marigold Merriment and a brand new look.

First, let’s point out the elephant in the room…. One Crafty Lady got herself a facelift!  I’m migrating all of my miscellaneous and antiquated blogs over to one superfine megablog, and it’s all right here.  Some things will be slower to join the party…. for example, Travelpod does not allow me to export my posts so I’ll be slowly, and painfully, copy-pasting them here over time.  Other than that, I shall introduce you to One Crafty Lady 2.0 with some thoughts on marigolds.

Marigolds are awesome.

They are pretty, easy to grow from seed (read: don’t splurge on mini-plants at the nursery, because they are seriously that easy to grow from seed), and hearty.  Another fabulous trait of the marigold is how easy it is to preserve seeds to grow next year.

You should only have to buy a seed packet of marigolds ONCE.

Or, just get some from your neighbor’s marigold plants.

Once the plant flowers and the buds dry out they should be easy to pick off of the stem. Inside that nondescript dried up flower is a magical seed pod.  Just give a little tug to the dried petals, and out come the seeds.

Lots of seeds.

One pot of marigolds will yield you about 4 pots of seeds for the next year, which is why it’s ok to pluck a dried up marigold out of your neighbor’s flower pot….

Big pointer:

Just make sure that you store those seeds in a paper envelope (not a plastic baggy) in a cool, dry place for the winter.

Strawberries!

Or, I should say, strawberry.

This excites me with geeky giddiness – partially because I have a backyard to grow strawberries in, and partly because this one was ready to pick when I checked the patch today, which means I got to this beauty before the bunnies did.


This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.