Garden Gems

"Bridging the sustainable lifestyles of yesteryear with sustainability today."

Wintergreen and Winter Greens in Virginia

My most recent visit to Virginia began with a trip to Wintergreen Resort. We rented a pet friendly, one bedroom condo with a fireplace up top the Blue Ridge Mountains. Unlimited firewood was included. The stone fireplace sharing its warmth, paired with my journal and a cup of coffee, made every morning inspirational. Surrounded by true winter greenery, this mountain resort’s landscaping is built into my favorite mountain range in.. Read More

The Paczki

The Paczi is a Polish pastry similar to a doughnut. Pronounced poonch-key, this roundish dessert is usually filled with fruit, a fruit jelly or custard. It’s a pre Lenten delicacy in Chicagoland. Historically in Poland, all of the ingredients that go into a Paczki; lard,sugar,eggs and fruit, were forbidden by Christian fasting practices during Lent. They would use all of the “sinful” ingredients in the pantry days before lent began. Clearing.. Read More

Foliage, Front and Center on the Garden Stage

Today is Tuesday the 6th of December, 2016. Taking my cue from Mother Nature, my Personal Garden service, Garden Gems has closed up shop for the winter. Work tools, garden gloves and props are washed, sanitized and stored. Snow boots and winter costumes are pulled out of storage. My body soon to be 50 years young is ready for the annual blackout that takes place at this time of year,.. Read More

Chicago Flower & Garden Show 2016

Warm weather here in Chicagoland, followed by rain showers and the springing forward of daylight savings time brings about all things not winter. Robins have made their way north followed by Daffodil and Tulips, poking out of the ground waiting for their cue to bloom on the stage known as our gardens and landscapes. Snow of course is not out of the question, but spring is waiting on the front.. Read More

Toads and Frogs in the Backyard.

What a great day at the office. I came upon this toad in a Brookfield backyard last October.  We snapped its picture and quickly returned it where we found it, under the garden fence, among some leaf litter. Toads are amphibians. This mean they are cold blooded and cannot generate their own body heat. They depend on their environment to keep them warm or cool. I knew it was a.. Read More

A Humble Christmas Read

A few years back, my friend Lynn Coffey suggested I read the Foxfire Books. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to track down these books and give ’em a read. In 1966, an Appalachian High School English class in rural Rabun County Georgia was given a writing assignment. Interview your elders and write about it. The results were oral histories recorded of Appalachian culture, life styles, crafts and skills… Read More

Winter Reads

  It’s the middle of December and we are once again blanketed under a thick fog. Scattered rain showers are keeping  my new plantings of Mugo Pines, Red twig Dogwoods and Hydrangea hydrated. An unexpected abundance of parsley, oregano and thyme  continue to freshen up my winter soups and stews. I have discovered some wild geranium and Lamium blooms poking their heads out wondering if spring has arrived. My Personal Garden Service is on.. Read More

Seasons Change

You must have been warned against letting the golden hours slip by; but some of them are golden only because we let them slip by. ~J.M. Barrie   It’s a cold gray day here in Chicagoland. I’m sitting at my desk reflecting on change while sipping a mug half full of hot mint tea.      Change, the constant in life whose momentum seems to be picking up speed on me. This shuffle of.. Read More

Recipes for Fresh Salsa

Salsa Verde (Green Salsa) Ingredients 20 green tomatillos, husked and rinsed 2 tablespoon of chopped garlic 8 Serrano Chile peppers, sliced 2 medium yellow onions, sliced 4 tsp fresh chopped cilantro Salt for taste Directions: 1.Place the tomatillos, serrano peppers, onion and in baking dish and roast in oven at 500 degree until roasted. 2. Place cooked vegetables in blender; add garlic, cilantro and salt. Pulse and blend together.    .. Read More

Sustainable Food Preservation

  A renewed interest in urban agriculture, eating fresh and purchasing local foods has folks interested in preserving food at home.   Canning, dehydration, drying and freezing are a few of the basic techniques that are being used in beginning food preserving programs.   Classes and workshops in safe food preservation are offered around the country through different organizations such as your local state Extension and The National Center for Home Food.. Read More