Thursday, December 25, 2008

Swedish Christmas Food

The social justice part of me acknowledges how so many have so little...the former cook and appreciative eater details the Jul table...what I find most interesting about Swedish Christmas food is how such a large portion of the population eats the same thing: hard to wrap your head around as an American where one of our blessings (and challenges) is our diversity.
So, before lunch on Christmas Eve Day (a three day holiday here, interesting for a secular nation), we headed down the icy road to a neighbor´s collection of cabins. They met us on the porch where we sipped glögg while watching the men (also interesting in a nation with a certain amount of equality between the sexes) hang sheaves of wheat and bird food among evergreen branches. Inside, we consumed cheese and Jansson´s Frästelse (potatoes, anchovies, milk/cream and of course, butter) and beer, cider or aquavit. Then it was home to watch Mickey Mouse & Donald Duck: great classic animation from the days before digital, the golden age of the fourties through the sixties.
Christmas Feast proper began at home around three in the afternoon, at sunset. Appetizers were more Jansson´s, boiled potatoes, herring, little hot dogs & meatballs. Moving along the protein chain, our entree featured ham surrounded by mashed potatoes,applesauce, red cabbage salad, rutabaga gratin and mercifully: a green salad. All this was washed down by Christmas beer, gooseberry cider, seltzer and Julmust (a special sweet cola). And before we could even stretch our legs by the fire, coffee arrived with butter cookies and chocolate mousse.
Twenty-four hours later, we continued keeping the cold & dark at bay with the traditional rice porridge sprinkled with cinnamon, sugar, butter & milk. Coffee cut the white and more sugar & wheat appeared in the form of gingerbread and butter cookies, saffron buns and a wonderful Finnish plum pastry that reminded me of the kolatchky my grandmother used to bake. By the time we waddled home, bright stars punctured the black sky like cunniform and the snow sparkled as magically as in those childhood cartoons.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


We are about a half-hour drive from the town of Mora. Mora is famous for two things: the fantastic Zorn Museum (celebrating the greatest Swedish painter, Anders Zorn) and the Vasaloppet which is, I believe, the oldest cross-country ski race. It commemorates Swedish History and involves a lot of blueberry soup.
Last night we were graced by a little bit of snow. As a layer on top of ice, it makes the perfect cross-country ski surface. I headed down the ski-path towards NUSNÄS (all those cute little wooden horses are made in two factories in this tiny Dalarna village). Cross-country is now my preferred method for getting close to the trees (mostly birch, spruce & Scots pine); Having been reared on skis & skates, my Swedish husband sticks with downhill...I returned for a camera, but my trek was cut-short by my mother-in-law´s concern that I might meet up with a moose, a possibility that hasn´t created a problem before. Once, we did meet up with a female moose: she stayed by the fence and we walked parallel for about 20 minutes. What amazed me, having been raised on Bulwinkle, was her quizzical & gentle manner and her enormous size. I felt totally dwarfed & human.
When we return to the States, I will add images taken in the exquisite Northern light..


All the real snow seems to be in Chicago though there is white stuff covering the ground here. Tons before we arrived which melted and turned to ice the day we arrived. Sun out from 9 am to 3 pm. Fires mesmerize & food is heavily calorie laden. Swedes we´ve spoken to are happy about Obama.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Purple Grass: Pennisetum 'Prince'

Pennisetum purpureum 'Prince'

With today's temperature ranging between 4 & 12 degrees F,
nostalgia for warmer times beckons. Above, in October, see a cool new
grass that I plant to use as an annual in our zone 5. It was sent to trial by
Athens Select (which highlights plants that tolerate heat & humidity). Well,
I certainly put it though the ringer, but not as expected. My garden's all
shade (nasty overgrown still-full-of-leaves Bradford Pear on the city parkway),
dogs wander & pee at whim and I am in my clients' gardens...This new cultivar
is a zone 7 - 11 perennial and wants lots of sun. But even pushing it as much as I did,
I was delighted by both its firm architecture (purple stems to entice Karl Blossfeld)
and the way the leaves diffuse the light like stained glass. As long as I don't
expect it to be tall & bloom, I am very happy. And plan to use it again.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Rosa Jordan: Far From Botany Bay

Well, actually here is Rosa on the Malibu pier the
morning of the Earthways Board Meeting in early
November. Far From Botany Bay is the title of her
latest book, an inspiring historical novel, set in England,
Australia & Timor during the 18th C. True to form
(for Rosa), the protagonist, Mary Broad, is a woman of
amazing spirit and action: the only "convict" (her hanging
commuted to being sent to the penal colony for
stealing a cloak) to escape Australia. By boat. Don't
read this before bed or you will be up nights as the
dramatic plot compels page turning. But the real pay
off is in the character development towards the end of
the story. After suffering horrors and humiliations beyond
imagining, Mary has humanity enough for self-reflection.
A timely role-model as global collapse occurs daily. This
edition is a lovely object to hold (still important for a
reader like myself who loves the physicality of books)
published by the Canadian literary press: Oolichan Books.
What a perfect escape during these dark, winter months!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Last, My Favorite Springs

Natural & Artificial hybrids.

Springs Seasonal Touch

Rudolph the Recycled Reindeer.

Barrel cactus festooned with blue lights.

Springs Subtle Desert Palette

Seasonally low-light perfect for diffusing via plants.
Note groundcover below, under ocotillo, is recycled glass.

More Springs Preserve

Wind & Watering ideas.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sustainable Springs Preserve

Vegas is great because you can go to this new, nifty, green
And Springs Preserve is right in the city, en route to
Red Rock...more later. Solar parking etc. for now...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Minimal Holiday Porch Decorations

Traveling from Missouri to California

Laumeier Sculpture Park (St. Louis, MO)


Huntington Botanical Gardens (San Marino, CA)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hans Olsson: World Cup Winner!

With Hans coming in third and gracing the World Cup podium
at Lake Louise, we have much to celebrate!

Ronald Gonzalez: Arches

The full title of the sculpture at Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis:
"Birds Fly Through Us: Arches." Loaned by Ronald Gonzalez, the artist.
Done in 2000, incorporating birds' nests & seed. Mesmerizing, funereal
and indescribable really: go experience it yourself...hard to photograph
because of the marvelous way it diffuses and captures light. Skywide
dark gray clouds when I visited mid-November.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Niki de Saint Phalle & Birds Flying

The answer to my previous post is that the image was shot through the opening (bottom right) in the wonderful Niki de Saint Phalle sculpture pictured here. It's located in the environs of St. Louis at the Laumeier Sculpture Park (pronounced locally: "Low-My-Errr"). More on recent fun there later, but for now, here's a glimpse of my favorite piece in the park...and since "Birds" makes the title soar, though the sculpture is infinitely's appropriate for today's Holiday (if you are still eating birds after watching the latest Sarah Palin "Turkey Beheading" video on UTube).

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Having things to celebrate is a gift and if the glass is less than half full than we can at least be grateful for a full life.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Quess What It Is

A clue: environs of St. Louis last week. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Happy Landscape After

The happy news is:

1.) During the mid-September 8" rain "event" the new path did its thing. The client told me that during the rain, the water was up about a half inch. Then as soon as the rain stopped, the path had NO standing water.

2.) Now a solar house is starting to have a companion garden in sustainability. Stay tuned.

Landscaping as Archeology: The Dig

Isn't it interesting being at the end of a process? You get to problem solve (usually on what's left of the budget after everybody before has gone over it) all the things others left incomplete or wrong.

Here are two "Show & Tells." The one above captures how we dealt with the discovery of an existing driveway about four inches underground, beneath the turf grass installed by the previous landscape professional. The one below shows what we found (old foundation wall) when installing a permeable path that replaced a concrete one in Chicago. At this point we were at least a half story below grade (the alley).

Next post will show the happy after after, so to speak.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Designer Plant Combos: Scott Calhoun

Scott and I became acquainted in spring of '07 when he contacted me after reading a geeky quote of mine about Silphium in the AHS publication. He wanted a vertical plant combo for an upcoming HORTICULTURE article. After that first conversation it was clear we had many interests in common: not just hort & design, but literature (just how many poets are there anyway?), food and travel. Soon after our correspondence began, he was out in Chicago photographing for his recently released book: DESIGNER PLANT COMBOS: 105 Stunning Gardens Using Six Plants or Fewer. The book is wonderful & full of inspiring plants combos. More importantly, Scott's first rate photography and seeing in context, both literally and conceptually, means this book belongs in your library. Oh, did I mention it features vignettes from three J. Siegel Designs' gardens in the Chicago area?

Above see Scott in a professional the Ironwood National Monument outside Tucson.

Below is a wall in town we both zoomed in on as he showed me the sights.

If you go to my blog entries from March '08, you can see more details about the wildflower expedition Scott and I shared with fellow plant obsessives.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Native Plants Return to Wetland

At one of my client's on Martha's Vineyard, a group of landscape professionals has been working for several years to eradicate the invasive Phragmites from a fresh water pond and wetland. This fall I was thrilled to see that some of the native plants have begun to return. Pictured here are some Eupatorium, Carex and Hibiscus; I also spotted some Asclepias.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hurricanes, Amy Goodman & Landscape

So, what links these three subjects in the title? (By the way, Amy Goodman was released from jail. You can read more in current news updates.)

The failure of public education (some would say: by design) in our country often leads to a lack of critical debate. This being necessary to a well-informed populace re: elections (and much more). The recent extreme dominance of oil & gas bedfellows and political distortion of "reality" (slightly blown open by Hurricane Katrina) take a toll on science & critical thinking. This effects the general public when it comes to landscaping because their expectations have been so distorted by marketing, short-term gain and a lack of context in the world, not to mention a disconnect with the environment. So education is primary and a free press, yes, even during political conventions (says the Chicago native), is essential.

I have experienced my clients, friends & myself being effected by our interactions with landscape/nature and so I have hope.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Political Landscape: 1st Amendment Violation: Amy Goodment unlawfully arrested at RNC

Since I've posted entries about the kidnapping of an AFOPADI colleague in Guatemala, I think it's important to spread the news about the unlawful arrest of Amy Goodman in St. Paul, Minnesota. A free press is vital to our democracy.

Amy Goodman and Two Democracy Now! Producers Unlawfully Arrested At the RNC


September 1, 2008

Denis Moynihan 917-549-5000
Mike Burke 646-552-5107,

ST. PAUL, MN—Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman was unlawfully arrested in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota at approximately 5 p.m. local time. Police violently manhandled Goodman, yanking her arm, as they arrested her. Video of her arrest can be seen here:

Goodman was arrested while attempting to free two Democracy Now! producers who were being unlawfully detained. They are Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. Kouddous and Salazar were arrested while they carried out their journalistic duties in covering street demonstrations at the Republican National Convention. Goodman's crime appears to have been defending her colleagues and the freedom of the press.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher told Democracy Now! that Kouddous and Salazar were being arrested on suspicion of rioting. They are currently being held at the Ramsey County jail in St. Paul.

Democracy Now! is calling on all journalists and concerned citizens to call the office of Mayor Chris Coleman and the Ramsey County Jail and demand the immediate release of Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar. These calls can be directed to: Chris Rider from Mayor Coleman's office at 651-266-8535 and the Ramsey County Jail at 651-266-9350 (press extension 0).

Democracy Now! stands by Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar and condemns this action by Twin Cities law enforcement as a clear violation of the freedom of the press and the First Amendment rights of these journalists.

During the demonstration in which they were arrested law enforcement officers used pepper spray, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and excessive force. Several dozen others were also arrested during this action.

Amy Goodman is one of the most well-known and well-respected journalists in the United States. She has received journalism's top honors for her reporting and has a distinguished reputation of bravery and courage. The arrest of Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar is a transparent attempt to intimidate journalists from the nation's leading independent news outlet.

Democracy Now! is a nationally syndicated public TV and radio program that airs on over 700 radio and TV stations across the US and the globe.

Video of Amy Goodman's Arrest:

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Apologies to Universidad Popular

So, I got an interesting email after the Worldview interview where I had mentioned studying Spanish at Centro Latino in the early 80s. I called it a very progressive place and said it didn't exist anymore. Happily I have now been informed that it still exists thought the location has changed to South Lawndale and the name is Universidad Popular. Their website makes it still seem like an amazing community organization; I noticed literacy programs, a legal & financial clinic and a women's empowerment group. When I studied there, it embodied real hands-on learning. The method was so welcoming and fun that I incorporated a life-long love of Spanish: quite a shift after years in high school & college of miserable, intimidating french classes. Having never had the space to study it seriously, I am still an incorrect speaker, but I manage for several weeks up in the village where nobody speaks English. I am probably saved by the fact that Spanish is a second language for most of the villagers: their mother tongue is Mam.

Friday, August 29, 2008

WBEZ Worldview Podcast: Guatemala (28 August 2008)

If you wish to hear me speak about the Earthways/AFOPADI Reforesting & Organic Agriculture project in Guatemala on WBEZ's Worldview, click here. Look closely above...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Find the Dogs in the Garden...

A variation on "Where's Waldo", except here it's Mina & Muddy, enjoying a client's Chicago garden. Our client is not only a prolific gardener, but a stand-out cook as well. I sampled some of the luscious bounty from her veggie plot (that has spilled over into containers) while we talked about not only the virtues of growing your own veggies, but also books & dogs...both of ours are rescue pups (well, we see their hearts as eternally youthful). Hers is a Samoyed and ours a Norwich Terrier. Book? I am currently keeping company with MOUNTAINS BEYONDS MOUNTAINS by Tracy Kidder. It fleshes out the inspiring example of Dr. Paul Farmer, the MacArthur genius grant winner, who has altered the planet in terms of infectious diseases and his relentless activism for social justice.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Worldview Interview: 28 August 2008

This is the flower for Pericon tea, a good remedy for tummy aches. It was grown in one of the medicinal gardens in the AFOPADI reforesting & organic agriculture project up in Casaca, Guatemala. Yesterday, I talked about that group and the amazing things they are doing during my interview on WBEZ's Worldview. Jerome McDonnell proved to be even kinder and more curious in real life than he has seemed during the many years I have listened to this great show on the radio. The program will be broadcast Thursday 28 August at noon, 9 pm and on Podcast.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Radio Interview About Guatemala Project

Yippee! I get to talk on the radio about one of my favorite subjects: the Earthways/AFOPADI Organic Agriculture/Reforesting Project in Guatemala. On a great local NPR program: Worldview on WBEZ. While it's definitely on a Thursday at noon, they don't yet know whether it will be this Thursday, 21 August 2008, or next Thursday, 28 August 2008. Please join us on the air waves...and if you're interested in doing something with the project: please email me since I'm the project director for that Earthways program here in the States.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Evanston Arts Center: Landscape Art

While I am usually disappointed by landscape art, this place has consistently excellent installations!

Many messages in a bottle...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Anemone tomentosa 'Robustissima'

I most enjoy the blooms of many plants just before they open when they are mysterious with possibility.

Survival of the Fittest

Well, maybe not the car...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Allium 'Summer Beauty'

I love this plant! Why? It's has fabulous foliage (color & form) that greens up early. You can take it anywhere because it's so well-behaved (i.e. sterile so it doesn't seed about wantonly). The shape of the bloom floats gracefully above a contrasting leaf form and that pink holds its own surprising well. Plus it seems to have a sense of humor and not take itself so seriously.

Above see it at my mom's Indiana garden; below it holds court at a client's ranch near O'Hare.
Both stands of ornamental onions were planted a year ago....well, the rest of my mom's garden is established. And in the country which brings up another of allium's virtues: deer resistance.