Wednesday, May 06, 2015

(Keep Feeling) Fasciation

I remember seeing some seriously messed-up-by-Mother-Nature mutant dandelions when I was a kid, sometimes they looked like 15 stems melted together, sometimes just one giant tube. Although, I'm sure I saw them all the time because I took the time to study dandelions like it was my job when I was 6. Now that I've grown up (physically and not mentally) and actually made it my job, I see these super-sized dandelions less often (again, because I spend less time looking) but I've learned that the correct term for them is "fasciated" or "fasciation". I saw one in my yard today:

In recent years, as Aster Yellows had become a "thing" in my garden (and most of the Midwest if not everywhere) I have wondered if fasciation and Aster Yellows were in cahoots, since dandelions are certainly in the Aster family. It seems they are not related. Not all mutants are related, I guess.

Did you know some plants are bred for their tendencies to fasciate? It's true! Think of Cockscomb Celosia, or my favorite, Fantail Willow, which I'm working on rooting right now and I'll blog about it later.

So, the word of the day is FASCIATION. Just like "Fascination" but without the "n".

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Hey Girl: Spring Clean Up Edition

For the record, I only make these because you like them.
If it were up to me, it'd be Ewan McGregor.
I hardly know who Ryan Gosling is. Go figure!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Things That Are Going DOWN

1. All of a sudden, spring is here. The snow is melting and I should be able to actually SEE my garden by the end of the day. It hasn't been accessible in a loooooong time. It's either been too cold or required a snowsuit. I don't play that shizz.

2. I've opened a vintage shop at after some soul searching. It has been a great process so far but now my house is filled with vintage crap, everywhere. I'm not embarrassed to say that Hazel's old pack n play is in the living room and filled with clothing to photograph and measure. Soon I'll have plants and planters available, I just needed to be sure they wouldn't freeze in transit!

3. Speaking at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show next week and the Morton Arboretum the week after. If you don't show up, I'll die.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Hey Valentine!

I have a soft spot for Valentine's day, even though I'm far from romantic. So I made these for you. Cut, sign and distribute as needed.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Beauty of The Armpit Garden

This house came only with a very small back garden. It’s oddly situated, tucked around the back of the house, where none of my neighbors can see it but I get great views from inside the house. Because the whole garden is tucked in a nook a) it’s my “armpit garden” b) it’s also got great protection and serves as a pretty bitchin’ microclimate.

But the best part is that this garden is for no one but me. It’s mostly dark and moody- the dream garden of my inner 19 year old. Dark dahlias and way too much bronze fennel, Redbor kale is bolting all over town, towering like Godzilla, Borage is dripping here and there like spilled molasses and I seriously don’t even know why I have spared those gladiolas so long. I’ve already told you about the mannequin (why doesn’t she have a name already??) But you know what? It doesn’t matter. There’s no pressure to please, no need to weed unless I feel like it.

I feel this is an ultimate luxury.

A city building inspector came by to answer some questions about a shed. I jokingly asked if I needed a permit for the mannequin because he was STARING. He said he was surprised the neighbors hadn’t complained and then started to take in the siting genius that is the Armpit Garden, he realized you can’t complain about something you can’t see and gave up.


If you can pull it off, get yourself an armpit garden. Man, there’s just something DEEP about it. At this point in my life, so few things are just about me. My armpit sure is.
and yes, that IS a potty chair in the grass....

Monday, December 22, 2014

Kiss My Christmas!

 It's like I've been in active avoidance of the date, which is December 22nd. I set up an advent tree for Hazel so that we could both keep track of how many days were left until Christmas but I still couldn't grasp it, even with the visual. Between me and you, I even set up the tree 3 days late.

I made a few wreaths, including a 24" one made from clippings from a Yew that grows outside my front door. It was easy to work with and looks fine... it just doesn't smell like an evergreen. In fact, it smells a bit like a aloe plant that's beginning to rot out.
I chose a different route in embellishing it. As usual.

At my front door, I couldn't really find greens I was into so I just went and cut some out of my Mom's yard. I topped them with bowling balls and called it a day. There's some sort of weird wind tunnel action in that area and there are just ALWAYS leaves by the door, as well as inside in our hallway, and I just don't even see them anymore.

I have 2 more areas still under construction but rain/and or glitter is keeping me back.
Lemme know what you think....

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

A Little Bit Potting, A Little Bit Party: Reuse THIS!

I've tried a lot of potting benches and I've also tried to be the kind of person that doesn't need a potting bench. I mean, what a luxury piece of furniture! Are potting benches in the same league as bidets? I really do like them. Potting benches, not bidets.
So I really needed one and after looking around I realized there wasn't anything I wanted, specifically.

And then Dan found this:
It's a really old concrete laundry sink he found on Craigslist for nothing. I think he hurt himself in many ways getting it to me. I have a slice of old crappy melamine that covers the top, this is my work surface. I sometimes use a piece of oilcloth, weighted down with tons of clothespins to keep it from blowing away, as a beautifier. You know, for parties and hoedowns.
Oilcloth doesn't like cold weather it gets wrinkly and stiff. I meant to blog this a few weeks ago but it was actually COLDER then than it is now. Yeah, I waited until December when it was warmer...
Chicago is so weird.
When I'm not having a party, the old girl just looks like this....

and then when I'm using it...
I can keep bulk soil in here in potting season but I dwindle down to a small bag some time in fall. Dan bought plugs so I can rinse them out if I want.

But wait, isn't a TWO compartment sink???
The other side, just slid the melamine back...
We can fill it with ice and beer* and have a party! The cement does a great job at keeping drinks cool in summer even without ice and the beer hasn't frozen yet, either. I think it has some seriously magical properties.

Sometimes, especially on Pinterest, there are so many suggestions that no one is every going to think is a good idea and I'm afraid this is one of them. This works SO WELL for me but might look stupid or not work for anyone else, And then there's the hazard of getting a sink that weighs a ton into your yard.
What do you think?

(This is not my selection of beer, it's left over from the wedding and we are trying to pawn it off on... anybody. I am a fancy beer drinker, if at all.)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Dug up my Dahlias Today

I don't know about this batch of dahlias. I don't have a good place to store them (my garage is too cold, Ryan, but thanks for the offer!) and they are so cheap to just BUY new ones every spring. PLUS I get to choose new ones instead of the same ol' Dahlias I've known since, like, forever.

Hrrrmmph. They are dug and drying and... we'll see. Maybe I can find a good spot for them.

Also, this happened and I'm too lazy to type it again.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Celluloid Heroes: Vintage Cupcake Toppers for Your Terrariums

Now that the weather is turning evil, I want to blog about junk you can get for next-to-nothing that can be used in your garden. I want to do this regularly, like, weekly. But let's not rush into anything. The first thing I'll drivel on about is kicking up a terrarium a notch using vintage cupcake toppers.
Some of my hoard

It's that time of year where I become interested in terrariums, again. And for me, a terrarium can't just be plants. Nope, it's gotta have some sort of crap decor in there, too, to make it interesting. I do terrariums just like I do gardens, so bring on the weensy plastic bowling balls, vintage junk and microglitter. Or you could just use some old cupcake toppers. They were once the star of the party and now they have been in the back of a junk drawer for 40 years. Why not upcycle these cool cats (and clowns and bridesmaids), get them back out into the light of day and improve that boring ol' terrarium at the same time?
Silver ballerina may or may not have all of her limbs

I often find rad vintage cupcake toppers at garage sales and thrift stores that were practically MADE to be stuck in a terrarium, except they were made to go in cake and and not dirt. Their cake-grabbing spikes adapt to living inside a terrarium perfectly. Often made of plastic or fabulous celluloid, skip the paper, cotton, pipe cleaner or fabric ones. They won't hold up to the moisture in that t'rium of yours.

Yeah, I just shortened "terrarium" to "t'rium" and I expect it to become common jargon for the whole planet, tout de suit.

Here is an Etsy Treausury of a few cupcake topper options I really like. 


  • Make bitchin' baby shower favors by making tiny terrariums out of old baby food jars with these creepy babies in them. I feel like that could be accurately passive-agressive for a lot of new moms. 
  • Ball jars are hot, right? For that DIY wedding, why not terrariums in Ball jars with these happy couples in them?  Also passive-agressive?
  • I love making terrarium Christmas ornaments out of snap-together clear plastic globes that are available at the craft store. Why not squeeze one of these terrifying Santa heads up in that thing?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Hey Girl: WINTER IS COMING Edition

Halloween: As Good As It Gets

Halloween used to be my THANG and now it's starting to strike a little fear in my heart and not in a horror movie kind of way. I used to have Halloween stuff up all year, as I was very much an Every Day is Halloween , a whiff of Wicca, Hey-I-want-to-dress-like-Stevie-Nicks, too-happy-to-be-Goth sort of 20 & 30 something. Now I'm 40 and stuffing candy-free, nut-sensitive treat bags and making sure my kid's costume is warm enough and her shoes match her costume. 
I still live in a house full of costumes of all sizes (including a certain "one size fits all" bunny costume that doesn't fit ME) and I still love Halloween in my heart. But shit. This is a helluva lot of work. I had more planned that I didn't achieve, but hey, there's always next year, right?

I'm not sure why people rush to put out the Halloween spooktacular on October 1st. By the 31st it's lost all the scariness. I wait until the last minute, which suits my personal timeline anyways, and set it up while the little nugget is in school and I know that there's a "Christmas morning" effect.  Since she is most likely my only trick or treater, that's really all that matters. 

Things of note: 

I cut some branches off a maple that was EN FUEGO with fall color a few weeks ago and stuck it in a container filled with wet sand and it has had really great staying power. I recommend it!

Loved using this thrift store found tennis-ball-picker-upper for gourds, too. I mean.... What the hell else am I going to use it for?

I added the eyes

 I woke up to snow and said "oh shit" to which the sleeping toddler in my arms said "Mommy, why you say 'Oh shit'?" I could have sworn she was sleeping! Anyways, she was pretty much lulled back to sleep by my explanation of falling temperatures, frost and tender plants. The Dahlias all got cut and stuck in vases. Good thing my garden is in very Halloween colors.
Dan was temporarily in a vintage-Halloween-collecting-stage. This is the proof.

'Twilight Zone' rose is the appropriate star of the show!

Hazel's favorite part! This kid adores RATS!

Here's hoping my little Spider Girl likes it!

 You guys know you can follow me on Instagram, right? @KissMyAster! Lots more pictures to see! And I'll totes follow you back unless you have a private account!

Monday, October 06, 2014

The KMA Method of Bulb Planting

To begin with, I've always thought people that plant their bulbs in September to be goody-goodies and people I would probably not like very much (or would like me!). Perhaps these are people that do not live life by the seat of their yoga pants? I have a sound method for planting large masses of bulbs in my garden that relies on hardcore laziness/practicality that I feel the need to pass on to you. 

I also urgently want you to know that you DESERVE bulbs, lots of them. If I hadn't had a few hundred in my garden this incredibly fashionably-late spring, I would have gone totally off the deep end. Starved for color and blooms, as I was, after such a frustrating winter. It is perennially my garden resolution to plant more bulbs and I'm a little fired up to make it happen this year. Who knows if I will, though. Because, you know, Gilmore Girls is on Netflix and all. 

So here's the method:

1. Buy bulbs, generously. You'll never have too many. I was lucky to have some sent to me by Longfield Gardens. They have a gorgeous selection and it's WAY easier to plan when buying on-line than standing at a garden center, piecing a a master design together. Treat yo'self. Have bulbs sent to your front door and then once you have them, plant them at your convenience. 
2. Wait for stuff in your garden to kick the bucket. Namely, your vegetables, annuals and dahlias. Rip that stuff out and toss it in the compost. 
3. Toss all those bulbs you bought in one big box. Grab a mixed up handful and throw them in the newly vacant hole. Throw some great soil or delicious compost on top and call it a day. Don't stress them being spaced perfectly or them being all facing up. Dudes, if a squirrel can plant a tulip, you can too. They will grow with only this help from you. Trust.

When did I end up planting bulbs last year? Late. It was early November. And later than that? I did it in the dark, skipping dinner to get it done. It didn't take long once I got it going but, whoa. Late. But I've planted bulbs as late a March before. And it worked!

I took some hilarious photos of me planting bulbs in the dark last fall but I can't find them. I imagine they were too dark to matter,anyways. Here are a few photos of the actual bulbs as they came up in the spring. 

A kicking mix of 'Flaming Purissima' and 'Queen of Night' with a dollop of muscari really made the best of my scads of Bleeding Heart and Heucheras. I'd do it again, in fact, I'm planning it now. My dahlias are still tall and strong so I'll sit on the sidelines until it's time!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Check Out My Crust (Not a foodie)

I'm not gonna GOOP you. I'm all about short cuts or lazing out entirely and getting a take-out most nights. But this time of year, when the tomatoes are rolling in the door VOLUNTARILY, I make a lot of pizza. Yeah, from scratch (except the sauce. And I don't make the cheese, either. Just the crust, I guess...)

The secret to good home-made pizza is a pizza stone and about $3 worth of sauce and cheese. It's easy, sort of fast and makes a lot of food. This set-up I'll be talking about makes a 2 pizza-stone sized pizzas and one tiny one for Hazel. Pizza stones are at Target for about $20 and you absolutely need one. Other things you need? Flour, yeast, canned pizza sauce (I like Del Alpe) and real mozzarella cheese. OR you can just make this crust and go the tomato and olive oil route and skip the cheese and sauce entirely. Make it all about the tomatoes, I wouldn't blame you.

1. Pull the KitchenAid out of the corner, add one package of yeast, a pinch of sugar and one cup of hot water. Walk away for 10 minutes. Come back and add flour, KitchenAid on, until it becomes dough. It'a about 4 cups usually but it varies like CRAYZAY due to weather and PMS. Set it in a warm place for a  whole flipping hour.
2. Preheat that pizza stone for that whole hour at 475. It's gonna make it hot in your house so have a few beers.
3. Slice your tomatoes and salt them. You have to salt them or they have too much liquid and will slide off your pizza and burn a hole in your foot. Occasionally you should smile at them and drain the liquid from them, just like I do for Hazel. Sometimes I just throw them in a colander with some salt and let it all just work itself out.
4. After an hour, divvy out your dough and roll one out. I just take a large handful and hit it up with a rolling pin on my well-floured* countertop. Remember you just need to make that sucker the size of the pizza stone. Any bigger is asking for the smoke detector to freak out the dog.

5. Pull off some hunks of cheese and open that can of sauce
6. Open the oven and singe off your eyebrows. Throw that dough up on the stone and dress your 'za while continuing to singe your eyebrows. Sauce, cheese and tomatoes.
7. Close it up and keep an eye on it. Should be about 12 minutes. Use your time to run out to the garden and grab an ass-load of fresh basil. Chop that up.
8. Pull your first pizza out with a fork onto a large dinner plate. Don't even attempt to cut it until it has cooled and solidified a little. The add that basil.
9. Throw your second pizza on.

*I recently ran out of flour to roll out the pizzas on. Interestingly, I just didn't have enough to roll out Dan's pizza and I'd already finished my pizza and Hazel's. So I used a 3 year old package of Cafe Du Monde beignet mix and he never noticed.

Monday, August 25, 2014

One for the road

Working Towards the Wedding

For the first time in weeks, it's quiet around here. The kid is in school and it's too hot to dig, build, mulch, power wash, prune, burn or chop anything down. As my Dad says, "we're polishing a turd over here", but I think it's a lovely and worthy turd.
My sister is getting married in THIS TURD!
So here I am at my desk, dealing with months' old speaking contracts and changing all my Visa card numbers on all my subscriptions and Amazon because I lost my card someplace in the yard and I don't even have time to look for it.

So, about 3 days a week I've been hurling myself at wedding prep, efficiently, says my Polar Loop. Then 2 days a week, Hazel and I kick summer's ass by draining every last drop of fun out of it.  Then, on the weekends we amp it up and do everything you can think of, as long as it's fun.
One of those things was a super impromptu trip to the Wisconsin Dells, where we rode the Ducks, fed some deer and then got the hell out of that soul sucking nightmare.
Then on the way home, we visted Dr. Evermor's Forevertron. It was the best thing I've ever seen in my life. Here are a zillion photos: