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Let There Be Light: Christmas 2016

I shot this after the first big snow. Decorations not complete yet. The snow on the trees really caught the area lights.

I shot this after the first big snow December 4th. Decorations not complete yet. The snow on the trees really caught the area lights.

 

Ever since I was a child, Christmas lights have cast a magical spell over me. Mood, color, ambiance– combined to create a winter fantasy.

This year Michael and I decided to scale back on the interior decorating and focus primarily on the exterior of the house– since that is what the most people see.

With the unseasonable warm weather we had this year, I was able to work on outdoor projects longer– like repairing and painting stairs and porches, all the way in to November. The trees held their leaves much longer this year, postponing yard clean up as well. So, I didn’t really start decorating until the week after Thanksgiving.

The majority of the decorating took approximately 60 hours over two and a half weeks. I used over 900 feet of garland, 10 artificial trees, 65 bows, thousands of LED lights, 24 egg strobes and 10 laser projectors to complete the effect outside. Every year it’s a little different, depending on time, resources and whatever mood strikes me.

Inside, I didn’t put up any traditional, full-size trees but did decorate 12 ‘stick’ and tabletop trees (3 ft. to 9 ft. tall) along with some mantle and stair garland. In the windows I used 27 LED snowflakes, 28 sets of icicle lights and 36 battery operated candles. I experimented with LED ‘curtain lights’ in 6 windows in place of Christmas trees I’d used in the past.

 

321 Division St. on a beautiful sunny morning after a good snow.

321 Division St. on a beautiful sunny morning after a good snow.

 

Garland and bows decorate the fence around 321 Division Street.

Garland and bows decorate the fence around 321 Division Street.

 

The house before dusk.

The house before dusk.

 

321 Division Street just before sunset.

321 Division Street just before sunset.

 

Looking across the front yard at our spiral tree with the church in the background.

Looking across the front yard at our spiral tree with the church in the background.

 

Trees line both sides of the front driveway.

Trees line both sides of the front driveway.

 

On the hill behind our house.

On the hill behind our house.

 

One of two light & bead trees I created from scratch.

One of two light & bead trees I created from scratch.

 

321 Division from the street.

321 Division from the street.

 

Christmas at home.

Christmas at home.

 

Front porch fully decorated.

Front porch fully decorated.

 

The statue of Liberty on the front center porch.

The statue of Liberty on the front center porch.

 

The front parlor at 321 Division St.

The front parlor at 321 Division St.

 

In the dining room.

In the dining room.

 

The side of the house.

The side of the house.

 

The lights will be on display through at least New Years’ weekend.

Spring Has Sprung at 321 Division St.

Spring at home. The John Newman House built in 1889 also known locally as 'The Butterman Mansion'.

Spring at home. The John Newman House built in 1889 also known locally as ‘The Butterman Mansion’.

We’ve really been enjoying the many colors of spring. Every year the show is a little bit different so we never quite know what to expect. Blooming started a little earlier than some years and most of the more brilliant colors are gone; replaced now by the beautiful, rich green of new leaves and fresh grass.

Mulching, overseeding and spring clean up are done but there’s always more planting and weeding to do. Working on the yard is one of my favorite things to do in the spring and the fall. It’s great exercise too.

Here are some of the images I was able to catch over the past month.

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Christmas At Home: Pictures

Merry Christmas Everyone! Here are some pictures of our house decorated for the holidays. 321 Division Street is all lit up. A total of 34 trees lit this year, inside and out.

Our house shot from across the street.

Our house shot from across the street.

Daytime shot of the front porch.

Daytime shot of the front porch.

 

Our 'A Christmas Story' Leg Lamp in the window.

Our ‘A Christmas Story’ Leg Lamp in the window.

 

The Front Parlor.

The Front Parlor.

Tree in the Foyer.

Tree in the Foyer.

 

Our tree in the front yard with the church in the background.

Our tree in the front yard with the church in the background.

 

Front Porch at night.

Front Porch at night.

 

Dudley looking like the Grinch.

Dudley looking like the Grinch.

 

Christmas Snowflakes.

Christmas Snowflakes.

 

Cash, my old man.

Cash, my old man.

 

321 Division Street, Christmas 2015.

321 Division Street, Christmas 2015.

Belle- Wondering why she couldn't be Santa.

Belle- Wondering why she couldn’t be Santa.

 

Dudley and Cash were not amused by the head gear.

Dudley and Cash were not amused by the head gear.

 

The Christmas Day Full Cold Moon. First one since 1977.

The Christmas Day Full Cold Moon. First one since 1977.

merrychristmas

Wishing everyone the happiest of holidays and an extra special, peaceful New Year!

Beautiful Christmas: 321 Division Street – A Peek Inside

As promised, here are a few Christmas pictures inside our house. We’re currently celebrating the house’s 125th Anniversary.

I finally finished my Department 56 Christmas in the City village yesterday even though it was the first thing I started back in November. There are approximately 80 houses and 200 accessories.

I tried to include a variety of pictures featuring some of our 12 indoor trees.

A view of the man cave.

A view of the basement man cave.

A corner of our kitchen.

A corner of our kitchen.

The Foyer from the front door.

The Foyer from the front door.

The Department 56, Christmas in the City village.

The Department 56, Christmas in the City village.

Looking up at the Foyer Christmas Tree.

Looking up at the Foyer Christmas Tree.

The Foyer Christmas tree from the second floor.

The Foyer Christmas tree from the second floor.

The dining room, originally the second or family parlor.

The dining room, originally the second or family parlor.

The front parlor.

The front parlor.

The front parlor during the day.

The front parlor during the day.

Front Parlor- Night view.

Front Parlor- Night view.

Smaller Foyer tree by the front door.

Smaller Foyer tree by the front door.

Mercury Glass Ornaments in the front Parlor.

Mercury Glass Ornaments in the front Parlor.

Cherubs on the Foyer tree.

Cherubs on the Foyer tree.

Mantle decor.

Mantle decor.

 

Beautiful Christmas: 321 Division Street – A Look Outside

 

The front gate at 321 Division Street, December 2014.

The front gate at 321 Division Street, December 2014.

It’s the 125th Christmas here at 321 Division Street and no snow… yet. With Christmas only a few days away, I wanted to post some pictures to help you get in the holiday spirit.

Here’s what the house looks like on the outside, tomorrow I’ll share some pictures from the inside.

 

Just before sunset.

Just before sunset.

Front entrance before sunset.

Front entrance before sunset.

321 Division Street, from the front corner.

321 Division Street, from the front corner.

Christmas at 321 Division Street.

Christmas at 321 Division Street.

Wreath above the main entrance.

Wreath above the main entrance.

Garland and red bow drape the wrought iron fence surrounding the house.

Garland and red bow drape the wrought iron fence surrounding the house.

Colorful star in the side yard.

Colorful star in the side yard.

The porte cochere from the back.

The porte cochere from the back.

Trees in the yard form the front porch.

Trees in the yard from the front porch.

A view of the house from across the street.

A view of the house from across the street.

Color changing lollipops line the front walk.

Color changing lollipops line the front walk.

Trumpeting Angel.

Trumpeting Angel.

Window view.

Window view.

Large LED snowflake in the side window.

Large LED snowflake in the dining room window.

Glimpse inside from the porch.

Glimpse inside from the porch.

Front porch from the side.

Front porch from the side.

Under The Spreading Ginkgo Tree: 321 Division Street

Our Ginkgo tree at 321 Division Street.

Our Ginkgo tree at 321 Division Street.

One of the priceless gems of our property at 321 Division Street is our ancient Ginkgo tree. I know it’s definitely over 100 years old (based on an old picture) and would guess it’s actually between 110 and 130 years old. The modern Ginkgo tree is often called a living fossil, a descendent of the species dating back to the Early Jurassic period.

It is well known for its fan-shaped leaves that can be frequently found in ancient Chinese art.

In the fall, I’ve watched all the leaves drop from the tree in one day. When it happens that quickly, it’s a spectacular sight. The species is known to commonly drop all its leaves in 1 to 15 days.

This year, our tree is acquiring much more of the deep golden color leaves than usual. In recent years, we’ve had warmer weather leading up to a hard frost that causes most of the leaves to drop still green.

Ginko leaves turning their fall colors.

Ginkgo leaves turning their fall colors.

The Ginkgo, or Ginkgo biloba tree, grows tall before its branch stretch out wide. Our tree is somewhere around 70 feet tall. The Ginkgo is known to easily reach heights of over 100 feet.

Ginkgo trees are either male or female; the male producing cones with spores that are highly allergenic. The female produces ovules and once pollinated develop into silver green fruit that turn orange when they are ripe. There is a large nut in the center of the fleshy fruit. Ginkgo trees can reproduce asexually as well, which is evidenced by our tree. The nearest mature Ginkgo tree is a block away and is female. We believe it to be an offspring of our tree.

Clusters of Ginkgo fruit ripen on the tree.

Clusters of Ginkgo fruit ripen on the tree.

The biggest drawback about our tree is the fruit. Our Ginkgo produces large quantities (hundreds of pounds) of fruit each year, The fruit  is smaller than a walnut.) Though a few do drop throughout the fall, most remain on the branches long after all the leaves have dropped and we’ve had several good freezes.

The fleshy fruit contain butyric acid, that when ripe and fallen, have a foul smell like vomit. On an unseasonably warm day, this smell can be detected over a block away. This odor only lasts a few days but because the fruit usually drop so late, we often have fruit under fallen snow and have to deal the the smell briefly in the spring as well.

Once established, the Ginkgo tree is quite hardy and resistant to disease and pollution. They do not survive (tolerate) shade though. An interesting fact I found was that six Ginkgo trees survived the Hiroshima atomic bomb (1945) when most every other living thing perished.

Our own tree sustained substantial damage as the result of  bad hail storm a number of years ago, losing nearly a quarter of its branches. We had an arborist come and prune the damaged wood and the tree remains healthy. He also researched and believes it to be one of the three largest Ginkgo trees in Illinois.

Ginkgo and Ginkgo Suppliment Health Warnings

In some cultures, Ginkgo is used in cooking or as a featured ingredient or dessert.

Several years ago, it was one of the most widely-popular dietary supplements on the market. Ginkgo biloba was sold to millions, promising great memory enhancement among other things. In fact, this is completely false. Though a few smaller studies reportedly show benefits in dementia and Alzheimer patients, most studies show no slowing or improvement with consumption. There have been no proven beneficial uses for Ginkgo in other touted areas either, such as lowering blood pressure .

There are also many dangers to ingestion and regular Ginkgo use in some people. Many people are highly allergic. Ginkgo has been studied and shown to be detrimental to some people’s health. Specifically, taking Ginkgo supplements can be harmful to people with blood circulation problems, pregnant women and people taking antidepressants.

Ginkgo can cause bleeding, gas, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness and heart palpitations.

In addition, the over consumption of the seed (meat) can cause poisoning and convulsions. Some people are allergic to just handling the fleshy fruit, much like poison ivy.

So as a general warning, never start a regiment of dietary supplements without investigating them first. Most of the advertised new wonder drugs are marketing scams claiming unproven scientific results. Read the labels, ask your doctor and research online before taking a risk.

Our 100+ year old Ginkgo Tree at 321 Division Street in the fall.

Our 100+ year old Ginkgo Tree at 321 Division Street in the fall.

Autumn At 321 Division Street

Autumn Leaves.

Autumn Leaves.

Crisp morning air, full of the scent of falling oak leaves…

Fall is finally here! My favorite season. Surprisingly, there is an abundance of color– in spite of the short summer we experienced this year. With an unseasonably cool August, many of our Maple trees dropped the majority of their leaves more than a month earlier than usual without changing color. Temperature, rainfall and a whole slew of other factors can affect the amount and timing of fall color and nature is putting on quite a show.

We’re pretty much at our color peak right now, here in Elgin. How long it will last, will again, depend on a number of factors– but might hang around a little longer than usual is we don’t experience any extreme weather changes.

To top off this autumn color display, we had a great viewing opportunity, October 8th, of a lunar eclipse. I’ve seen many over the years and this one was unique from my past viewing experiences; with the full eclipse occurring at 5:30 am, fading into the dawn.

Enjoy it while you can. The snow will be here before you know it!

Virginia Creeper turning crimson.

Virginia Creeper turning crimson.

Autumn color at 321 Division Street.

Autumn color at 321 Division Street.

Porch view.

Side Porch view.

Color by our 120+ yr. old Ginkgo tree.

Fall color surrounds our 120+ yr. old Ginkgo tree.

Blazing color of our Burning Bush after the rain.

Blazing color of our Burning Bush after the rain.

Fall at 321 Division Street.

Fall at 321 Division Street.

Lunar Eclipse, October 8th, 2014.

Lunar Eclipse, October 8th, 2014.

Lunar Eclipse Over Elgin, at dawn. October 8th, 2014.

Lunar Eclipse Over Elgin, at dawn. October 8th, 2014.

Brilliant colors of Autumn.

Brilliant colors of Autumn.

My forest angle of the 321 Division Street

My forest angle of the 321 Division Street

Autumn at 321 Division Street. 125 years old.

Autumn at 321 Division Street. 125 years old.