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Several months ago I saw a notice on a Facebook page I follow of trolls at Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, not too far outside of Chicago. It was accompanied with a picture of one of the trolls..and I knew I had to go, I had to meet these trolls!

So we packed our bags and got on the highway toward Illinois…not as easy as it might sound with all the flooding along the river that divides Missouri from Illinois, that mighty and surging Mississippi.

I always tease about the flatness of the terrain in Illinois, but there is something comforting about driving through the comfortable Midwest of this great country we call home…

An arboretum is defined as an “outdoor museum of trees”. Morton Arboretum, dedicated to the conservation and study of trees, was established in 1922 by Joy Morton, founder of the Morton Salt Company.  He was from a family that loved the outdoors and especially trees. His father, J. Sterling Morton, was the force behind the creation of Arbor Day, and the family motto was “Plant Trees”.

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The acorn statue, several of which are found Arbor Court, symbolize the mission of the Arboretum, the study and conservation of trees. The White Oak is the state tree of Illinois.

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We had come to see the trolls, but first, as we walked around the lake, we saw the Lego creations on display at the Arboretum. They were amazing and were placed at intervals surrounding the lake.

And then it was time to go looking for trolls. The trolls are the creation of Thomas Dambo, a Danish artists who uses reclaimed wood to build amazing pieces of art. He has created six trolls for Morton Arboretum, his first large exhibit in the United States.

The trolls at the Arboretum are angry with humans who are more interested in getting rich than caring for the environment. They have come to tell us we need to stop destroying nature…or else! They are truly wonderful, and the most amazing thing about them is how very detailed they are. They are between fifteen and thirty feet tall, with one that is lying on the ground, ready to eat any human that comes along, measuring an amazing sixty feet.

We found all the trolls, and enjoyed walking and driving through the property while we “searched”.

My favorite troll was Niels Bragger. He is a big bragger and carries an even bigger club! Niels is found deep in a wood, and walking the 200 feet into his hiding place took us by large trees and beautiful woodland flowers. My favorite were the wild geraniums which were the biggest I had ever seen.

As we drove into Lisle, we saw our first troll high above the highway at the edge of the Arboretum. He is called Joe the Guardian, and he will be guarding all the trees at Morton throughout his stay until the end of the year. I climbed up to visit Joe, a muddy trip after all our rain…and I will not be wearing the snowy white tennis shoes I wore that day ever again!

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The largest troll is Little Arturs, who at sixty feet is anything but little! His mouth is wide open, so keep your distance!

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We saw Sneaky Socks Alexa, whose job it is to try and catch the little humans who are causing pollution and destroying nature’s trees.

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Furry Ema has a trap also, just waiting for anyone who bears ill will toward the tree under which he is sitting.

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And then there is Rocky Bardur who does not like the pollution caused by cars, and is really unhappy about the parking lot built at the Arboretum, a sanctuary for nature. I was personally happy to find a nice place to park our car, but I get his point.

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But there was more to this day than Legos and trolls. Morton Arboretum is a beautiful place with my favorite habitat, woodland. I took full advantage of walking many of the trails, breathing the woodland air, and enjoying the sights and the sounds of the woods. Enjoying a walk in the woods with my husband of almost fifty-one years, being in nature, seeking fantastic trolls…I just feel better. And I just leave the real world behind for a bit!

Thomas Dambo’s trolls will be on exhibit at the Arboretum through the end of the year, and is well worth an adventure into America’s Heartland.

I looked into the significance of each troll, and learned more about the artist at Thomas Dambo’s website.

Maid-Rite Hamburger Sandwiches

When I was a little girl, my mom used to fry hamburger with onions, a bit of salt and a dash of pepper. We would take slices of Wonder bread, put some of the loose hamburger on one half of the bread, then fold it over to make a sandwich. They were simple to make, they were cheap to make, and they made a perfect dinner for our family of six. Mom usually added a serving of corn or green beans that she and my grandparents had canned in the summer, and life was good. 

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Maid-Rite is a hamburger sandwich restaurant chain in the Midwest that makes a very similar sandwich and is very popular. It was founded by Fred Angell in Muscatine, Iowa, who opened his first Maid-Rite restaurant in 1926. It is one of Illinois’ iconic foods. There are as many variations as there are restaurants, but here is the way I like them…if I don’t just use my mom’s very simple version.

Maid-Rite, Right at Home

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 small onion, diced into very small pieces
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 1/2 c. low sodium beef broth
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • dash of pepper
  • 4 wheat hamburger buns


  1. Heat a skillet over medium high heat.
  2. Saute’ the ground beef and onion until the onion is translucent and the ground beef is browned. As the meat cooks, use a spatula to break the meat into small pieces.  Drain any fat that has gathered in the pan.
  3. Add the broth, salt and pepper.
  4. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  5. Divide the ground beef mixture between 4 toasted wheat buns. Add a slice of onion, ketchup, mustard, pickles, or anything else you would like. Or eat it as I sometimes still do…folded inside one slice of soft white bread!
  6. Enjoy!