How To: Grow a Garden in the City

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Filed under Life and News

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Thank you to the genius of Daniel H. Burnham, creator of the famous Chicago Plan of 1900, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies von der Rohe, Helmut Jahn and several others, Chicago is a living museum of architecture. But the city that gave the world its first skyscraper didn’t leave much room for a garden.

One of the greatest things about spring and summer is the return of green plants. Just because you live in a yard-less box hardly means you should have to give up the joys of gardening though. So here are some ideas for your own Chicago garden.

1. Choose where your garden will be. If you are one of the lucky cats who has even a tiny plot to farm on, start there. The elements can give you a hand caring for your garden, especially if you want to exert minimal effort on your part. If you have not land around you, look into community gardens. The Chicago Park District website offers an extensive list of over 40 community gardens in the city. Community Gardeners “take initiative and responsibility for the community garden and in effect, the park as a whole,” according to the website. Lastly, you can always go the container route, and use window boxes or clay planters. These can be placed IN or OUT. Extra green bonus: use ‘found’ containers for your indoor garden, such as coffee cans, glass jars, or ceramic serving dishes. Container gardening websites can help with supplies and other tips.

2. Pick your plants. Herbs, flowers and vegetables can all thrive in a city setting. Herb gardens can be bought ready to plant in many different kits that are pre-packaged and come with simple directions and containers. A quick google search brought up kits of grow your own salsa mix and or indoor medicinal herbs. Planting annual flowers can be done with seeds or started plants from most garden shops. Best choices for the city: Zinnias (the more you cut–the more they grow), Snapdragons (tolerate neglect well and like both sun and shade), and Sunflowers because they can be grow small in a container or large outside. If you want veggies, try a hanging tomato planter. These can also pull double duty and grow eggplant, peppers, and more.

3. Take care. Check out how much light and water your new garden needs. Each plant or seed packet should come with instructions–follow them. A garden of brown rotting plants isn’t going to spread any cheer. Also check for pests on certain plants and read up on prevention and care. I really like the book “Urban Eden: Grow Delicious Fruit, Vegetables and Herbs in a Really Small Space” because it’s full of pictures that can help give you lots of ideas.

Get out there, green thumbs.

Drew Peterson Bond: 20 Mil

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Major creep and ex-Illinois cop, Drew Peterson, has his bond set at $20 million dollars following his indictment for the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, who was initially ruled to have died accidentally. The death was re-investigated following the mysterious disappearance of Peterson’s most recent wife, 23 year-old Stacy Peterson.

This case has drawn much national media attention. The families of both Stacy Peterson and Kathleen Savio had publicly spoken out about their belief in Drew Peterson’s involvement in the murder of both women. In both cases, circumstantial evidence pointed to the 55 year-old Peterson, but lack of hard evidence prevented any arrest until now.

Peterson appeared before Will County Circuit Court Judge Richard C. Schoenstedt about 1:30 p.m. today for an arraignment hearing, which was postponed until May 18 because Peterson’s attorneys weren’t present–one, Joel Brodsky, was in New York earlier in the day making appearances on network news programs.

This case should be interesting to follow for a couple reasons. First off, there is no way that this guy isn’t going to be found guilty. I really do think he killed his third wife, and I’m happy they have decided to try him for it. But what Drew Peterson is really going to be found guilty of is the death of Stacy Peterson. Despite Stacy’s body never being recovered, he has been guilty in the court of public opinion since this story initially broke. Stacy Peterson’s sister was at Peterson’s court appearance and told Chicago Tribune reporters, “It made me feel good to see him chained up like the dog that he is.” I would have to say that I agree.

Swine Flu in Chicago?

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Filed under Life and News

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A probable case of swine flu has caused the closing of a North Side elementary school for at least two days. So naturally, people are freaking out over swine flu. How serious is it?

The potential case involves a 12 year old student at Kilmer Elementary School, 6700 N. Greenview Ave., in the Rogers Park neighborhood, Chicago Public Schools chief Ron Huberman said at a morning press conference at the school. Chicago Public Health Commissioner Terry Mason said the student “is recovered at home.”

Huberman said tests on the student have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and he expects results back in 24 to 36 hours.

The decision to close the school was made Tuesday after the state reported the probable case to CPS and the system noticed an unusually high absentee rate at the school.

Attendance at the school is normally 94 to 96 percent, but it was 87 percent on Tuesday, Huberman said. That was “clearly enough of a differential” to warrant the closing. He said the school would be closed “indefinitely,” but at least for two days.

The Kilmer student population of 850 is 60 percent Hispanic. It has a teaching staff of 46. The school is also in a heavily Hispanic populated area of the Rogers Park neighborhood. The swine flu has taken its heaviest toll in Mexico.

A few parents tried to bring their children to Kilmer this morning but were turned away by teachers handing out a flyer, in English and Spanish, from Huberman, saying there had been a “confirmed” case of swine flu at the school. CPS spokeswoman Monique Bond, however, said the case remained probable and had not yet been confirmed.

Huberman said school officials will be checking attendance rates at all its other schools today, and should know by this afternoon whether there are any other troubling drops in attendance.

The first United States death from swine flu was confirmed today — a 23-month-old in Texas.

Officials in Chicago recommended people take cautionary measures: lots of hand washing, eating healthy, plenty of sleep.

Do we need to worry? It seems as though this happens about everyother year, and always has a strange animal name. Remember Asian bird flu? We were all supposed to die from that too.

Flu deaths around the world are common. In the U.S. alone, 36,000 people die from flu-related causes. This just seems like another virus that could harm already unhealthy people, but yet everyone gets panicky about.

Green Roof Leaders

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I have to say, occaisonally I am surprised by good news about Chicago. Maybe because it is Earth Day I was mulling around on “green” websites or because the weather is getting warmer; but I was digging into how “green” Chicago is and was surprised to find out we are the nations leaders three years in a row on green roofs.

A green roof system is, according to greenroofs.org, “an extension of the existing roof which involves a high quality water proofing and root repellant system, a drainage system, filter cloth, a lightweight growing medium and plants.”  Green roof systems may be modular, with drainage layers, filter cloth, growing media and plants already prepared in movable, interlocking grids, or, each component of the system may be installed separately.Green roof development involves the creation of “contained” green space on top of a human-made structure. This green space could be below, at or above grade, but in all cases the plants are not planted in the “ground’.

Green roofs absorb rainwater, alleviating the strain on urban sewer and stormwater systems. And they help cool cities, where light-absorbent asphalt and other dark surfaces can increase summer temperatures as much as 10 degrees. A cooler local climate means less strain on the power supply from air conditioners, and more importantly, fewer deaths from heat stress.

Chicago requires green roofs on certain new construction, including any that uses city money, it encourages building them on all projects, and it has offered grants to homeowners and small business owners who want to install green roofs on their own buildings. “Chicago is definitely the leader and inspiration for others,” said Steven Peck, the founding president of Green Roofs for Health Cities, an industry group. Peck credits the city with inspiring a 25 percent increase in green roof installation across the country last year, as more cities set similar incentives for building gardens.

Something else you might not know: even City Hall has a green roof. Huh. I say, “Way to go, Chicago!” On this one!

No Reality Show for Blago

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Fame-whore and general fucktard Rod Blagojevich won’t be getting the chance to shine on reality TV with all the other fame-whore’s and fucktards. The ex-politico had requested special travel adjustments in order to appear on the show I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! Past celebrities include Brian Paddick, Simon Webbe, Joe Swash, Robert Kilroy-Silk, Dani Behr, Carly Zucker, Nicola McLean and Esther Rantzen…I don’t know any one of those people.

Blago was shut down by Judge James Zagel, who stated, “I do not have confidence that things will not go astray if I modify bond conditions.” The judge also continued on about Blago not seeming to understand the seriousness of his legal situation, and the whole hoopla being a “bad idea.”  Imagine that.

NBC released a statement saying, “NBC is disappointed in the court’s decision today regarding Rod Blagojevich’s participation on I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! but excited about the casting announcement for the show this Friday. There are no plans to move the show to a location in the United States.”

Blago was just trying to hustle and make last minute dough, apparently. Before entering the hearing on Tuesday, Blagojevich told reporters that appearing on the reality show was “a way to earn a living and support my children,” according to the Tribune. “It’s not my first choice, but it’s a living.”

Blago could have made as much as $125,00 from doing 12 episodes of the Survivor type show.

I am glad to see that this “celebrity” isn’t getting the special treatment instead of the justice that so often alludes “celebrities.” Blago is a true criminal and needs to be prosecuted so. I still think Winona Ryder got the shaft in her shoplifting scandal, though, for the record.

Chicago , the 2016 Olympics, and the other “O”

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Filed under Events, Life and News

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Although it seems forever away, Chicago recently hosted 13 inspectors from the International Olympic Committee to make assessments of the proposed Olympic plans. The Olympic bid comes at a time when Chicago has had some positive strides: beating out San Fran and LA for the bid (among others), President Obama’s big win; but also some bad press in state government (Blogo), debt. President Obama sent a special taped message to the inspectors and Oprah Winfrey even dined with them.

It has been suggested that Oprah has powers that run on par with super heroes. Mind control, etc., and now that we know what side Oprah is on and all the power players are in motion and fanfare on display, Chicago might seem to really have a shot at this.

1. But is it all enough? 2. And do we really know what we are asking for?

Question 1: No, it isn’t enough. Although the review was positive, “We are leaving with a very strong impression that the bid is a strong one,” said the evaluation commission’s chairwoman, Nawal el-Moutawakel, an Olympic gold medalist for Morocco. Chicago is still placed in last, Tokyo at number 1, according to independent Canada based website GamesBids.com. The biggest obstacle in Chicago’s way is…(drum roll)…finances. Chicago is the only city that is unable to give 100% financial guarantees.

Question 2: No, we don’t know what we are asking for. Chicago simply cannot afford this event. And with the crippled CTA serving the broke city, I don’t see how we can handle it. Selling off public assets (Midway, parking meters) hasn’t helped the situation either. Chicago has a rich history of coming in over budget and late. The city keeps talking about all the jobs this opportunity could create, but those jobs will go away after the games, obviously. And has anyone ever been to the shell of an old Olympic village? Quickly constructed, low cost buildings don’t age well. Chicago certainly has experience in that department.

There is such romanticism surrounding the Olympics that it is hard to look beyond the flaming torches to see the flaming tax dollars. My bottom line is this: we can’t compete financially with the other cities, and even if we could, we are too broke to go throwing a big party for everyone when we really don’t have anything to celebrate.

I am Not Going: Free Champagne and Fancy Doughnuts at Barney’s

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I am on some pretty weird email lists as a by-product for essentially spending too much time on the internet. I get recipes for meatless black bean burgers, Pakistani chain mail, and 5% off coupons on suede jackets ALL the time. But certain email lists really are fruitful; one such details where all the city’s free and cheap booze is at. You can imagine my shock to read the free booze was at Barney’s tomorrow from 10 am – 7pm.

A little background on my relationship with the high-end goods dealer: the only thing I actually own from Barney’s is a $600 dress I got at a thrift store; The White Elephant in Lincoln Park. And I know it was $600 because the tag was still on it. The dress fits like a $600 red satin blend dress should–it hugs every curve– and my friend once told me I looked “like sin in that dress.” That’s how good this dress is. It is immaculate. More on looking sinful next time…

Despite loving my red dress, I have only been in Barney’s once. I have this bizarre fear that the staff has a sixth sense that enables them to know there is only $17 in my purse. Armed with this information, they will radio the other staff and security, who will then rally the richest patrons around me as they form a circle and throw spiked Manolo Blahniks at me for daring to enter their den of luxury.

I know I really can’t shop there. I want to–badly, but the old budget won’t budge on this one. Designer goods in my world are hand-me downs from rich friends and scores at thrift stores (see above) but never ‘paid full price in fancy store place’ items. And I just feel like more of a piece of shit broke ass when I can’t buy the cotton socks, yep, cotton, because they are $40 and I’m half short of funds.

So here is the quandary: Can one reasonably get loaded on champagne and desserts without ever having the intention of buying the goods?

James Beard award nominated pastry chef Mindy Segal will serving up the brioche doughnuts and no word on how many glasses of bubbly one can tip back before aforementioned mob encircles.

If  Barney’s wants to us to help celebrate the reopening of the Chicago store, then maybe we should. I was ‘technically’ invited…

Barney’s New York, 15 E Oak St.

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