Tag Archives: Lisa Albrecht

Walking the garden walk(s)

July 14, 2013

If it’s July, it must be time for Chicago’s garden walks:
Sheffield Garden Walk and Music Festival…

My friend and former Chicago Gardener of the Year Laury Lewis is back in the studio to answer gardening questions but primarily to promote the 45th year of the Sheffield Garden Walk and Music Festival, Chicago’s best garden party of the year.

A $7 suggested donation gets you in–$10 after 3pm. What separates this garden walk from others is the full range of activities that are part of the event. In fact, even though there are more than 90 gardens to view, I would guess that most people think about the music when they talk about this weekend. So let’s get right to the lineup for July 20 and 21:

July 20
6:00 pm – Gaelic Storm
3:45 pm – Carbon Leaf
2:30 pm – Archie Powell & The Exports
1:15 pm – Vintage Blue
12:15 pm – The Outfit

July 21
6:00 pm – Big Sam’s Funky Nation
3:45 pm – Flow Tribe
2:00 pm – Funkadesi
12:30 pm – School of Rock

There’s even live big band music at the Little Sisters of the Poor (Belden at Magnolia) provided by Barry Winograd 2-5pm on Saturday and the Alternatives Little Big Band 1-4pm on Sunday.

Among the other treats provided by this festival are kid’s activities, architecture tours, food, drink and a lot of fun. It’s all organized by the Sheffield Neighborhood Association and its more than 450 volunteers. The not-for-profit association provides support for neighborhood schools, local institutions and community projects. In addition, proceeds are allocated to the association’s Beautification Program, a 7 – 10 year plan to maintain Sheffield as the Garden District of Chicago.

Let’s get a list of the events:

Guided garden tours boast some of the most beautiful blossoms in Chicago, including award winners. Tours leave at 3:30 pm Saturday and Sunday from the information booth in front of St. Vincent DePaul Church (1010 W Webster Avenue)  These tours fill up quickly, so visitors are encouraged to sign up in advance.

If you’d rather view the gardens on your own, you can get a guidebook with garden and festival information as well as maps to help navigate the walk. Gardens are open from noon to 5:30 pm.

Guided architecture toursalso leave from the information booth and are offered at 2 and 4 pm on Saturday and 1 and 3 pm on Sunday. The featured sites include the McCormick Row House District—landmark buildings with over 100 years of history—and other Victorian-era wonders.

Kid’s Corner features a ferris wheel, petting zoo, pony rides, face painting stations, arts and craft areas and more. Story Time with the Chicago Public Library, a special visit from the Chicago Fire Department, and various musical activities are all on the agenda for the weekend. Kid’s Corner is located on Kenmore between Webster and Belden and is open from noon to 5:30 pm. Free admission.

Food and drinks are available all weekend from local restaurants like Robinson’s Ribs, Quang Noodle, Derby Bar & Grill, and Beyond Borders Food Truck. Separately, the St. Vincent DePaul church will once again be offering food and drinks and Friends of Mayer will be serving in kid’s corner.

The location is Webster and Sheffield, just one block from the Fullerton El stop. The 11 and 74 buses can also bring CTA-riders to the Sheffield Garden Walk and Festival but for those who drive, 12-hour parking will be available for $6 at the DePaul garage at Clifton Avenue, just south of Fullerton. In addition, bike racks are available on the DePaul campus.

For more information on the 2013 Sheffield Garden Walk & Music Festival, go to www.sheffieldgardenwalk.com.

…and the 55th Dearborn Garden Walk

The Dearborn Garden Walk is the grandaddy of Chicago garden walks, celebrating its 55th year in 2013. There’s always a theme associated with this event, and this year it is the life and works of Nobel Prize winning author Ernest Hemingway. The walk takes place on Sunday, July 21 from 12pm-5pm. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the gate.

So what exactly does it mean to have a Hemingway-themed garden walk? The North Dearborn Association describes it this way:

During the walk, guests will have the opportunity to follow the adventurous and well-documented life and times of Ernest Hemingway as they tour garden vignettes inspired by his life and works. Chicago designers are set to create dramatic outdoor spaces utilizing a variety of outdoor tables, chairs, colorful cushions, linens, floral decorations, and other accessories including fine china, crystal, and flatware. From Cuba, Paris, and Spain with a nod to Oak Park, Illinois, this will certainly be a most spectacular interpretation of all things Hemingway.

As an added perk to the program this year, visitors will also have the opportunity to listen to Hemingway author and scholar Dr. Nancy Sindelar, a member of the Board of Directors of The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park, Illinois and author of the forthcoming publication, Papa’s Places. Dr. Sindelar will be speaking at dedicated times throughout the afternoon at the Hotel Indigo at 1244 N. Dearborn Parkway. Stuart W. Hubbard, a former Associate Professor of English at the University of Kansas where he taught undergraduate classes on American Literature and Composition and Rhetoric, will be leading an informal discussion on “Ernest Hemingway in Chicago” outlining his early life in and around the city and the effect the area had on his personality and writing. Hubbard’s discussion will take place in the rear courtyard of Hemingway’s former residence at 1239 North Dearborn Parkway.  Access to the courtyard is through the hallway of the building in which visitors will have the opportunity to take a look at a collection of Hemingway memorabilia that will be on display.

By the way, all advance ticket purchasers are automatically entered in drawings for goods and services from neighborhood businesses. Admission includes a Dearborn Garden Walk program with a map for a self-guided tour of the gardens, live jazz and classical music in select gardens, and guided architectural walking tours of historic Dearborn Parkway.

I’m pleased to welcome Greg Hodapp and Woody Olsen. They’ve been involved with the Dearborn Garden Walk for over twenty years, and have co-chaired the event since 1994. For ticket purchase information, please call: 312-632-1241 or visit online at: http://www.DearbornGardenWalk.com .

One more event: The Chicagoland GreenBuild Home Tour

If you’re not particularly into gardening but you do appreciate green living, here’s another event next weekend. The Chicagoland GreenBuilt Home tour is Saturday, July 20 and Sunday, July 21.  This self guided tour will showcase sustainable, healthy homes in Northern Illinois. What’s in store? 16 exceptional, award-winning, and nationally-recognized Chicago area homes which highlight sustainable building practices that are attractive, practical and affordable. All homes on the tour have undergone third-party verification through programs such as: ENERGY STAR for Homes, LEED for Homes, the National Green Building Standard, and Passive House.

During this two-day tour event, you will see how some of your neighbors are living in energy-efficient homes that encourage health and well-being, and learn ways the built environment can contribute to a healthier community. Homes will be open from 10 am – 6 pm both days.

You’ll need to buy tickets online in advance.  And if you are looking for builders, contractors and designers and homeowners they have a list of contractors that were involved in these healthy green homes. Be sure to check out Solar Service, where our very own Lisa Albrecht works as a energy system designer.

It’s a Wonderful Slice

December 23, 2012

“It’s a Wonderful Slice 2012″…with an all-star cast!

It’s that time of year again (and aren’t we glad that the holiday season comes only once a year?), which means that I trot out my annual dismantling of one of the great holiday film classics, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

I started this strange tradition about 21 years ago, when I was still working for Gargantua Radio down the dial (sometimes known as WGN). This was when Republic Pictures, the original copyright owner and producer of Wonderful Life, neglected to renew the 1946 copyright in 1974. Slate has the basic story here. This Wikipedia entry covers it in more detail.

At any rate, it seemed to me that folks might like to hear the movie on radio, especially since it wasn’t going to cost the station a nickel. However, I doubted that listeners would be willing to sit through all two hours and ten minutes without visuals. So I recorded the sound track and cut it down to exactly ten minutes and thirty seconds. I tried to get it to under ten minutes, but that’s something I suspect not even God could do.

The ten-minute version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” aired on Gargantua Radio for several years. Then something unfortunate happened. According to Slate:

Republic regained control of the lucrative property in 1993 by flexing a new Supreme Court ruling that determined that the holder of a copyright to a story from which a movie was made had certain property rights over the movie itself. Since Republic still owned the copyrighted story behind It’s a Wonderful Life and had also purchased exclusive rights to the movie’s copyrighted music, it was able to essentially yank the movie out of the public domain: It claimed that since Wonderful Life relied on these copyrighted works, the film could no longer be shown without the studio’s blessing. (Technically, the film itself is not copyrighted. One could hypothetically replace the music, rearrange the footage, and sell or show the new product–but no one has done this.) In 1994, Republic * signed a “long-term” deal granting NBC exclusive rights to broadcast the movie, and the network typically does so between one and three times a year.

So there I was, with a brilliant (if I say so myself) ten-minute version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” with no venue. Unless…

Eureka! I knew what to do–memorize not only the script, but also the voices and their inflections (after all, I had everything on tape–and in those days, it really was tape), add some blocking and schtick and Voila: “It’s a Wonderful Slice of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’

Since that time, I have performed the piece on stages, in living rooms, in bars, in Savings and Loans (yes, really), outdoors, indoors and just about any place large than a postage stamp. I have done it on radio numerous times, as well as on video.

And so I present the 2012 version, with a great cast of folks from Chicago’s Progressive Talk, AM & FM. Here’s the cast, with the “actors” listed first, followed by their roles:

Ron Cowgill (host of WCPT’s Mighty House) – Uncle Billy
Mike Sanders (host of WCPT’s OurTown) – God, Bert, Ernie, Martini, Truck Driver, Harry
Lisa Albrecht – Mary
Sarah Batka – Violet, Mrs. Bailey, Janey (she even “plays” the piano!), Zuzu
Dennis Schetter – St. Joseph, Man #1, Man #2, Mean Man, and probably some other character that I’ve lost track of

If you don’t catch it live during the 10:00 a.m. hour on Sunday’s show, you can always listen on my podcast page.

Rick DiMaio gets his Masters…Congratulations!

After last Sunday’s show, I grabbed my stuff, quickly headed out of the station and made my way to Chez Rick DiMaio, where a number of us gathered to surprise my excellent meteorologist on the completion of his M.S. Degree in Meteorology (what else?) from Nothern Illinois University. You haven’t lived until you’ve been in a room full of meteorologists waxing poetic on various weather phenomena.

As Rick stated on the air last week, he didn’t exactly count on finishing his degree 30 years after getting his bachelor’s…but I guess that’s life. Anyway, I was happy to be a part of the surprise celebration at Rick’s apartment overlooking Lake Michigan.

Seriously, I can’t thank Rick enough for having shared his weather wisdom with me and my listeners for almost five years now. In my opinion, he’s the best in the business in Chicago, and I wish him much, much success and happiness in the years to come.

Farming aggrevation and energy aggregation

October 28, 2012

Garlic plantin’ report from Kim Marsin

It’s time for another visit from my favorite organic-farmer-in-training, Kim Marsin of Sweet Home Organics. She and partner Rachel Reklau have their operation at Primrose Farm , which is part of the St. Charles Park District. I call them “commuter farmers” because they don’t live on the land that they cultivate but actually drive to work on the farm.

Kim is talking to me this morning on what is the final day of the Sweet Home Organics farm stand. Just in case you’re out their way and want to purchase some healthy, local food, the address is 5N726 Crane Road (near the intersection of Crane and Bolcum) in St. Charles, Illinois .

Kim says that the 2013 garlic crop is going in the ground tomorrow, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to get some tips about garlic and onions. I also mentioned to her that I was disappointed in my beet crop this year and could use some advice. She tells me, though, that she had her own problems with beets this year, especially in getting them to germinate. Not only that, but she says, “We saw blister beetles (never knew what these were before). They went after our chard and beet greens.”

Hmm. Tough year for everybody, I guess. We’ll chat about it this morning.

Energy aggregation might be on your ballot…what does it mean?

If you live in Chicago, when you walk into the voting booth on November 6, or you fill out your absentee ballot, you’re going to come across this question:

“Shall the City of Chicago have the authority to arrange for the supply of electricity for its residential and small commercial retail customers who have not opted out of such program?”

What you are voting on is commonly known as a “municipal aggregation referendum.”
Theoretically, by “aggregating” its customers into one big group, a community can negotiate with suppliers and get better deals for electricity on behalf of its citizens. And if you trust organizations like the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Respiratory Health Association, the Chicago Clean Power Coalition, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, and elected officials like 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore, you will probably vote yes on the proposal.

However, be forewarned that even if the measure passes–and it already has in about 250 Illinois municipalities–it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that your electricity will be cheap and, more important, come from green energy sources.

I am far from an expert on this subject, but Lisa Albrecht from the Illinois Solar Energy Association and I will try to clarify it to the best of our ability on this morning’s show. Believe me, this cannot be explained in one short sentence. Or paragraph. Or series of paragraphs. But we’ll do what we can.

You might want to start with a couple of great informational articles, one from Grist.org called How to make Illinois into a clean-energy leader, and the other from the Citizens Utility Board called CUB’s Guide to: Municipal Electricity Aggregation. As CUB explains,

Illinois law allows municipalities and counties to purchase electricity on behalf of residential and small-business utility customers living within their borders. While municipalities choosing community aggregation would be responsible for negotiating the price of power from a supplier other than the traditional utility, your utility would still be responsible for delivering that power to your home, and billing you for it. In theory, communities could use the collective bargaining power of residents to negotiate for lower power prices from suppliers. (Find out how your community voted in the most recent Primary Election.)

Individual ComEd and Ameren customers can also choose an alternative electricity supplier on their own.

But the whole thing is complicated by the history of deregulation, which began in Illinois in 1997. As David Roberts writes in his Grist story:

In 2007, in response to a spike in power prices, the state created the Illinois Power Agency (IPA), which was charged with negotiating wholesale power contracts on behalf of Ameren and ComEd customers, insuring that they get “adequate, reliable, affordable, efficient, and environmentally sustainable electric service at the lowest total cost.” The IPA doesn’t generate or sell power, it just brokers contracts between power companies and the utilities.

The IPA couldn’t just step in and immediately negotiate new contracts from scratch. It had to take over the contracts that the utilities had already negotiated. Some of them were six-year contracts signed in 2007 … shortly before IPA took over, the recession hit, and power prices plunged. As older contracts have expired, IPA has negotiated new contracts and gotten lower power prices. But it is saddled with those expensive 2007 contracts until mid-2013.

That means IPA has been getting power for utility customers that’s considerably cheaper than what they were paying pre-IPA, but nonetheless considerably more expensive than what can be procured in today’s power market. This is a key fact that shapes the rest of the story.

Now, Illinois utility customers — individual, commercial, and industrial — don’t have to buy the IPA-brokered power. If they choose, they can procure their own power directly. And because IPA contracts were more expensive than the prevailing market price, especially early on, most customers could save money by doing so. In practice, procuring power directly proved too much of a hassle for most smaller customers. For large commercial and industrial customers, however, the hassle was worth it, and almost all of them eventually opted to procure their own power from Alternate Retail Electric Suppliers, or ARES.

So in 2010, about half the state’s power load (mostly residences and small commercial) was served by IPA and about half (mostly large commercial and industrial) was served by ARES.

I told you it wasn’t easy. Anyway, about 220 municipalities will be voting on aggregation on November 6, and if they all pass, the IPA will be left negotiating about 10 percent of the state’s power load. Yet, right now the IPA represents the best chance of renewable energy coming to Illinois. So voting for aggregation might slow our march to solar and wind power (especially wind–I’ll let Lisa wax poetic on that.)

If the referendum passes, there is still work to be done. According to the City of Chicago electricity aggregation website, the city must:

  • Hold public hearings to discuss Aggregation Program priorities and goals, and adopt a Plan of Governance and Operation;
  • Notify all residents and qualified small commercial accounts holders of the prices and terms of the supply contract,  AND  allow any account holder to opt-out of the Program at no charge;
  • Enroll the remaining accounts into the Program and monitor performance for savings.

Of course, the devil is in the details: where will the power come from and just how “clean” will it be? That’s why the Chicago Clean Power Coalition has a petition urging the mayor to make clean energy choices when negotiating on behalf of Chicago’s citizens.

This is just the beginning of this story. Stay tuned.

A couple of reminders:
#1 – Great Lakes Bioneers Chicago

The Great Lakes Bioneers Chicago present The Living City for three days at the UIC from November 2 to 4.

Featuring an all-star cast of movers and shakers in the sustainability world, like Vandana ShivaJohn EdelStarhawk and more, this event goes beyond lectures and workshops. More than 60 interactive sessions and inspirational talks are planned. These will be interspersed with some of Chicago’s finest poets, storytellers, dancers and musicians who will focus on the relationship between our environment and justice for all living things. Each day will open and close with ritual and excitement. The theme, The Living City, is about using the body as a metaphor for the critical systems needed to keep Chicago alive, healthy and thriving.

There’s still plenty of time to register.

#2 – The Rally for Starved Rock is today!

This is a chance make your voice heard if you’re interested in preventing an open pit sand mine from being dug next to Starved Rock State Park. The Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club is holding a Rally for Starved Rock at the park itself and nearby environs.

Hiking through the park happens from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m. Then, at 10:30, it’s the “Tour-de-Frac.” Here’s how Sierra Club describes it:

Our Tour-de-Frac is a self-guided driving tour. Sierra Club staff and volunteers will be positioned throughout the area to help answer your questions.

Eastern Entrance: The eastern entrance faces the proposed mine, and will be subject to the blasting vibrations and air emissions from the processing facility.

Adjacent landowners: hear talks from adjacent landowners regarding the numerous economical and health concerns related to this mine.

Catlin Park : learn more about the wetlands, the Native American artifacts, and current air quality in the area. How will these be impacted as the mine moves forward?

Lunch is at 12:00 noon, followed by a public meeting at 1:00 p.m. at Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort The meeting will be in the Joliet Room on the first floor.

I hope a few of you can get there.