Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Help Stop Taxes on Gardens!

Is this fair taxation to you?
(Photo collage by Diane Blazek)
Yesterday on Facebook my friend, Shawna Coranado, who has worked tirelessly to support, promote and beautify her community, reported she was one of a very few gardeners in her small town of Warrenville Illinois that are being singled out to pay a "City wide" tax because, get this, they have gardens in the shared easement areas along their properties.  These are public areas which are owned by the city but residents are required to maintain and yup...that's right...they are now being taxed for what their hard work has created.

The City of Warrenville has decided, for whatever reason, that it is better to tax the citizens who are actually doing something positive in these spaces and not to tax others who are doing little or nothing.  And worse, according to Shawna, they did not notify her as one of the residents who would be affected so she and others could testify before this tax was made law.

If this seems unjust and backwards to you, you are not alone.  Sadly these kinds of attempts at taxation are become more and more commonplace in our cities today as municipalities scramble to make financial ends meet.  However, this particular incident says to me that there may be something more to this story.  Could it possibly be that someone who has an "in" at the city does not like these gardens and wants to discourage them?  That this person or persons brought the idea of such a tax to the table, promoting it as a way to make money for the city as a means to squash such gardens in their community? Why else would the city only tax such a small number of "select" residents?  Why else was Shawna not notified of this proposed tax so she could testify?
Let me ask you, can you imagine how discouraging it would be for others who might need that space to grow food for a hungry family or desired to beautify these areas?  Well I can, and it makes me want to pinch their political heads off, figuratively of course.  What were they thinking?  I mean really, taxing a labor of love? Obviously they were not taking into consideration at all of the obvious negative impact this tax will eventually have.  Taxes are never fun but tax seems just plain mean spirited if you ask me.

Shawna shares what happened to her and the statement she made at the city council meeting last night.  You can read all about it on her blog which I have linked below.  She has asked for our help and has provided contact information for us for the Warrenville Mayor, City Council and the City Administrator.

The Casual Gardener Blog: "Please help Shawna say no to the garden tax"

Please, take action today and help stop the taxation of our gardens. What we don't fight for we lose, the next one could be yours.


Copyright © 2012 by Patty Hicks
All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. All reviews must include author's name and a link back to this blog.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pinterest Pinsanity

My Pinterest O how I love thee.

It is utterly "pinsane" how Pinterest has taken over my life.  Oh excuse me, I should back up a bit for those of you who don't know about Pinterest yet.  It is the latest hot thing on the Internet, a real barnstormer of a visual social media site that enables you to create a collection of visual bulletin boards.  You get to have as many boards as you want, for as many categories as you want and can pin as many things to them as you want.  This means that when you are on a website or blog that has an image or idea you want can capture it or “pin” it to one of your boards along with the link to site with the idea along with a beautiful image to inspire you to use it.  And is absolutely wonderful, simply “pinspiring” capturing all those beautiful, wonderful, magical, practical, unbelievable things one finds on Pinterest.  Those of us who have discovered this have all been so over the moon about it so much so that it has been call “visual crack” for the creative types and even equated to Internet hoarding it is so addictive in its appeal.

Not long after I started using Pinterest I created a Facebook group called “Pinterest Enablement and Support (PEAS)” after being unable to find an answer for a question I had about getting a problem resolved on Pinterest.  (I love the twisted little name of the group and how it alludes to Pinterest possibly being addicting don't you?).  Pinterest is a great tool with a lot of potential but after seeing myself and other pinners not using what we were gathering, I decided to try and encourage the members of our group to share what they have used from their pins.  That didn’t go so well, I think I got one or two to share, but then I am as guilty as they are and the question began to nag me, is it really hoarding?

Call me crazy but I thought it would be fun to figure out how long it would take me to use every pin I had captured on my boards if I did only one a day.  Wowwie zowwie…wake up call!  It would take me TEN YEARS to use what I had pinned at that time.  The very next week someone posted a joke poster of Facebook that stated pinners were just Internet hoarders.  I laughed, we all laughed, a little nervously I think as we realized the delight of Pinterest did seem to overtake all sense of reason at times.  We pinners like to say we are "pinning our brains out" which pretty much sums up what happens to a lot of us.  I get caught up in pinning my brains out more than I’d like to admit and I guess my rational has become, if it is fun, the information good, the pictures so inspiring, how can it possibly be a bad thing.

I remember visiting a farm once where the farmer was as frugal as the day is long and in his frugality had amassed quite a large pile of old parts from who knows what types of mechanical things in a pile near the barn.  His shop where he did the fixin’ was stacked half full too.  In reality there was no way that he was ever going to use all that stuff and it was obvious that some of it was nothing but unusable junk.  As we approached his cache he proudly stated “I don’t like spending on things if I don’t have to so I’m saving this just in case I need it.”  The greater portion of this stash was saved for nothing more than the notion of having it just in case...just like my stash of pins. (ugh)

My attitude resembles that farmer's a little too much I'll admit, but still, as I look at my boards, which are mostly filled with ideas I might use some day and see how pretty they look, its hard for me to recon it as an obsession.  However, recently I have even been haunted by the guilt of not using the ideas I have pinned which makes me wonder about that.  These seemingly innocent pins have turned into the Internet equivalent of those projects sitting around my house that I intend to do someday or the mail that doesn’t get tossed because I can’t make my mind up what I need to do with it at that moment.  Sound familiar?

Yeah Baby!  Love those boards!

Want to see for yourself what I am talking about?  Here is a link to my Pinterest boards so you can go have a peek.  Before you do I want ask that you try to visualize every pin on my boards as being a single sheet of paper or a small manual or a little box, I’ll wait right here.  So what did you think?  When we put spatial relationships on them it’s amazing how our perspective changes isn’t it?  By the way, you actually cannot see everything I have pinned without clicking on each board and that would take way too much time unless you have nothing else to do for a couple days.

That didn’t do it for you?  Here’s another example. If I listed my pins in a column on a legal pad…that’s 28 line items per page, divide that into 5000 which is about what I have now.  Let me see...that is 178.5 pages of things to get done.  That is some to-do list!  I think I need therapy.

Happy pinning!

Copyright © 2012 by Patty Hicks
All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. All reviews must include author's name and a link back to this blog.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chicken Wire Never Looked So Lovely

Chicken wire chic

Chicken wire made chic...gotta love that!  And with spring nearing my brain is on overdrive looking at how I can doll up my garden.  Over the past few months I have seen a few different ideas for ghost gowns or ghost dresses, most of which are too large for my garden, but the one that my friend Darlene made for her garden is just the right size.

She tells me that she made it by forming it around her own body.  Probably would be easiest to do this with a friend helping I imagine.  Once the form was to her liking she spray painted the wire lavender and added the ribbon at the waist which makes it just adorable.  Don't you think so too? 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hey Sailor: Message in a bottle

Valentine message in a bottle

Guys usually don't care for fussy gifts and honestly, they can be real stinkers to shop for.   If your guy is like mine, finding just the right gift can seem virtually impossible at times, especially when you have been married as long as I have.  Thankfully every once in a while I do run across one that is perfect, one that says "Honey I love you".  This idea from Rusty Crafts and Chic Decor that I found on Pinterest, a message in a bottle, was it for me...only mine was more like "I'm still nuts about you!"...complete with peanuts.

He really was a sailor and still loves boats

To make the heart I used white core card stock in red which I tore into the heart shape and a black Sharpie marker.  Be sure to test which way the paper tears to reveal those white edges so it looks the way you want it to.  The note in the bottle is made of a nautical theme scrapbook paper.  I tore the note along it's edges to give it a little more character, wrote "I'm still nuts about you." inside, rolled it up and secured it with a little piece of tape to keep it from unrolling in the bottle.

A little tape and a length of thread

To make it easy to lift the note from the bottle I laced thread down through and back up the outside the rolled up paper, tying a knot in the thread at the top so it formed a secure loop.  I made sure there was enough extra thread at the top that it could be taped to the back of the heart (About 3 inches) leaving the note to hang in the bottle with the heart dangling outside.  Thread was perfect because it was thin enough it did not hinder the lid clamp.  Now to finish up the package.

Look glue!

To create the label I used more of the same scrapbook paper, hand wrote the sentiment, wrapped it around the bottle taping it closed at the back.  No glue, nothing fancy, it took less than twenty minutes to pull together and the whole thing cost me less than seven dollars.  And HE LIKED IT!

Waiting for the postman...tee hee

When my husband got home from work the bottle was sitting on the end table next to where he always sits.  He said "Who is this for?" I smirked and told him it was for the postman.  You should have seen the look on his face...really, did he think it was for the postman? (No kidding this really happened.)  Finally he sat down, pulled out the note, chuckled after reading it and mumbled something about he wasn't expecting to get anything and then dove into the peanuts! Oh well, what was I expecting, to be swept off my feet with a "Honey you shouldn't have."?  He got the message and feasted on his peanuts, so my mission was a success.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Enchilada Chicken Roll Ups

Enchilada Chicken Roll up filling

For some reason I haven't felt much like writing lately.  But I have felt like cooking and last night in the kitchen was amazing.  My brain just went straight to "inspired chef" mode as I opened the fridge, saw the cilantro and remembered the fragrance of spices in the pan from the last time I made enchilada sauce.  It's times like these that make cooking dinners at home really worth it for me as I rarely cook from recipes unless I am baking.

Before I share the recipe with you I want to note that because I don't cook from recipes I rarely measure things like salt and spices but rather season dishes to my taste and recommend that you give it a try too.  Feel free to do it with this recipe.  And don't feel bad if you don't like cilantro, just chuck it.  If you want more chili powder, go for it.  Taste as you go and have fun...but when you add that cinnamon get ready for a miracle in the pan.  Enjoy!

Mrs. Patty's Enchilada Chicken Roll Ups
(Makes 6)

6 large gordita style flour tortillas
1.5 lbs chicken breast strips (frozen so they juice better while cooking)
4 cups - shredded Romain lettuce
1 bunch cilantro - chopped
2 avocados - chopped fine
1 Tomato - diced
2 Limes - Juice (half will be used for cooking and half for later
1 onion - thin sliced and chopped to 2" (approx)
1 Red bell pepper - thin sliced and cut to 2" pieces
1 clove garlic - crushed and fine chopped
Kosher salt - to taste
5 to 6 Tbsp Olive oil
1/2 tsp Mexican Oregano
1 Tbsp California Chili Powder
1 tsp Ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp sugar, honey or other sweetener

Cut and chop the cilantro, lettuce, avocado, tomato and set aside.  Juice the limes and sprinkle some of the the juice over the lettuce and save half for cooking.  Prep all the remaining ingredients before cooking.

In a large heavy bottomed skillet (I used caste iron), drizzle 3 Tbsp olive oil, heating on medium high until oil begins to ripple but not smoke. Add the red bell pepper and onion. Saute until nicely caramelized and just tender. Remove from skillet and set aside.

In that same skillet drizzle 3 Tbsp olive oil and heat until again until the oil ripples and add in the 1 pound frozen chicken breast strips and saute until thawed and sprinkle with kosher salt. There should be a good amount of liquid from the chicken in the pan at this time.

Next toss in the garlic, the juice from the lime, cumin, 1/2 tsp dried, 1Tbsp California chili powder, "Mexican" oregano leaves. I rub the leaves of the Mexican oregano between my palms as I add them them to the skillet to help release fragrance and essential oils. Finally add the sugar ground cinnamon over top.

When I added the cinnamon to the pan last night it took me back it was such a wonderful aroma.  It made me exclaim "wow" it was so yummy.  How this happens with just this one spice added to the rest is a miracle to me...back to the recipe.

Once the spices and herbs are added stir everything together making sure their are not clumps of spices on the chicken pieces.  Continue to stir frequently, turning the meat so it is evenly coated with seasoning and continue to cook until the sauce thickens. Remove the skillet from heat and dice chicken.

Warm tortillas until soft in the microwave on a covered plate on high, about 3/4 to 1 minute for six 6 tortillas.

Place a handful of the chicken
down the center of each warm tortilla. Next add a handful of sauteed onion and peppers, top this with lettuce, avocado, cilantro and just a little bit of your favorite salsa or fresh tomatoes if you like and a sprinkle of fresh lime juice to finish.

You can just roll it up tight or make it like a burrito if you want with the ends folded in to keep it tidy.