Chicago Life and Style.

Your Home. Your Life. Your Style

Month: July, 2009

Renovation–a do it yourself job?

I happen to pride myself on being pretty handy.  In fact, my toolbox has given many a manly-man a twinge of envy. However, I do not have the chops to begin any sort of major renovation despite the fact that I am addicted to HGTV!  There are however, lots of people out there braver than I. Take Dave for instance. Dave bought a condo many years ago and decided to renovate it himself.  I can tell you, it was a big job.  The condo was in if not its original form, very close to it.

In these times, people expect all the fancy finishes and redoing kitchen AND bathrooms can cost a pretty penny.  Luckily Dave had the time and patience to do it himself–and do it right. Sometimes I think that self-renovation–even if done by the amateur owners, can be counted on for quality at least as much if not more than a professional job. The sad truth is that a lot of so-called professionals just don’t care about their work. And when you try to combine speed and value, sometimes you end up getting a less than perfect result. Often times I think its the longevity of the work that really speaks to its quality. In other words, will those cabinet doors still be on straight 4 years from now? 

Personally, I have a lovely built in shelf in my shower, made of the same stone that the shower is tiled with.  The tile job is lovely, they did some great detail work with small stone tile around the larger tiles. But, as I’ve discovered in several places in my newly rehabbed condo, the longevity just isn’t there. My lovely built in shower shelf now has a crack running all the way through it. I’m scared to put anything heavier than a bar of soap on it lest it break.  And. being built in, the fix isn’t going to be that easy.

But back to Dave. Here is a link to his condo, totally redone with care and quality.  This condo is a 2 bed/2 bath WITH parking. Currently listed at $335k and is close to public transit, the lake, zoo and local park.  This is one of many deals that are available in the market right now, remember, if you are a first time home buyer–you need to CLOSE on a house prior to Nov 30 to qualify for the $8k tax credit. That means that you need to be under contract soon! Don’t put it off any longer!

Chicago Parking Woes

How do you feel about the new parking meters/boxes along our streets?  I have to admit that I did not feel very strongly one way or another when news of the change first came out.  It does technically open up more spaces to park and having to go from one house or building to the next, as a realtor, that’s a good thing.  Or so it seemed.  I’ve been living in the city for almost a decade now and I have never gotten a parking ticket. Well, that is, before the privatization I had never gotten a ticket. I’ve gotten two in the last several months.

Here is a link to the report that the city’s inspector general wrote after performing an independent review of the deal.

Here I think is one of the most concise quotes on the topic “…the deal was presented to the City Council with very limited information and because the Council scheduled its vote a very short time later, there was no meaningful public review of the decision to lease the parking-meter system. What is standard in the PPP “best practices” model – informed deliberation, transparency, and full analysis of the public interest considerations – was not present here.”

I am not a political person, and honestly,  I’m not sure what we as citizens should do about this so I make no recommendation.  But, I do find a lesson for my personal life here, I shall henceforth endeavor to always use “best practices” in my own life–informed deliberation, transparency and full analysis–before jumping into a decision that  have long term consequences and will affect I’m not only myself, but those around me.

Good luck following that advice and may your parking spots be plentiful and without costly penalties!

Innovation. You can do it too!

I just got back from a company meeting. Not usually the sort of thing one enjoys or actually gets useful, interesting information from.  This meeting however, was an exception. Our speaker is an innovator.  He actually does that for his job. How cool is that?  People hire his company to think outside the box and come up with solutions–often times to problems no one knew existed.  In other words, he is not a project manager, his clients don’t say, “this is broken, fix it.”  They say “take a look, what do you think we can do better?”  Talk about an open ended question!

I don’t know about you but questions like that make me a little nervous. I LIKE having a foundation and guidelines within which I can operate. I am very good at finding efficiencies and identifying process improvements–but still within a framework that already exists.  Now, the flip side of that is that I HATE when people’s response to “why do we do it this way” is “because we always have.” This guy is talking about creating a completely new framework out of nothing. It sort of freaks me out its so exciting!  How courageous, how wonderful, how necessary.

The world is a different place, we are living in a time that has never been before. Yeah, sure, that can be said about any time. But our world today is so radically different than it was just a few years ago that I think its especially appropriate now. One interesting fact he offered is that they have been seeing a lot of requests from government agencies to find ways to improve. Yes, that’s right, government agencies that have been doing the same thing forever are actually interested in finding a better way! One if their clients is TSA who is rolling out a whole new method of security–the focus is on making it a relaxing experience.  Can you believe it?!  Turns out, when people are a little more relaxed, its much much easier to spot the bad guys. Makes sense.  Another unrelated tidbit–have you ever noticed that security requirements differ from airport to airport?  It drives me crazy.  Turns out its on purpose!! Now I have one less thing to be pissed off about, I just thought they were incompetent.  That alone made it a good meeting!

Our speaker was, of course, there to give us some ideas for our business but I think the concept has applications well beyond that.  With our livelihoods and careers in flux, now is the time to try this kind of thinking. Its scary, and actually implementing whatever you come up with is more scary. And, if you aren’t already scared–even our speaker acknowledges that the success rate of ideas that they come up with is actually less than 6%.  But, that’s no reason to dissuade us from stopping and actually putting some time into thinking about what would actually make us happy and trying to envision a whole new way to get there.  The old standbys of putting your time into a company and be rewarded in retirement have long ago fallen by the wayside. A few courageous entrepreneurs have led the way but I think the time has come for us regular folk to start applying the same principles.  As I tell my daughter, and I believe it when I say it, anything really is possible.

Dog owners–be careful!

I am a dog owner.I call my dog, Winston, my son.  He is a 90 lb American Bulldog that I rescued after he spent the first 10 months of his life being terribly abused.  If you don’t know him, he is pretty scary looking. He is also the sweetest dog I’ve ever met. Never met anything he didn’t want to be friends with, other dogs, cats, bunnies, you name it, he wants to be friends.  Here is a critical piece of information–my son is extremely well behaved.  Yes, he is my son, and I love him and I call him my daughter’s brother. But, he does not get on the furniture and he sleeps in his own bed, on the floor. He wouldn’t dream of jumping on someone, walks beautifully on a leash, never pulls, is generally just a very pleasant animal to be around.

I love dogs in general but unfortunately, many parents are not very responsible and make little effort to ensure that their pets are pleasant to be around. Winston and I just got back from our walk and we ran into our neighbor who has two yellow labs. We see them with some frequency on our walks and they are always very respectful and well behaved. No lunging, no barking. Unfortunately, another neighbor of ours can’t say the same for their dogs who attacked the yellow labs yesterday.  Their dad got bitten while he was trying to break up the fight.

My son has been bitten twice this summer.  One of the bites got infected and it cost him a terribly swollen head and pain and me about $400 in vet bills.  I still see the owner of that dog walking her dog on a loose leash with no apparent concern that her dog cannot be trusted, she often has her head or back turned as she talks to someone, paying no attention to the danger her dog presents.  I often feel like I put my safety-and my son’s-and my daughter’s- into jeopardy just by going for a walk around my block. I know several people, not including the latest culprit to bite the labs, that don’t feel its necessary to keep their dogs on leashes.

Now, I didn’t always live in Chicago and when I lived in the burbs and in places where there was lots and lots of land and few people, I didn’t put my dog on a leash either. I understand that its a pain to do every time–I have been walking my son AND baby, rain or shine for years, believe me, I get it. Of course, my dog was friendly. When I say friendly I mean actually shows no aggression. I DON’T mean, hasn’t bitten anyone yet but still raises its hackles and growls. I’ve got news for those owners–that is NOT friendly. I worked in a dog rescue for many years and I can’t tell you how many times we have to correct that kind of misconception.  A growl should be considered a bite that just hasn’t connected yet. It is NOT ok for your dog to growl at people or other dogs.

My heart goes out to my neighbors, I hope that he and his pup heal quickly and without any lasting scars, physical or emotional.  I hope that the owners of the dogs that attacked will be responsible enough to seek some help and get thier animals under control and pay for the expense they caused. I’d like to walk my neighborhood without fear.

Taking advantage of all Chicago has to offer….can be a lot of work!

This weekend my daughter and I went to the Old School Picnic at 63rd and Hayes.  We were lucky, we were invited to join some veterans who have been going since their son was a baby and they know the ropes.  They got there early, scoped out a great spot, set up the tents-yes, plural- laid out all the food and grills, sprayed for bugs and by the time we got there, they were ready to party!  I have to admit I was not a very good guest. I had no idea how far away I would have to park or how long my daughter would last before her nap time, so I showed up empty handed–don’t you hate it when people do that? 🙂    They were very gracious and welcomed us anyway. Here is my daughter halfway between happy and copping an attitude–pretty much the state she lives in!

Yeah, Im cool.

Yeah, Im cool.

 Needless to say, Sophia LOVED it.  We parked across Lake Shore Dr. (which sounds like a farther walk than it really was) and the tent was set up just inside.  We had a huge open field in front–I was there until 1pm and the space was already starting to fill up– and we could hear the DJs across the field–not so loud that we couldn’t talk but definitely loud enough to start dancing! Sophia actually started shaking her shoulders before we even got across Lake Shore and then enjoyed racing the other kids in the field.

I hope we get invited back again next year because Ill be more prepared, I think a wagon is in order to carry all our stuff (and I will actually contribute!) so we can stay a while and Sophia can nap in the tent.  Our neighbors on the grass had a set up that would put many a catered event to shame. I’m telling you, it was impressive. If you can finagle an invitation next year, I highly recommend it!

So today is our day to walk to the West Fest on Chicago Avenue.  There is a big kids section at Commercial Park as well. We went last year and they have a kids band which is pretty cool.  Sophia is still sleeping (3:21pm) so I’m not sure if we are going to make it but I would hate to miss it, its right down the block for goodness sake!  Never let it be said that there isn’t enough to do in Chicago during the summer–or any time for that matter. But, its not for the faint of heart–taking it all in takes stamina!  I almost think its a good thing our winters are so tough–we need the time to recuperate from the summer activities!