Chicago Life and Style.

Your Home. Your Life. Your Style

Month: August, 2009

Peapod. One of the best conveniences of city living.

In Chicago we have food options.  You can get any kind of food imaginable, and you can get it cooked and served by a native of whatever regional cuisine you happened to choose. What I mean to say is, we got good food here.  But we can’t eat out all the time so occasionally even the most social, most outgoing types usually venture into a grocery store.  We have about as many options for grocery stores as we do for eat-in or take-out dining. Some people can piece together entire meals for months-even years-out of the white hen in the lobby of their building. Others prefer more options and go f or the big chains like Dominicks  or Jewel. Still others have an eye towards health conscious or organic food options and prefer Trader Joes and Whole Foods.  And for the exotic types, we’ve got Treasure Island. I used to live near one and I have gotten some of the most fabulous and unnecessary foodstuffs there that I have ever had the pleasure to eat.

Variety and choices are good. Definitely. And then I remember that I park outside and live in a walk up. And for a while, I parked not just outside but on the street somewhere, and the walk up was to the fourth floor. And then I begin to think that ordering in for every meal could actually be a good option–except that my old building didn’t have a buzzer so I had to go down to get the food anyway!  My point is, it can be a lot of work to stock your pantry. Especially if you like heavy things like milk or juice or soda–or laundry detergent, or cat litter! And lets not forget about the bulky things that aren’t heavy but still require an extra trip up the stairs–paper towels, toilet paper, you get the idea. The have just about everything. I always forget to stop and get stamps. No problem, Peapod delivers!

In comes Peapod.  It was years before I ordered from Peapod because I thought only hoity-toity people actually had someone else deliver their food for them.  But then I moved to the four story walk up etc etc. And when I finally did get ready to order I assumed it was going to be WAY more expensive.  Truth is, it is a little more expensive than the big chains (not more than Whole Foods) but not a lot more and not on everything. AND, the produce and the meat and seafood are really really good quality.  For party trays, they can’t be beat.

I have neighbors that LOVE the cheese trays I serve at all my parties.  It’s the gourmet tray from Peapod. Comes all cut up and nicely garnished and its good, fancy cheese, it always gets rave reviews, even after people know where it came from. For parties, they have ready made food, appetizers, sushi trays, you name it. AND, they will bring in all your soda and mixers and put it right where you want it in your kitchen.

When you are working full time and have other things to do–or maybe it’s just winter in Chicago–having someone else deliver groceries for you is a real benefit.  Not to mention that you can order online ANYTIME and I use it as a running list–just add to it as I think of things.  The delivery fee is $6.95 if you order over $100 and when I do it, I always feel like I’m getting a bargain.

Another friend of mine has been living outside the Peapod delivery area and they just expanded their territory. She called me so excited she was almost in tears. I understand completely. If you live in Chicago and you haven’t tried this totally awesome service, do so.  The holidays aren’t that far away and might be the perfect opportunity to let someone else do some of the work–and skip the madness in the stores around that time. Relax, spend some extra time with your family–or alone!  Its worth $6.95 all day long.

A GREAT thing to do in Chicago…..and you can bring your kids! PART I

The Lincoln Park Zoo is located near the lake in Lincoln Park and is FREE every day of the year, one of the only free zoos in the country. Its small and makes a wonderful landscape for a casual stroll.  It is equally conducive to a romantic stroll or the kids running around to let off steam.

The Brookfield Zoo is a more traditional zoo, sprawling and with all the exotic animals you could hope for.  To be honest, my memories of zoos when I was a child ere mixed–I loved the animals and being there but I always remember being exhausted and having to walk FOREVER.  Lincoln Park solves that problem because the whole zoo is small enough to walk comfortably–even if you are a kid.  Brookfield is pretty well laid out and you can rent some pretty nifty conveyances if you don’t want to lug your own–strollers, wagons with shades, you name it, you can rent it.

In my opinion, here’s the real gem (at both zoos), it’s the Children’s Zoo.  The day after my beloved dog died and I woke up for the first time in 15 years without a pet, I took my daughter to the Children’s Zoo at Brookfield so I could pet something.  They have a wonderful walk in pen filled with all kinds of goats, short, tall, tubby, skinny, bearded.  They have brushes for you to use on the goats but I like to feel their scratchy hair with my hands.  It was extremely cathartic. Oh, and my daughter enjoyed it too.  They also have regularly scheduled events within the Children’s Zoo, cow milking every day in the barn, they bring the miniature horse out and teach the kids how to groom him and other activities that are part of taking care of the animals.

Petting the goats

Petting the goats

More goats

More goats

On the ferris wheel that has zoo animals instead of horses

On the ferris wheel that has zoo animals instead of horses

My daughter just turned two and has spent her whole life in the City of Chicago. She now knows when she sees a horse or picture of one that you should clean its hooves, she has pet a baby chick and talks about how soft they are when she sees a picture of them, she practiced her counting with the mommy pig and baby piggies at the zoo,  has goat friends and knows what a rooster is from the ones that hang out in the goat pen.  Not only is the zoo an excuse to get outside, a chance to be with your kids, a chance to pet something, a chance to run around open spaces, your kids will learn something without you even trying.

The Children’s Zoo at Brookfield also houses some animals that are either injured or have been rescued and can’t live on thier own. Its an easy and fun way for your kids to be exposed to the concept of responsibility towards animals and compassion for all living things.  And I think it helps offset any negativity you may feel about visiting a zoo with caged wild animals, which is admittedly not ideal.

Here is another awesome thing to do at the Brookfield Zoo. You and your kids can have a sleepover! In the evening you go for a hike, have dinner and make some crafts for the animals.  In the morning, it’s breakfast, another hike and then you get to watch the animals play with the toys you made them the night before. How cool is that?!?

For more information on either zoo, the links are below:

Community association managers are now required to be licensed.

After a long battle, legislation has been passed that requires community association managers to be licensed. In many cases, neighbors rely on these associations to hold and expend funds on behalf of the community, make decisions for the overall good and represent the community as a whole. Unfortunately, the number of complaints makes it clear that some don’t handle the responsibility well. Joining a community association is a wonderful way to connect with your neighbors, the businesses in your community and the very buildings that make your neighborhood unique.  It should be a positive experience all around. Hopefully, this will help ensure that more people get to appreciate the positive aspects of being involved with their community associations.

Read here for more info from the Community Associations Institute.

The future’s so bright you gotta wear sunglasses!

One of my college economics professors loved to say that. Insisted that all the business economists and politicians were just trying to scare us.  Things have never looked better! I bet he is still using that line. Of course, when you are in school and have no mortgage or children to support, its a lot easier to believe. But, I sit here, having weathered, perhaps still weathering, a pretty rough patch in our economic history by anyone’s standards. Things are indeed looking up.

My inbox exploded this morning with everyone screaming the good news. Home sales are up! To the highest point since August 2007! And the increase was the biggest month over month increase in 10 years!! Crain’s, Yahoo News, the National Association of Realtors, you name it, everyone is on board.

All our public figures have been warning us about a slower than molasses recovery while at the same time ensuring us that we are in fact recovering. It’s good politics to set low expectations. 🙂  The real estate industry is extremely fond of its facts and figures and statistics. If you pick the “right” indicator, you can tell a convincing story. But, honestly and truly, EVERYONE is telling the same story right now. That almost never happens.

So, premature or not, too early in the day or not, I am going to raise a glass to celebrate the recovery of the real estate sector and all the happy stories and happy people and families and beautiful homes that have played and will play a part in our shared success.   I’m not suggesting its the end of the road, I’m just saying that we deserve a break to celebrate a little bit!

AND, as a reminder, this means that those unbelievable deals that are out there right now won’t last forever. If you are a first time home buyer, your time is running short, you need to be CLOSED on your new house before November 30th, that means you need to be under contract by next Wednesday. Ok, just kidding, but you do need to move quickly. 🙂  No one better to help you navigate (quickly) these fast changing waters than your friendly local Realtor! And no, I don’t mean the stranger that actually lives next door and happens to be a Realtor, I mean me!!

Citydwellers–how important is parking? Outdoor space?

Depending on who you talk to, the answer to these questions is either subjective or totally and completely objective and if you disagree you’re an idiot.  Well, I’m all about the middle ground.  The new construction on the other side of my block on Honore  has been completed.  I featured it a few months ago when it was only partially complete. Here it is in all its glory.

Front view

Front view

Lovely landscaping in front

Lovely landscaping in front

Back Yard View

Back Yard View

So.  The neighbor in me has opinions about the choice of white brick and light gray plain metal fencing and porches. The owner in me has an opinion about the fact that the developer chose to stick in a few feet of sod instead of allowing for two tandem parking spots.  And the quasi-green consumer in me wonders about the fact that none of the front windows open.

So, how important is parking in the city? Well, in some neighborhoods spots sell for upwards of $30,000.  That’s pretty important in my book. This house isn’t in one of those neighborhoods and its true that I usually have good luck finding street parking when I need it. But, its also true that I LOVE my two tandem spots even though I only own one car. My carport shares an alley with this house so our perspectives are pretty darn close.  I use my extra space for my mother to come and visit from Logan Square. I use it for out of town guests. And I use it for friends that live further away from the city and so come to my house before we head out downtown. And this summer, I used it for a very large pool for my daughters birthday party and still had room to park behind it. Having one spot instead of two isn’t likely to change anyone’s mind about this place,  but it was a missed opportunity to add something to the plus side of the equation. In this neighborhood, if you are only going to get one space, people want that space in a garage, not just a carport.

It looks nice to have some green but realistically, its too close to the building to actually factor into the view people are going to get from their decks, someone has to take care of it–who wants to lug out a hose for a few feet of grass? and there is no way that some sod can possibly offer the same benefits as another parking space–in any neighborhood. I predict that when the condos are actually occupied, that grass will fall by the wayside pretty quickly. Its too bad though because the rest of the carport is a nice brick pattern and the new association is either going to have to deal with dead sod and possibly people parking in the dirt and mud, or face an expense right out of the gate to have it bricked over. That was not a value driven choice in my book.

Now, how about that outdoor space? I know lots of people with duplexes in the city and everyone uses them a little differently. Almost without exception, a lower level patio that has a deck over it (you know, they look like caves) ends up being storage for flower pots etc rather than being used.  When its a lower level patio but has nothing over it, that’s a different story and I see most people making use of that space.  This developer chose to extend the indoor living space and put in only a small planter, no outdoor space in front for the first floor unit. I’m a fan of  more actual living space but what he/she has created is a duplex with the only outdoor space being a first level deck off the back that overlooks the carport and alley. The property isn’t in the MLS yet so I don’t know how much they are asking but if I was representing a buyer, the lack of outdoor space would definitely be a consideration and worthy of  a discount compared to other duplexes in the area.

The developer made some interesting and in my mind, risky, choices here. I wonder if this developer actually lives in the city and knows how people actually use their space here.  If you have never actually lived in the city, lived in a condo and had to deal with parking and all the other unique situations that arise in very densley populated areas, its hard to really know how to provide what people will really use and benefit from.  That being said, there is a buyer for every home and back to the subjective, someone will undoubtedly think that the developer made great choices. That’s why we live in such a wonderfully diverse, architecturally interesting place and I’m glad for it.