Chicago Life and Style.

Your Home. Your Life. Your Style

Month: June, 2010

Women and Children First Bookstore

On the recommendation of a friend, my daughter and I made a trip to Andersonville today to visit this bookstore.  We were a little early so we walked up and down Clark and looked in all the cool shops and stopped for a bagel.  When we got to the bookstore Sophia picked out a book and sat at the table in the kids section reading while I looked around.  I was looking for a specific type of childrens’ book that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else.  Although they did have some options, I’ve clearly discovered an under-served market.  You’ll be reading about my new children’s book soon. 🙂

Anyway, they did have some really cool books.  It is very important to me to expose my kid to as many and varied cultures/philosophies/people etc. that I can and books are a great, easy, no travel way to do that!  We got a book titled “Beautiful Yetta” about a Yiddish chicken in New York, complete with Yiddish pronunciation guide.  We also got a beautifully illustrated book about “Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky”, making a very grown up historical saga a fun story to read to little kids. My daughter loves music and I found a book about Louis Armstrong as a boy and how he came to love music and pick his instrument.  And right on the heels of me telling Sophia all about the Greek gods and goddesses last night, we got a book with short, well illustrated stories about each of the gods and what they stand for.  I can’t wait to start reading!

I highly recommend stopping in and taking a look. The staff is very knowledgeable and helpful and there really are some good finds.  It’s also a treat just to wander up and down Clark Street and check out all the other neat little shops and stop for some great food along the way.  Another Chicago neighborhood treasure discovered.

Women & Children First
5233 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL 60640
Tel: 773.769.9299 Fax: 773.769.6729

Things to do this weekend–Show your PRIDE!

I used to live at Irving Park and Lakeshore Drive when I first moved into the city.  I could walk to shops and restaurants that continue to be some of my favorites.  Equinox at the corner of Roscoe and Halsted is a lovely little shop that metromix says is like stepping into the mother of all attics. Except everything is way cooler and nicer and new.  Not necessarily inexpensive but you will find something you won’t find anywhere else, so if you are looking for a unique gift, check this spot out.  Beatnix is my number one spot for fabulous jewelry, fabulous hats and fabulous costumes. I make special trips north just for this spot, there is no comparison. I was also able to walk to the Pride Parade and man, was it an awesome experience.

First of all, the Pride Parade is visually more interesting and engaging that any other parade you’ll see. The colors, the music, the costumes and the fun are unrivaled.  There are some parts that some might consider more geared toward adult enjoyment than family fun but families also make up a very important part of the parade. Waiving the PFLAG and banners announcing their love and support, the display is touching.  If you live in Chicago, you must go at least once.  Here is the official scoop .  Go early, bring supplies and refreshments and stake a claim to a seat along the route–be prepared to defend it too! Most of all, bring an open mind and prepare to enjoy, make new friends and have fun!

Of course, the Taste of Chicago is back again this year, hopefully we’ll have good weather for most of it.  Always a great time but if you happen to work downtown or have the flexibility, consider going during the day during the week.  The crowds can be maddening and if you arent there to catch a specific concert, you can do everything else you need to do.  For me, that means eating my way from one side of the Taste to the other–why else would they name it the Taste if we weren’t meant to Taste it all?!?!

And even more locally, in my hood, the Green Music Fest is happening along Chicago Avenue.  Free bike parking for those so inclined.

Whew, there is a lot going on this weekend, don’t get caught on the couch!

It’s all in the details.

Everyone knows when they walk into a house that’s “done”.  It might not be your personal taste and often, you can’t put your finger on why it feels “done”, but you know it is.  It feels like everything that should be there is and everything that is there has a place. It feels finished.  I’m not talking about professionally designed interiors, I’m talking about your neighbor’s condo down the street or your friend’s house or even your own house.

What makes a space feel finished? It’s all in the details.  A lot of the same things that make a home inviting and comfortable are also the things that are important to focus on when you want to sell. Is there color on your walls or is it developer white?  Do you have artwork hanging (even if its cheap stuff in a nice frame you picked up somewhere)?  Did you know that artwork should be hung at eye level–basically, the focal point of the piece should hang at eye level of someone who is between 5’6″-6′ so that everyone can see and enjoy it and they feel drawn in as they walk through your home.

Here’s a big one–what’s hanging on your windows?  Light is tremendously important and whether you light a lot or a little, it goes a long way in setting the tone of a space.  What are the other sources of light in your home? People’s eye are immediately drawn toward light sources, natural or artificial. And that means you better pay attention to those places too if you want your home to feel “done”.  Window treatments can be expensive, outrageous some might say. Doesn’t matter, find a way to put something on your windows that matches the feel of the room. Go as nice as you can–the pattern can make up for a less expensive material and the hardware really matters.  I bought some really nice drapes for my living room but I bought a relatively cheap rod set from Bed, Bath and Beyond. It was a mistake that immediately cut the impact of my several thousand dollar investment in half. After spending the money on the drapes, I thought I’d save $50 on the hardware. As I said, it was a mistake.  Windows are a place you shouldn’t go cheap on.  Now, that’s not to say you shouldn’t bargain shop–in fact, if you buy some nice material at a fabric store, a nice rod set will help make it look like a million bucks with very little effort (or sewing skill) on your part.  Need ideas? Check some of the high end shops online, see what looks good, and then search for something similar at a more modest price.

So, what about the artificial light sources? First of all, overhead lights are for kitchens and when you need to read fine print on something.  Recessed lighting that can be dimmed (a lot) may be the exception. The problem with recessed lighting is that often its uniform throughout the space so you lose an opportunity to create visual interest both with the lighting and the light fixture. Here again is a  great way to accomplish many things at once.  A lamp can be stylish, stark, classic, elegant, whimsical, masculine, feminine, a unique work of art, and can evoke a specific time period or design.  But, it should do or be at least one of those things. Those generic lamps they sell right next to the lazy-boys should not be brought home. Seriously.  A lamp can define a cozy seating area within a larger living space, it can spotlight a focal point and it can fill the role of artwork and tchotchke all in one. And its one of the things that if done right, makes the space feel “finished”.  Look at estate sales, thrift shops, and clearance sections of fancy stores but spend some time thinking about your lighting.  And don’t forget those overhead fixtures if you have them–in the bathroom too.  You can replace many fixtures yourself very inexpensively with something that has a little more character and reflects your style. Home Depot has a great selection.  If you have lamps with shades, make sure they are nice and try not to overlook a cool lamp base just because it has a yucky commercial shade, you can pick up a nice shade for a song and make your own unique lighting solution.

Other details in your home matter too of course.  Throw pillows–ugh, I hate them–but they do tie a room together nicely.  I switch the ones on my couch in the spring and fall, along with the throw I keep on the couch and I have to say, I get sort of excited when its time to make the switch, like I’m ushering in the new season and all the good things associated with it.  Check your bathroom stuff–whatever holds your soap or lotion or whatever you leave out, and check your shower curtain rings–does everything coordinate? It should. You can get great storage containers for cotton balls, hair clips etc. just about anywhere for pretty cheap.

The bottom line is that you don’t have to spend a fortune on furniture or big ticket items to make your home look great and pull it together like a professional.  Putting your stamp on a hodge podge collection of hand me downs or nothing-but-functional furniture can be as easy as paying attention to the details.  You certainly don’t need to pay an interior decorator to make your home the welcoming retreat you want it to be.  Just don’t wait to you are ready to sell to think about these things, do them now and enjoy the fruits of your labor! One thing to note though, window treatments and light fixtures are customarily included in all real estate transactions so either expect to part with them or let your Realtor know up front that you want them excluded from the deal.

Here are some resources and places to check for good ideas, cheap options and everything in between.

Horchow Home


Home Decorators Collection – great spot for serviceable items that look great at a reasonable price

Ballard Designs

Pottery Barn – I think its overpriced fro most things but you can get some nice window treatments for reasonable prices

Pier One – lots of people forget about this gem, you can find great, unique accessories for really cheap- great for housewarming gifts too

Marshalls, TJMaxx and Home Goods–you can find great deals, especially on lamps that might need a new shade or some TLC.

St. Boniface

I’ve written about this lovely and abandoned gem in our neighborhood before. Sometimes though, pictures really are worth a thousand words.  Take a look at this poignant gallery of pics inside the ruined church.   I hope that the efforts of all our dedicated community members will eventually save this beautiful place for the future enjoyment of all. Beauty like this is worth preserving for its own sake.  The history of the church and its struggles is well documented next to the photos.

Byron’s Hot Dogs At the White House!

Chicago is awesome for a lot of reasons. A really lot of reasons.  And we just added another one to the list. It just so happens that my uncle and his family own Byron’s hot dogs. One shop is at 1017 W Irving Park Road (773) 771-7772, a tiny little building but with parking in back AND most importantly, an open water tap to wash your hands after enjoying one of the fabulous, overflowing dogs and bag-o-french fries.  They also have a store at 1701 W Lawrence (773) 271-0900.

You might think I’m biased, but all the reviewers on can’t be wrong. But, maybe you don’t believe in reviews.  Maybe you need a presidential edict to believe. Well, ok, they’ve got that too!  Byron’s was requested to make a trip to the White House this past weekend for the Congressional Picnic on the South Lawn.  My uncle and owner of Byron’s, Mike Payne, gave his grocery list to White House chef Comerford so he could recreate the real deal for the Pres and the rest of the attendees.  He even got a to-go request to be sent up to the residence for the Obama family.

My grandfather retired to a farm in Culver, IN many years ago and I remember when I was a child, he provided the fresh produce for Byron’s toppings–you don’t get any fresher than that people.  Home grown cucumbers and tomatoes to put your dog, seriously, it doesn’t get much better than that.  Not to mention all the other kind of food Byron’s has, I have them cater ever chance I get, beef sandwiches, awesome fried chicken, subs and really exceptional pizza too. AND, it’s all very reasonably priced, even if you aren’t family! 🙂

Mike & Ann Payne, owners of Byron's Hot Dogs and Sen. Dick Durbin