Chicago Life and Style.

Your Home. Your Life. Your Style

Month: December, 2010

Tips to beat the cold and winterize!

“…Chicago will experience wind chills of 10 to 20 below.”

That is a quote from today’s forecast, courtesy of WGN Weather Center.  It’s cold out.  I grew up in Cleveland where we got significantly more snow than we do here in Chicago and it was easily as cold.  The house I grew up in was old, no fancy energy saving insulation, no double paned windows and no forced air heating either.  We had radiators and I loved them. To this day, the hiss and clank of radiator heat makes me feel like I’m home.  However, we also had a whole list of tasks and paraphernalia that we brought out every winter.

We could watch the curtains move in the breeze that came through our beautiful leaded glass windows in the dead of winter. Not good.  So, every year, we brought out the plastic shrink wrap kits and taped them around the windows, then blow dried the plastic to make it seal tight.  We also used temporary caulking around all the windows.  Luckily, in Chicago, if you own a condo,  you probably have newer windows. But, that doesn’t mean that shrink wrapping large picture windows, french doors you don’t use regularly, etc. can’t save you a bundle of money.  The added benefit is that there is no cold spot near the window/door in question.

Here is a great article about other ways to save/create heat in your home–without spending extra money or remodeling. Some of the suggestions seem like common sense but we are often so immersed in our routines, we don’t think about how making small changes can make a difference. Here’s a recap:

1.  Leave your bathroom fan off, open the door to let the steam out into the rest of the house

2.  Gently boil a large pot of water on your stove to add moisture and warmth to the air–add cinnamon to make it smell good too!

3. Run your dishwasher during the day while you are in the kitchen or around. When its done, open the door and let the steam heat out into the room while the dishes dry.

4. Use old blankets, towels or even bathroom rugs to roll up and put at the base of doors to catch drafts.  Condo owners–many of our common hallways do not have heat in them so make sure you take care of doors leading into hallways as well! I’ve been using draft catchers for year, don’t waste your money on the ones in the store, often times they don’t work as well as towels because they aren’t the exact right size or they roll around too much.

5. Cover your fireplace if you don’t have built in insulated doors!  The article suggests plywood. I’m not a fan of how that would look, but you can get Home Depot to cut a clear fiberglass piece the exact right size and it’s almost unnoticeable. At the very least–make sure your flu is closed, I forget all the time.

6. Install a dryer heat saver. This one sounds like a project to me, but it would make a big difference.

Good luck and stay warm!

So much to do this weekend!!

I love the holidays.  The running around and madness that I always do is somehow more cheerful this time of year. 🙂

If you are a Santa fan, it’s time to go out and get that photo with the big man. Ill be at Commercial Park for the holiday party Saturday from 12-2 but here are a bunch of other options at various Park District locales.  And, if you want to help Santa out and pick up some of your own gifts, check out:

December on Damen
Don’t miss this year’s installment of December on Damen on Saturday, December 4 from Noon-6pm.  Stroll Damen Ave from North to Webster and enjoy some of the best shopping that Wicker Park and Bucktown has to offer. You’ll experience business specials, free hot chocolate, and FREE pedi-cabs connecting to Do Division Holiday and the Renegade Craft Fair. Free gift wrapping is also available for any December on Damen-related purchases at (participating store) Kathryn Kerrigan Footwear located at 2031 N Damen.

Do-Division Holiday
The shops, boutiques and restaurants of West Division Street between Milwaukee and Leavitt will rock with holiday cheer on Saturday, December 4 and Sunday, December 5 for Do-Division Holiday. Beginning at 11am and continuing throughout the weekend until the last participant closes, Do-Division Holiday, a FREE event, features everyone’s favorite Division Street bars, restaurants and merchants boasting incredible deals on everything from designer duds to hand-crafted suds! Come on down for some fun. For more, visit

After you shop till you drop, check out the after party/fashion show at Evil Olive starting at 9pm.

Renegade Craft Holiday Sale
The 5th Annual FREE Chicago Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Sale will be held December 4 and 5, from 11am-7pm at the Pulaski Park Field House (1419 W Blackhawk). The event boasts over 150 of today’s finest indie-craft talents, holiday shoppers are sure to find something for everyone on their list at this DIY spectacular! For more information visit:

DIY Renovation

I have always envied those handy people that can do their own renovations.  I’m pretty ambitious about what I attempt to tackle on my own but I’ve never had the chutzpah to try a big project, although I fantasize about it with some regularity!  In this economy more and more people are becoming do-it-yourself-ers.

Part of the reason for this movement is the mere dollars and cents of the matter. You are your own free labor, you can’t get cheaper than that.  I think the proliferation of DIY home shows has also inspired people. And finally, with the real estate market in the dumps, buyers/renters are demanding more upgrades and nicer finishes. That means that renovations are happening more often just to try and make a property stand out and be as attractive as possible in a sea of options.

What I wouldn’t give to be personal friends with Mr. Holmes from the “Holmes on Homes” show!  But, absent that, and if you are looking for some inspiration or help, there is a tremendous resource available to the public.  Residential Design Lab is located at 1859 N Elston. It’s a casual/comfortable setting where you can peruse a library full of resources on design and renovation and there are real life designer/architects etc. available to talk to.  You can even bring in a project you have planned and get a quote–talk about a perfect double check to make sure you aren’t over spending! It’s also a great way to make sure that any quotes you may have received from other professionals are appropriate and reasonable.

Oh, yeah, and it’s cool. Talk about a fun way to envision your dream house/kitchen/bath/whatever. Nothing like bonding over a household project.  I recently replaced some light fixtures in my house. Nothing dramatic but I was extremely proud of myself.  My daughter got such a kick out of it she went around telling everyone for three days- “my mommy put up new lights and she didn’t even need any friends to help her!”

Be sure to check it out if you have a project in mind or even if you don’t but are looking for something to do.  Good luck!!