Chicago Life and Style.

Your Home. Your Life. Your Style

Another unique find for Valentines and every other day!

Anyone who knows me knows I love to find unique things–gifts, furniture, art etc.  Another thing I love is my job–and that’s because in addition to seeing an unending array of homes and style, I get to meet tons of new people all the time. Making someone feel special is all about paying attention to the little things–that goes for gift giving AND finding them the right home and since everyone IS unique, we all like things that fit us in our own special way.

Today I had one of those moments when all the unrelated parts of the universe came together to provide me with a really awesome idea delivered by a client. Let me tell you about my brother-in-law. He’s a super charming, fun entreprenuer who actually went to the CIA (Culinary Institute of America)  in between his last acquisitions because he likes cooking that much. This is a guy that likes the finer things in life and knows all about them.  But, let’s face it, all guys want to be manly men at times and so he added camo and hunting to his repertoire.  Of course, tailgating is one of the perfect activities for him, combining food and drink with a manly sport.  Here’s where the great idea comes in. Wine Botas–and here is the local seller WineBotas.

Now, there is a definite chance you aren’t familiar with them, or at least didn’t know what they are called. You’ve undoubtedly seen them in movies featuring medieval monks and the like. Essentially, its a soft leather carrier made specifically for wine, liquor etc. They hold the equivalent of 1.33 bottles of wine.  Can you imagine how much more convenient it would be to strap this baby on at a tailgate instead of finding a pocket for a flask? And let’s be honest, flasks are too small anyway. 🙂  That hunting trip is another great time have this puppy on under the camo! Or on a bike, or horseback ride, or hike- the uses are endless!

For the rest of us, it’s a perfect solution for picnics at the park and lakefront–no worries about sneaking glass in and one less thing to have to carry/pack. I love the convenience factor and I love how unique it is.  Remember my bro-in law? Well, it just so happens he and my sister are traveling to Tuscany this summer–this Bota folds small and light and will be a perfect traveling companion for them!!

So, Valentines day is right around the corner–and so is Spring believe it or not–the owner assures me that if you are quick, he can get you your Bota in time for Vday.  Something this unique says all the things the Hallmark cards say but does it with style–and wine!!!  For those that don’t imbibe, it works just as well with water or any liquid so I can’t think of a single person that wouldn’t think this is an awesome gift.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!


Two great ideas for your unused tub.

I noticed a trend, back during the boom, when new construction was popping up everywhere, that developers were opting not to put tubs into guest baths, leaving just the giant fancy one in the master that pretty much never gets used.  This was especially prevalent in higher end homes that could support the costs of extra tilework and frameless glass showers. It seems like a good idea since most people prefer walk in showers anyway. Until you remember that people are still having children. And kids LOVE tubs.  My clients and I have walked out of many a beautiful home, single family and condo alike, because there wasn’t a suitable bath for the children and the parents don’t want to share their master retreat (and I agree with them!).

If you did end up with a developer standard guest bath, there is a good chance you have a shower/tub combo. I do. And while my daughter does still loves her baths, she does jump in my shower now and then too.  So, what to do with that tub? Let’s address it with the two key points important in, well, everything. Function and style.  From a function standpoint, tubs make excellent mudrooms. Huh? Yep. Mudrooms, you know, that luxury that big single family homes boast and most of us will never own.  I’ll explain, I promise.

In addition to baths, my daughter LOVES the snow. Loves it.  Although we haven’t had much this winter, I have been out playing in it with my two kids (human and dog) for hours and hours.  Proper snow play requires proper snow gear. Snowpants (ski pants if you’re a grownup and too cool for snowpants), hats, gloves and mittens (important to double layer), boots, ear muffs etc.  If you’re doing it right, you are going to come home alternately hot and frozen and soaking wet. So, what are you supposed to do with all that snow covered, wet gear? Well, put it in your mudroom and let it drip dry out of the way.


Here’s where the mudroom comes in. These removable hooks might be the best invention ever–and they can turn that unused tub into a mudroom.  They attach to any flat surface and remove with no residue and no damage–easy to take down in a minute if you actually need to use the shower and look decent hanging there if you have house guests that peak behind the shower curtain. The best part is that you can hang as many as you want at any height you want-so everyone can be responsible for hanging up thier own snow things. Don’t worry about them being sturdy enough, I have hung my three-quarter length insulated parka on them with no problem and during the holidays these same hooks hold our Christmas stockings chock full of presents.  As for clean up. once everything is dry, just turn the shower on and all that dried salt and dirt disappear. I’ll take that kind of cleanup over mopping anytime.

Now, on to style.  I think most people would rather not have a shower curtain hanging but what other option do we have short of installing glass? I was in a home at 57 E. Delaware the other day and saw an ingenious idea.  the clear shower liner was still hanging from the shower rod but the entire thing was hidden by a ceiling mounted curtain–a real curtain. When you think about it, the fact that we hang a traditional curtain rod a foot below the ceiling is a big reason it doesn’t look good–of course, that’s important for ventilation but not when its not in use. So, you simply open the full length curtain during the shower and just use the liner. It means you either have to use two rods or mount the curtain from the ceiling but wow, what a difference.

Do you have a great idea? Send it to me!


Winter Solstice…let the celebrations begin!

Happy Solstice!  No matter what your particular religious affiliation may be, the solstice is a wonderful pagan celebration that everyone should honor.  The big holidays have so much hype we all run around getting thing done, preparing, buying gifts etc. etc. and sometimes forget to actually relax.  Well, this is the perfect occasion.  The winter solstice is the longest night of the year, conversely, the shortest day. Which means, people, that even though we haven’t gotten winter weather yet, the days start getting longer from here out! I find that very comforting when our fair city is covered in ice and snow– we are getting lighter every day.

Here are some pared down celebrations that everyone can do at home without much preparation and without a lot of time.  One of my favorite traditions involves the burning of holly to say farewell to the past year with appreciation and releasing old pains.  Then, each person burns an acorn to represent the year ahead and the hopes we have for it.  Now, I don’t happen to keep holly and acorns around my house SO, I print out coloring pages and my daughter and I color them together and talk about the solstice while we color. Then we burn our “representative” holly sprigs and acorns.

We also do a candle light circle.  Each family member get a candle and there is a central candle as well to represent the sun, we start in the dark and I read one of my favorite prayers and then light each individual candle and together the center.

The longest night has come once more,
the sun has set, and darkness fallen.
The trees are bare, the earth asleep,
and the skies are cold and black.
Yet tonight we rejoice, in this longest night,
embracing the darkness that enfolds us.
We welcome the night and all that it holds,
as the light of the stars shines down.

When we light our fire that will eventually consume our acorns and holly, we each take a moment to talk about something we like about winter. Snowflakes, cozy fires, hot chocolate, making snow angels etc. Here I read my two other solstice prayer choices:

Great sun, wheel of fire, Ra in your glory,
hear me as I honor you
on this, the shortest day of the year.
Summer has gone, passed us by,
the fields are dead and cold,
all of earth sleeps in your absence.
Even in the darkest times,
you light the way for those who would need a beacon,
of hope, of brightness,
shining in the night.
Winter is here, and colder days coming,
the fields are bare and the livestock thin.
We light these candles in your honor,
that you might gather your strength
and bring life back to the world.
O Ra, mighty sun above us,
we ask you to return, to bring back to us
the light and the warmth of your fire.
Bring life back to earth,
Bring light back to earth.
Hail Ra! Ruler of the sun!

 And I always like to end with a more general blessing:

I am grateful for that which I have.
I am not sorrowful for that which I do not.
I have more than others, less than some,
but regardless, I am blessed with
what is mine.

Happy Solstice, I hope you take a moment to embrace and enjoy the wonders of our natural world today and tonight.


Chicago Landlord Tenant Ordinance

In this housing market more and more people are opting to rent—that includes people choosing to rent instead of buy and owners who are choosing to rent their homes instead of sell them during this tough time.  That makes for a lot of first time landlords.  If everything goes well and the tenants love the place and the landlord is responsive, no further information is needed.

Unfortunately, as with all things in life, the best case scenario is not always what actually transpires. Luckily there is an ordinance in place that governs the landlord-tenant relationship.  It is heavily geared toward protecting tenants and puts a lot of responsibility on landlords. The consequences of not following the ordinance can be significant and it is critically important that all landlords understand their rights and responsibilities—they start at the time you take a deposit and continue for the term of the lease.

As of January 1, 2012, there are a couple more requirements that have been put in place which include additional disclosures and a requirement that a landlord change the entry locks for EVERY new tenant.  Whether you are a renter or a landlord, you want to make sure that you have a good grasp of the ordinance, what is required and the remedies if one party or the other does not perform.

It is a common misconception that renting a home is much easier that buying one. Certainly there is less paperwork involved but much of the same due diligence should be exercised.  Choosing qualified representation is a critical step in becoming a landlord or choosing the right home to rent.

Copies of the Landlord Tenant Ordinance and Security Deposit Summary, as well as all disclosure forms can be found in various places all over the internet.  Unfortunately, like many lease forms out there, they are outdated or illegible.  The ordinance takes precedence so just because you write something into a lease, doesn’t necessarily make it enforceable.  Contact me for the most current information and to talk about how the ordinance may affect you.

Unique Gift Ideas

When I was a kid my mom did a great job of making sure there were lots and lots of packages under our tree-despite not spending a ton of money.  Once of my favorite toys of all times was remote controlled cars. So, the car was one package, and the batteries were wrapped separately—oh the anticipation when you opened a big pack of batteries and knew there was something coming that required them!!  Because we didn’t eat sugar cereal in our house, my sister and I each got a box of our favorite sugar cereal wrapped up—always a huge favorite and one that kept on giving as we always spent the next morning in bed eating our Christmas cereal.

This year (and last) most of us intend to tighten santa’s belt and get creative. Here are some ideas, some are free/inexpensive and some are more extravagant but still honor the holiday spirit and the fact that most of us adults in the city don’t want or have room for more “stuff”.

Consumables: always a nice option that doesn’t take up space!

Give the gift of flowers-not just a boring bouquet, give your loved ones a flower/plant subscription.  You’ll get credit when you tell them its coming and every time they receive a new arrangement.  Plow and Hearth allows you to choose 3/6/12 month subscriptions and be flexible with what you want to send.  Prices range from $100-$370.

Fruit of the Month—not just for businesses!!  If you’ve never been the recipient of these awesome gifts, you should try it.  I, um, I mean Santa, buys it for me and my daughter every year.  I never have to worry about running out of fresh fruit to send with school lunches or for snacks and the quality really it exceptional. Again, you can customize how much you want and the duration as well as what fruits you prefer.  Harry and David is my favorite for this.

Every gets stressed over the holidays, one nice way to give a gift and a break is to send a gourmet treat to friends/family members.  I did this for my sister and bro-in law one year and it was a HUGE hit. I sent them a brunch basket with bagels and lox and all the trimmings as well as an international cheese tray.  Not only did they not have to prepare breakfast one day, they invited friends by and put out the cheese tray .  It provides a chance to entertain and share your home with friends without having to worry about what to serve OR, to stay in bed and skip preparing a meal entirely!  Dean & Deluca, although expensive, is the absolute best at this sort of thing. They also have very unique specialty food gifts—I recommend the artisan salts.

Keeping the spirit of the season.

Instead of “stuff” or even fancy food/flowers, this gift is a great one for families, especially with children.  You can choose and purchase a farm animal for an impoverished family to supply protein, milk, and income, chickens, goats etc. If you aren’t interested in the animal type of gifts, you can sponsor the digging and stocking of a fish pond, and fishing lessons. You can help plant trees, provide seeds, provide education so that people all over the world can become self sufficient and enjoy a fraction of the bounty we enjoy every day. The best charity for this that I found is World Vision.

For this and all charitable gifts, please make sure that you know who you are giving your money to and check them out on Charity Navigator.  This site review the financials and efforts of charitable organizations and rates them so you know how efficient their fundraising is as well as how much of your donations actually make it to the end source.

Near and dear to me heart, the Garfield Park Conservatory is still in need of your support to re-build this historic institution that was near destroyed by hail this summer.  A local artist has created beautiful decorative bowls from the shards of glass that rained down from the ceilings. It’s a beautiful handmade, one of a kind sculptural creation, a piece of Chicago’s history and it supports a wonderful cause. What more could you want? On sale in the gift shop of the conservatory at $100, it’s the perfect excuse to come check out the holiday display and enjoy the greenery.

Purely for fun.

This is THE coolest thing.  A real flying fish and shark.  Remote controlled, no wires, they actually fly around your house.  For under $50 I think this is an awesome gift that everyone will get a kick out of. Check out the video to see them in action.

For the teckie, I’m sure everyone knows that all the cool accessories, covers, speakers, keyboards etc. are to be had at Brookstone.

For more traditional, put in a box and wrap it gifts, check out Signals. They have some very unique gifts, something for everyone of all ages that you won’t find in your average store.

And last but not least, give the gift of time together.  Another favorite gift of my family is homemade coupons—coupons for things like taking your turn to walk the dog or do the dishes, or babysit. Or, take a half day off and go to lunch together. It’s better than just saying, “oh, we’ve should do that”. It’s both a promise and an excuse to stop all the other distractions and focus on what you’ve committed to doing together.  The expensive version of the homemade coupon are tickets to events together. The Nutcracker is a holiday favorite of course but you can get creative too.  Fleurotica, the fashion show where all the fashions are made from plants and flowers comes up in March. You can buy tickets now and give them with a bouquet for a gift now and later.

My tree!

My first wrapped gift of the season--I love wrapping gifts as much as giving them!!