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KATHY'S HOME & GARDEN TIPS - BIG GAME APPETIZERS

Here are some recipes for some classic appetizers that will please any guests you have.

Classic Guacamole

Buy under ripe avocadoes a few days before use to assure proper ripeness. Perfectly ripe ones yield gently to pressure. Cut in half lengthwise and twist the two halves apart. Remove pit by rapping sharply with a chef’s knife, twist and remove.

There are few rules to guacamole, choose flavors you like, but one hard and fast rule is adding an acid. Fresh lemon or lime juice works well, I prefer lime. This counter balances the richness of the avocado and prevents browning. Seasonings include, but not limited to, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Cayenne works for a hotter punch.

Add finely chopped red onion and serrano peppers. Peppers vary greatly in heat levels so add sparingly if you don’t like too much heat. Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate till party time. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole to prevent browning. Air causes the browning, so cover the surface completely. Seed and chop a ripe tomato and add just before serving. Finely chopped cilantro can also be added but personally I can’t stand the stuff.

Layered Taco Salad

Spread a 15oz can of refried beans on the bottom of a 13X9 inch pan, top with a 15oz can of black beans. Top with 16oz of sour cream and 16oz of Mexican blend cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until cheese is melted. Top with chopped avocado, tomatoes, lettuce and black olives. Serve with authentic Mexican tortilla chips.

Classic Buffalo wings

This recipe make ten wings but of course can be doubled or more. Mix together in a plastic bag ½ cup flour, ¼ teaspoon paprika, ¼ teaspoon cayenne and ¼ teaspoon salt. Add 10 chicken wings separated at the joint. Refrigerate for an hour minimum. This assures good adherence of the coating. Fry at 375 degrees in oil that covers the wings. Fry 10-15 minutes until they are golden brown. Combine ¼ cup butter along with ¼ cup hot sauce and dashes of black pepper and garlic powder. Simmer over low heat. Add mixture to the wings, toss and serve. Blue cheese dressing and celery sticks add to the dish.

Happy game day!

KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH & DEAN'S TEAM CHICAGO

TECHNOLOGY TIPS - HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT WINDOWS 10?

It's news that was plastered all over the internet last week. Windows 10 has been released to 1.7 million beta testers and has been in beta for the past three months.

First of all, Windows is jumping from Windows 8 to Windows 10. According to Microsoft, the skip in numbering has to do with the significant changes made in this new platform. It's what some of us would call a marketing ploy, but they have made some significant improvements that will go a long way.

This new version has some things that loyal Windows users will definitely be excited to see come back. First the Start Menu is back with some very unique twists. You have the traditional start menu and then you also have the capability to add your favorite apps and "Live Tiles" to the see an enhanced experience of your favorite items. For those who made the switch to Windows 8 and like the tiles, this is a wonderful compromise.

Windows 10 has been updated so that it can run on all devices, which includes smartphones, tablets, desktops and laptops. This is a major change in being able to create an app made that will work on the store and be applied to all Windows devices. There's a lot that goes into it, but suffice to say that this is a significant change. Also the apps will now run in a window giving the user a desktop experience even if on a tablet or smartphone.

I'm a big fan of the snap feature of Windows and am happy to say that this feature has actually been enhanced. Previously you were only able to snap two apps or programs at a time. Now you can snap up to four apps or programs on the same screen. The new Windows will make suggestions for filling open screen space with other apps.

One new aspect I'm curious to see and use is the Multiple Desktop feature. Essentially, you create projects in different desktops and switch between them. If you have multiple things you're working on, this feature is great to keep all items being worked on in one space without accidentally sending the wrong file or documentation to the wrong person.

All in all, the new Windows has some really interesting and cool improvements.  We'll be on the lookout for more reviews as time progresses.

CATHY MALLERS & DEAN'S TEAM CHICAGO

 

THIS WEEKEND IN CHICAGO - TRADITIONAL WINTER FESTIVITIES RETURN – SNOW OR NO SNOW!

It’s definitely not your “traditional” January here in Chicago with the lack of snow and milder temps, but as Chicagoans know all too well that can change instantly! Needless to say, whatever Mother Nature throws our way, we welcome the return of our City’s traditional winter festivities this weekend – snow or no snow!!

One of Chicago’s most popular and traditional winter festivities returns this Saturday (12:00 p.m.) with the Lakeview Polar Plunge at Oak Street Beach (1000 N. Lake Shore Dr.) in the Gold Coast neighborhood. Yep, it’s time to pull out your summer sunbathing attire for this great cause that supports local families in need and go for a little, or big, dip in Lake Michigan!  Afterwards, it’s time to head on over to Hopsmith Tavern (15 W. Division St. – just a 10 minute walk from the beach) for a warm-up after-party in Celebration of Shrinkage, which includes a drink special/food ($35 from 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.) and some really, really great raffle prizes!!  Last year, the Plunge raised $25,000. Let’s see if we could raise that number to $35,000!!!

Polar Adventure Days returns this Saturday (12:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.) for its 10th annual monthly event at Northerly Island (1400 S. Linn White Dr.) on the Near South Side just south of the Adler Planetarium and east of Soldier Field. Besides free hot cocoa, this traditional winter event features snowshoe rental (weather cooperating, of course), coming face-to-face with live animals such as Siberian huskies and coyotes, crafts, storytelling and music from the Old Town School. Events take place both outdoors and indoors at the visitor center, so dress accordingly!

Returning this Saturday (6:00 p.m.) for its 10th annual event is Cash for Kids: Johnny Cash Festival to the Irish American Heritage Center (4626 N. Knox Ave.) in the Mayfair neighborhood for Chicago’s only Johnny Cash Festival. Two stages and seven bands join forces for an amazing evening celebrating the sounds of Johnny, June and crew along with Hayden Thompson (Rockabilly Hall of Fame member), Iron Horse (America’s Got Talent finalist), Lance Lipinsky (Million Dollar Quartet performer) and many, many others! Best of all, ALL proceeds benefit the Gompers Park Athletic Association!!

I don’t know about you, but the best thing about winter is planning for your summer home projects now, and as luck would have it, there are two shows in town this weekend to assist you with just that –

The Ideal Home Show Chicago sets-up for its first-annual exposition at McCormick Place (2301 S. Lake Shore Dr.) in the South Loop on Saturday (10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.) and Sunday (10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.). Here you’ll be able to get new ideas and helpful tips, find innovative products and fantastic deals for all your remodeling, home improvement and/or spring outdoor projects. Also, not only will there be featured guests and many home/landscape experts on hand to answer your various questions but you will also see new products demonstrated; meet sellers face-to-face; shop, compare & save; take advantage of products & show specials; get new trends and ideas for your home and much, much more!

The Home and Garden Show returns on Saturday and Sunday (10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.) to the Drury Lane Theatre (100 Drury Ln.) in Oak Brook Terrace, a suburb west of Chicago which offers FREE Admission and Valet Parking! This One-Stop-Shopping expo features 100’s of products and services presented by local and national experts; hourly expert seminars; a shopping marketplace; exclusive show specials and great giveaways for your most popular projects in and around the home!

Will You Partake in Tradition and Go For the Plunge or Play It Safe?  Guess What I’m Going To Do!

SUE MOSS & DEAN'S TEAM CHICAGO

CHICAGO NEIGHBORHOOD NEWS - LAKEVIEW, LOOP, EVANSTON, NORWOOD PARK, RAVENSWOOD

LAKEVIEW

The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, which is showcasing fascinating performances for both children and adults all around the city, began last Wednesday and will continue on through this Sunday, the 25th. Lakeview's Links Hall at Constellation (3111 N. Western Ave.) have several performances still available in their "Nasty, Brutish & Short" program which is a cabaret of some of Chicago's most innovative puppeteers.

LOOP

Protein Bar, has opened a new location this month at 151 N. Michigan Ave, Millennium Park Plaza, for another healthy meal option in the area. This Chicago-based company has expanded to Washington D.C. and Colorado, and this will be its 20th location. They pride themselves for their quick service and healthy, protein-rich food and drinks that includes several vegan options.

EVANSTON

The Divvy Bike Share program is making plans to expand to Evanston and officials are looking to the community for feedback about the 17 possible station locations. Follow the link for more information, including the survey link that will allow you to rate the importance of each proposed station. The survey is open to the public until the end of January for the initial startup of 8 stations to be installed this summer. You may also call or text 847-448-4311 to offer your opinion or complete a survey on Tuesday, January 27th, at the main Evanston Public Library (1703 Orrington Ave.) from 5pm - 9pm.

NORWOOD PARK

Stan "Tex" Banash, Norwood Park resident and director of public relations at Norwood Crossing retirement community, has written his third book. Mr. Banash has co-authored two previous books about history and his latest, Roadside History of Illinois, details the development of Illinois as a state from the Ice Age to the present. Monday, January 26th at 4pm is your chance to meet Mr. Banash for an hour long presentation of his book's highlights with a  "cowboy-style" dinner to follow at the Norwood Park Senior Center, 5801 N. Natoma Ave. A $5 donation is requested. Call 773-775-6071 or email info@npseniorcenter.org for more information or to RSVP. His book is also available for purchase at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com.

RAVENSWOOD

The BYOB restaurant, Artango Bistro at 4217 N. Ravenswood Ave., is offering an interesting twist on prix fixe dining every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. For the price of a three-course prix fixe meal, which includes appetizer and choice of entree and dessert for $30, diners will receive a free 30 minute group Argentine tango lesson.

CATHY MALLERS & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO

KATHY'S HOME & GARDEN TIPS - REPURPOSE HOUSEHOLD ITEMS

Use a dish drying rack in the office to hold and organize files. The utensil cup is great for holding pens, pencils and scissors.

Take an old three step ladder and make a shelf for hanging pictures. Paint it a bright color, or you can distress it or use antiquing paint for a vintage look.

Chalkboard paint is great for the kid’s rooms. It comes in colors now so you can really get creative. Paint old tins for storing pens and art supplies. Paint old dressers and night stands and let the kids go crazy!

Headboards are another way to get creative. Take an old wooden one and hang on the wall. Attach hooks of varying sizes. This works great in a mudroom or entryway. Make an interesting headboard by painting two shutters and attach to the wall.

Nail a yardstick to the wall. Paint large wooden clothespins in bright primary colors. Glue them to the stick. Voila, display for kid’s artwork and projects.

Take a flat mattress spring and turn it into a hanging rack. Wire brush off the rust and paint black or any color. Use clothespins to hang papers. Find hanging hooks in different sizes at office supply or hardware store. Hang things like keys and jewelry.

Old dressers are great to decoupage. Have the kids find pictures that appeal to them like sports or hobbies. They can personalize that old dresser and really make it their own.

Take any old cocktail table or end table and paint it a bold color. This really stands out in a room and gives new life to an old piece.

You can save money by reusing items from around the house and be environmentally aware at the same time.

KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH & DEAN'S TEAM CHICAGO

TECHNOLOGY TIPS - TIME TO START SAVING

I just learned about this great site called Digit. And with the holidays just behind us, this is a great way to start your holiday savings for 2015 right away.

It's still a newer site but it's pretty interesting how it works. It doesn't take too much to sign-up either. It's a 4 step process of getting the system to talk to your bank account. Every few days, Digit will check the account you use to analyze your spending patterns. At that time, it will take several dollars from your account and move it to your Digit account. There is no fee for you. Your account does not earn interest because the interest you would normally earn is how Digit makes their money.

Currently Digit is only US-based. Your personal information is encrypted, made anonymous and stored securely. The funds are also FDIC insured up to $250,000. As an added bonus, Digit guarantees no overdraft fees. If at any time your bank account is overdrawn, Digit will pay the fee.

Digit is available to move funds back into your bank account every day of the year. You have no limit on the amount of times you are able to access your Digit account. Interaction with Digit is also set up to communicate with your mobile phone via text. If you need to withdraw funds you simply text "Withdraw" and Digit will handle the rest.

It's a pain free way to have anywhere from $5-$50 taken from your bank account so you can save funds without it being a hardship on your day to day life.

CATHY MALLERS & DEAN'S TEAM CHICAGO

FOR BUY-AND-HOLD REAL ESTATE INVESTORS, ARE THERE FEWER BARGAINS IN CHICAGO?

AS LOCAL PRICES RISE HERE, THE ECONOMICS OF SOME REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT STRATEGIES HAVE CHANGED!

If there was any Silver Lining to Price Declines in the Chicago Real Estate Market over the last few years, it did offer Strong Opportunities for Financial Return for Real Estate Investors looking to Buy, Hold, and Rent a Single-Family Home or Condo.  Reduced Prices offered Investors the ability to purchase at a modest price, and allow money for necessary repairs and upgrading to put the home on the rental market.

With Chicago Real Estate Properties Rising, however, some investors may be considering more a a buy, fix-up, and FLIP Strategy of properties they purchased recently.  Others may hold back on investments for a while, as acquisition costs have risen faster than potential sales prices have.

As reported by Chicago Tribune Real Estate Columnist Mary Ellen Podmolik, for the year ending September, 2014, according to Realty Trac, investors enjoyed an average value return of roughly 30% after improvement of distressed, discounted properties.  At the same time, however, the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index put the Home Price Gain of only 22% during the same time period.

Larger Institutional Investors, such as The Blackstone Group, drastically reduced the number of homes they invested in across Chicago between 2013 and 2014 - from 120 homes in 2013, to only 20 last year!

As the Chicago Housing Market continues to improve, and more customers opt to buy rather than rent, the attractiveness of buying investment property to rent it out rather than quickly fix up and re-sell, some investors may pare back their purchases.

Realty Trac reviewed over 200,000 purchases made by Institutional Investors - those who purchase a minimum of 10 properties in a year, during the period between January, 2012 and August, 2014.  The return nationally was just over 26.5%, as these bigger investors purchased their average property for $167,556, and realized an after-improved value of $212,000.  

See Podmolik's post for more detail.  

YOUR Thoughts???  Do YOU feel Chicago will remain an attractive market for Real Estate Investors in 2015?

Let Us Know!

DEAN MOSS & DEAN'S TEAM CHICAGO

THIS WEEKEND IN CHICAGO - SUMMER MAY BE RETURNING TO CHICAGO!

Have you had enough of winter with its below zero temps and unbearable wind chills? Are you ready for summer to return to Chicago? Well, I can’t give you summer yet, but I could get you in that frame of mind and ready for its return or even suggest places that are in their summertime.  Want to know how?

The Progressive Insurance Chicago Boat, RV & Strictly Sail Show are in town Saturday (10:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m.) and Sunday (10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.) at McCormick Place, South Hall (2301 S. Lake Shore Dr.) in the South Loop to give you a head start on summer outdoor fun. By combining two annual winter favorites, not only will this event be offering 25% more exhibit space with more sailboats, power boats, RVs and accessories but it will also offer a New Progressive Boat School; Interactive Fun for All Ages which includes the Gypsy Rose Pirate Ship, Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP), the Huck Finn Trout Pond and more; Outdoors 101; Sailing Simulator and so much more! This is definitely the best boating, RVing and sailing all under one roof packed with an incredible line-up of family-friendly activities and is Chicago’s BIGGEST marine & outdoors sales event to get you ready for the return of summer!!

Also in town this weekend is the Chicago Travel & Adventure Show at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, Hall F (5555 N. River Rd.) in Rosemont. Billed as the Midwest’s largest travel show, where travelers come annually to dream, plan and book their next vacations, this event features ideas on where to go, what to do once there, which destinations offer the best value and provides the latest travel information to keep you in the know along with a bona fide list of reputable companies. Why waste time searching the Internet or thumbing through a book when you’ll have travel experts at your fingertips! And, don’t forget to fill out your entry for an opportunity to win the show’s official “Door Prize” as well as stopping by exhibitor booths where hundreds of trips will be raffled during the weekend (Saturday – 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m./Sunday – 11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.). You just might be lucky enough to win an all-expense paid trip!!

Nothing conjures up summer more than baseball and the Cubs Convention offers you that opportunity this Saturday and Sunday at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers (301 E. Water St.) on the Near North Side! It’s the “official” kickoff for the upcoming 2015 baseball season featuring Cubs guests that includes players, alumni, coaches, broadcasters and many others throughout the weekend with a variety of autograph and photograph sessions, question and answer seminars, interactive exhibits, exhibitor booths, a kids’ play area and more! A few other events scheduled throughout the weekend are: Cubs Jeopardy, Meet the New Cubs, Down on the Farm, Cubs Family Feud, Cubs Bingo, 30 Years of Cubs Convention Memories and so much more!! Let’s “play ball!”

Finally, for some of us, Monday is a holiday which means schools will be closed. Chicago’s Martin Luther King Jr Day Events offers MLK-inspired events happening across Chicagoland to keep your ‘lil ones busy.

See – Summer Is Returning To Chicago!!!

SUE MOSS & DEAN'S TEAM CHICAGO

CHICAGO NEIGHBORHOOD NEWS - LINCOLN PARK, LOOP, NORWOOD PARK, RAVENSWOOD, EVANSTON

LINCOLN PARK

Update from ComEd & PNC Bank's ZooLights 2014: It turns out the there was a record-breaking amount of visitors this past holiday season. DNAinfo attributes the mass of numbers to the addition of BrewLights Holiday Beer Festival. In its 20th year there were 502,000 guests. What a great way to start the year!

LOOP

Reservations are now being taken for business superstar, Sir Richard Branson's, newest venture as hotelier. The Virgin Hotels brand was launched in 2010 and there's been much anticipation over today's opening of the inaugural Virgin Hotel here in Chicago. The Old Dearborn Bank building at 203 N. Wabash Ave. was acquired in 2011 to be the introductory hotel with others to follow in New York and Nashville. Attractions to explore include the hotel's coffee bar-by-day/wine bar-by-night, the "underground spa", and roof-top lounge.

NORWOOD PARK

There's tons of different exercise routines out there, from Zumba to Pilates, and yoga to Crossfit. Well the term "Jazzercise" has gotten a makeover and several classes are available in the area with a New Year Special sign up offer that ends on January 31st. Jazzercise has been referenced humorously in entertainment for years. It's a struggle for many to keep interested and dedicated to a workout routine and the motivational power of this dance-based fitness program should not be underestimated. Check out the schedules at the following locations and give it a chance in 2015!

Norwood Park Field House (5801 N. Natoma Ave.)

Norwood Park Lutheran Church (5917 N. Nina Ave.)

St. James Lutheran Church (7400 W. Foster Ave.)

RAVENSWOOD

Get your tickets for the 4th annual Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce's Winter Brew. The chamber wishes to provide participants with that Chicago Street Festival vibe in the comfort and warmth of the 5th floor ballroom and 6th floor skyline lounge of the Dank Haus at 4740 N. Western Ave. We're giving you fair warning to purchase your tickets ahead of time for this popular 2 session event on Saturday, January 31st at 2-5pm and 7-10pm.

EVANSTON

The main gallery of the Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art (40 Arts Circle Dr.) is currently featuring "Collecting Paradise: Buddhist Art of Kashmir and Its Legacies" through April 19th. The Winter 2015 Opening Day Celebration will be held this Saturday, Jan. 17th, from 2-5pm. This free presentation will be given by curator Robert Linrothe who will explain the significance of the collection for Buddhists and Westerners alike.

CATHY MALLERS & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO

PRICE REDUCED! DUNNING - BEAUTIFUL SPLIT-LAYOUT CORNER UNIT - TOP LOCATION!!

http://www.dean-team.com/photos/chicago_homes_for_sale_by_deans_team/images/3815850/secondarythumb.aspxDunning, Chicago  -  Announcing a Price Reduction on 6441 West Warner Avenue, #406, a 1,840 sq. ft., 2 bath, 2 bedroom split-layout condo.  In-Unit Laundry Room + 1 Indoor Garage Parking Space! Now MLS $189,000!!!

Property information

PRICE REDUCED! EDISON PARK - BRICK QUEEN ANNE OFFERS VINTAGE CHARM!!

http://www.dean-team.com/photos/chicago_homes_for_sale_by_deans_team/images/3827812/secondarythumb.aspxEdison Park, Chicago  -  Announcing a Price Reduction on 6735 North Oketo Avenue, a 1,520 sq. ft., 1 1/2 bath, 3 bedroom 1 1/2 story brick Queen Anne.  Just steps away at end of block to Ebinger School!! Now MLS $297,400 - MAKE THIS YOUR SPECIAL HOME!!

Property information

KATHY'S HOME & GARDEN TIPS - GET OUT THE CROCKPOT

What could be better during these cold snaps than some hot soup or stew from the crockpot? These two recipes are easy and helpful as they cook mostly in the crockpot. Crock pots are ideal for soup as they cook low and slow. They also take lesser cuts of meat and render them tender and flavorful.

Our first recipe is Lemon Rice soup. Place 5 cups of chicken broth (low sodium preferred) into a crock pot with ¾ cup long grain brown rice. You can use white rice, but brown is healthier with a nuttier flavor. Cook on high for three hours or until rice is fully cooked. If you are using white check after 2 ½ hours. Wisk 3 egg yolks along with ¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice in a bowl. Mix in I cup of broth from the pot VERY slowly into the egg mixture. This is called tempering the eggs into a creamy mixture. Adding the liquid too quickly will scramble the eggs. Add to the soup, constantly stirring, then cook for an additional 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. You could also add cooked diced chicken.  

Beef Bourguignon sounds daunting but is actually quite easy in the crockpot. Add 6 slices of thick cut diced bacon to a warmed skillet. Cook till crispy. Place bacon on paper towels reserving the fat for browning the beef. Pat dry 3 lbs. of stew beef. This is essential!  Meat must be dry to sear properly. Dust with salt and peppered flour, shake off excess. Sear the meat in batches over high heat. Don’t crowd the pan. Add each batch to the pot after searing. Deglaze the pan with ¼ cup red wine making sure to scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the last of the bacon grease to the pan and cook two sliced yellow onions. When onions are softened add 3 diced medium carrots and cook till softened. Add 2 minced garlic cloves and 1 tablespoon tomato paste. Cook till fragrant then add the mixture to the pot. We are layering flavors. Add an herb bouquet. Tie 4 sprigs of parsley along with a bay leaf and 3 sprigs of fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried in a cheesecloth. Place in the pot along with 3 cups beef broth and 2 ½ cups red wine. Cook till beef is tender. 6-8 hours on low. Sauté one pound sliced white onions in one tablespoon butter till all liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are browned. Add to the beef along with the fried bacon and a pound of thawed pearl onions. Remove herb bouquet and cook an additional 10 minutes.

KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH & DEAN'S TEAM CHICAGO

TECHNOLOGY TIPS - SAMSUNG HAS AN EXCITING NEW PHONE

I'll admit it. I'm a Samsung S5 owner. I've been watching what they are doing these days with their Galaxy products and with the CES show last week, there was some exciting news.

Last year Samsung announced, albeit on the sly, their Galaxy A7 smartphone. The phone is 5.5 inches and has an 8-core processor. It's a slimmer phone and touts a "superior social experience." The A7 has 16GB of memory and 2GB of ram which allows it to manage media and multiple apps. It also includes an extended battery to support all its hardware.

And for those of you who enjoy taking "selfies" this is the camera for you. It has an Auto Selfie mode allowing you to use a wave of the hand or voice command to trigger the image. With strong LTE features, it's easy and quick to upload your images or videos to your favorite social media too. It also sports a 13-megapixel camera in the rear and a 5-megapixel in the front.

We don't yet know the launch date of this version. We do know that if you choose to purchase the phone off contract it will cost approximately $420.

CATHY MALLERS & DEAN'S TEAM CHICAGO

 

THIS WEEKEND IN CHICAGO - BRUTAL WEATHER DOESN’T KEEP CHICAGOANS DOWN!

This past week has been brutal to say the least. Not only were most of us back to a full work week but we had to deal with frigid, unbearable temperatures as well! I don’t know about you but the weekend can’t get here fast enough for me. And since we’ll likely be thawing out, here are some fun indoor events in Chicago to get yourself out of the house while doing so!

The world’s largest sketch comedy festival celebrates its 14th year with the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival at Stage 773 (1225 W. Belmont Ave.) in the Lakeview neighborhood on Saturday (5:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m.) and Sunday (1:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.) through January 18th. This year’s festival features over 150 shows and more than 1,000 performers from all over the world as well as featuring panels of sketch comedy experts who will be educating and entertaining participants and the public with stories and advice! There’s nothing like a gut-hardy laugh!!

Perhaps laughter is not the best medicine for you! How about Dinner Detective at the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel (163 E. Walton Pl.) on the Near North Side every Saturday night from 6:00 p.m.-9:30 p.m. This immensely popular show is the largest, award-winning, interactive comedic murder mystery dinner show in the nation where performers are dressed just like everyone else and are seated next to unsuspecting guests until the performer dies! Your ticket includes a reception with tray passed appetizers, a mixed green salad, a choice of entrée (chicken, salmon or pasta), dessert, the interactive Murder Mystery show and prizes for the Top Sleuth who solves the crime!

Perhaps being Sherlock Holmes is a little lame for you! How about the House of Blues World Famous Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues (329 N. Dearborn St.) on the Near North Side every Sunday at 10:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. This one-of-a-kind event starts you off with a delicious all-you-can-eat family-style buffet that includes breakfast favorites, carving stations and House of Blues’ specialties. Afterwards, it’s time to enjoy some amazing and uplifting live gospel music, both traditional and contemporary, featuring the best local and regional gospel performers and acts! Watch out though, you just might get out of your seat waving a napkin and singing along with everyone else!!

Perhaps you prefer to just have some good ‘ole winter fun without freezing to your core! Here’s your last chance as Winter Wonderfest wraps-up this Saturday (10:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m.) and Sunday (10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.) at Navy Pier (600 E. Grand Ave.) in the Streeterville neighborhood. With more than 170,000 square feet of fun featuring new rides, attractions and entertainment, this indoor winter playground is definitely Chicago’s coolest and biggest for some good ‘ole winter fun without the brutal temperatures!

How Will You Be Thawing Out?

SUE MOSS & DEAN'S TEAM CHICAGO

CHICAGO NEIGHBORHOOD NEWS - PORTAGE PARK, LAKEVIEW, LINCOLN SQUARE, EVANSTON, SOUTH LOOP

PORTAGE PARK

Property owners, have you noticed any major imperfections in your sidewalks while you've been out there shoveling? Anything that can use replacing, especially for the safety of those that may be elderly or disabled? Because 12am Tuesday January 13th begins your chance to take advantage of the City's Share Cost Sidewalk Program. Your sidewalk may be eligible to be replaced at a highly discounted rate. Further discounts are offered to senior citizens and those with disabilities. Read the Program Overview to learn how to apply. It's first-come, first-serve so start surveying your property and preparing your applications now.

LAKEVIEW

Stage 773 will be hosting the 13th annual Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival from today, January 8th through the 18th. It touts itself as "the nation's largest sketch comedy festival" with  168 groups performing 188 shows in 8 days. Those are some serious numbers. This is not improv. The festival promises strong writing for satirical and hilarious entertainment. So stop being so serious and bear the weather to come out for some great laughs.

LINCOLN SQUARE

Chicago Public Schools may not be able to handle this weather but can you? If you're up for the challenge, Fleet Feet Sports has a schedule of "Fun Runs" that range from "Chick Night" runs to "Early Bird" morning runs. Chicagoans are known for not letting the weather hold them down. Just please run responsibly.

EVANSTON

Have you ever thought of print advertising as art? Evanston's Block Museum of Art will be opening their exhibit, Toulouse-Lautrec Prints: Art at the Edges of Modernity, which will show Lautrec's contribution to the art form which was burgeoning towards the end of the 19th century. The artist's gaze has depicted the most famous images of the legendary Parisian entertainment club, Le Moulin Rouge. The exhibit begins its run on Tuesday January 13th and will be on display through April 19th, with a special "Evening with Toulouse-Lautrec" on Wednesday January 21st at 5pm.

SOUTH LOOP

Americans have been witnessing and participating in intense protests lately so the new movie Selma, from director Ava DuVernay, is sure to resonate. It is the dramatic chronicle of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s journey as the powerful yet peaceful civil rights activist to obtain equal voting rights for all races, starting in Selma, Alabama in 1965. Jackson Action Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicating to educating and empowering the community for a brighter future, has organized a private screening of the movie plus discussion at the Showplace Icon Theater (1101 S. Delano Ct) this Saturday, the 10th, starting at 4pm. Tickets can be purchased through EventBrite since they will not be sold at the doors.

CATHY MALLERS & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO

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