FOUR NEARBY PUBLIC ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS OFFER FINE ARTS, SCIENCE FOR VARIETY OF TALENTS

Every school day morning around 7:15 or so, I see kids walking with their parents, older siblings, or other family members south on Wolcott Avenue toward James B. McPherson Elementary School. In most all types of weather, unless the wind chill is low enough, these kids walk carefully through the snow and ice to further their education.

James B. McPherson Elementary School on the corner of Lawrence and Wolcott avenues is celebrating its 10th year as an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School for grades six through eight, according to the school’s website. It also has plans to adopt an IB Primary Years Program. The IB program seeks to create a community of lifelong learners.

Other public schools are also nearby.

Located at 4332 N. Paulina St., Ravenswood Elementary School is a fine and performing arts magnet school with 524 students. It is designated as being in “good standing” by the Chicago Public Schools system for its pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade program.

Alexander Graham Bell Elementary School, located in North Center at 3730 N. Oakley Ave., serves 1,042 students in grades kindergarten through eighth-grade who live in the attendance district; gifted students in grades 1-8; and a specialized program for deaf students. It is designated as being in “good standing” by Chicago Public Schools.

James G. Blaine Elementary School, located at 1420 W. Grace St., is a fine arts magnet school. It partners with the Chicago Community Trust, Chicago Cubs, Edelman Public Relations, Looking Glass Theater, Dance Art, the Field Museum, and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Chicago Magazine ranked Blaine Elementary as No. 13 on its “Best Schools in Chicago & Suburbs” 2012 list.

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Victoria Marty has written for newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years and recently moved to the Lincoln Square, Chicago area. A frequent runner who loves learning and exploring new places, she has perfected the art of getting lost while simultaneously finding unique landmarks, boutiques and out-of-the-way nooks worth writing about. Her blogs are geared toward the newly transplanted who want to learn as much about Chicago as they can, as quickly as possible.

WHAT, A BLIZZARD? THEN TAKE THE EL

Chicago Blizzard? Take the LWhat do most people do in the middle of a Chicago blizzard? They stay home. What did I do? I took the El to the Art Institute of Chicago.

It’s not like I hadn’t been to the Art Institute before. I’ve been there many times, both during college and afterwards. But ever since I moved back to Chicago in mid-December 2014, I’d wanted to visit it again. That’s why I braved roughly a foot of snow recently to walk from my condo in Ravenswood/Lincoln Square to the Brown Line stop before hopping off at the Adams/Wabash stop to get to the museum. Snowflakes and wind hit me in the face as I crossed Michigan Avenue, but once inside the Art Institute, I was rewarded with short lines and relatively empty exhibition rooms. Plus, nothing beats a train ride through the city on a near-empty train as snow flurries cover the air around me.

So just how practical is having the El stop so close to me? Well, not only do I not have to worry about parking my car, I also don’t have to pay parking fees. And during a snowstorm, not having to worry about a possible accident is even better. Even more rewarding for someone soaking in every aspect of the city: The El gives me access to advertisements I wouldn’t ordinarily know anything about, like the Fight for Air Climb organized by the American Lung Association and scheduled for March 8 at the Presidential Towers, or the Avon 39: The Walk to End Breast Cancer, set for June 6-7 here in Chicago.

Worried about standing out on a windy train platform in the middle of February? I won’t lie; it IS cold out there. This is Chicago, after all. But the Damen stop has a button you can push to activate a heat lamp to help you feel just a little bit warmer. Plus, the trains aren’t that far apart. And when someone has a question — “Am I on the right train? What’s the express train?” — most people are kind and patient enough to give them the correct answer.

I’ve noticed the same of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) workers, who are happy to answer questions and give directions as to the best exits to take depending on your favored destination. Meanwhile, the ticket machines rely on credit cards and are easy to use, as are the turnstiles. I haven’t had any problems at all.

And you can’t beat how reliable the CTA website and Google are in directing you to your destination. It’s just 49 minutes from my condo to the museum if I take the El, factoring in waiting for the train and walking from my stop to the museum. How’s that for service?

In the meantime, traveling on the El gives you visual access to the city you wouldn’t ordinarily have from a car or a bus. Apartment buildings, small businesses and other real estate swing on by, and the El slows as it turns to follow the Downtown Loop. The train’s large windows make it impossible for you not to notice the heights, the writings on the walls, the landscapes that’d escape mention any other way. For an intimate look at Chicago, you just can’t beat the El.

VGrabnerVictoria Marty has written for newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years and recently moved to the Lincoln Square, Chicago area. A frequent runner who loves learning and exploring new places, she has perfected the art of getting lost while simultaneously finding unique landmarks, boutiques and out-of-the-way nooks worth writing about. Her blogs are geared toward the newly transplanted who want to learn as much about Chicago as they can, as quickly as possible.

CHICAGO RAVENSWOOD NEIGHBORHOOD GEMS

2015 01 31 Lill StreetWhen the cold weather hits, it’s natural to want to huddle indoors. That’s also the perfect time to head to Lillstreet Art Center, a former gear factory at the corner of Ravenswood and Montrose avenues in Ravenswood.

Founded in 1975, Lillstreet Art Center offers a friendly community of artists and students working together to promote and inspire individual artistic growth. According to the center’s website, the center supports the arts through its education program, artists residencies, gallery exhibitions and retail sales opportunities, studio rentals, and arts-based professional development.

Those interested in taking classes in first-time knitting and yoga, intuitive collage, and sashiko stitching can do so at Lillstreet Loft, just a few steps north of the art center, January through March. Additionally, the Drawing & Painting Studios at 4410 N. Ravenswood Ave. offer drawing and painting in the classical tradition.

But residents can also take classes in ceramics, metalsmithing and jewelry, printmaking, textiles, glass, and digital arts & photography.

Have an important event to go to but don’t want to leave your dog alone in your condo, house or apartment? Consider bringing your four-legged best friend to Urban Pooch 2015 01 31 Urban PoochCanine Life Center at 4501 N. Ravenswood Ave., just down the street from the Lillstreet Art Center.

If you’re too busy to bring Fido to the store, no worries — Urban Pooch can pick him up! Playtime Express Pickup and Drop-off Service is offered every day of the week for only $7 each way.

Meanwhile, Urban Pooch also offers a line of canine food and treats, obedience training classes, and clothing for dogs who, like humans, struggle to stay warm in this cold, snowy weather. The store was mentioned in a CBS 2 TV Chicago clip about that very subject.

VGrabner

Victoria Marty has written for newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years and recently moved to the Lincoln Square, Chicago area. A frequent runner who loves learning and exploring new places, she has perfected the art of getting lost while simultaneously finding unique landmarks, boutiques and out-of-the-way nooks worth writing about. Her blogs are geared toward the newly transplanted who want to learn as much about Chicago as they can, as quickly as possible.

EXCITING CHANGES AT 1618 W EDGEWATER

1618 W. EdgewaterJulia and Scott may no longer live in their 1,300-square-foot condo at 1618 W. Edgewater Avenue, but that hasn’t stopped them from caring about what happens to the property just across the street.

“That there’s a nearly one-acre green space to be developed and managed by the city is exciting,” Julia said of a new neighborhood park planned for the south side of Edgewater from Ashland to Hermitage avenues. “I’m a mom of a small child, and the idea of having a park is sort of lovely.”

She was talking about plans to demolish the former Edgewater Medical Center across the street, build residential and retail properties, and enable the development of green space just west of the shuttered medical center located at 5700 N. Ashland Ave.

In January, a parking structure tied to the former medical facility is scheduled to be demolished, making room for single-family residences. Other work is expected to continue after that project begins, Julia said. This includes 39,874 square feet of donated park land just to the east of the single-family residences. The former hospital will be converted to 13,975 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, including indoor bike parking. Residential units will be upstairs. Additionally, WBEZ has been following the Edgewater Medical Center plans.

Edgewater Medical Center closed in December 2001, the building left vacant and has continued to decay ever since. Since then, community members have formed Friends of West Edgewater Park to advocate for a redevelopment plan for the shuttered medical center that, according to the group’s Facebook page, is “an appreciable neighborhood park, is forward-thinking, is sound, and is in keeping with the scale and fabric of the community.”

“There aren’t a lot of parks in Andersonville, and Andersonville is becoming more of a destination for buyers,” Julia added. “Some have kids and some don’t, but everyone loves the green space and everyone loves the light that a green space can bring to a neighborhood.”

Scott and Julia now live just east of Lincoln Square, in a larger property that gives their family — they are now expecting their second child — more room to grow. Their 1618 W. Edgewater Ave. condo with a vintage feel offers two bedrooms, one bathroom, brand new stainless steel appliances, exterior parking and a private deck.

VGrabnerVictoria Marty has written for newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years and recently moved to the Lincoln Square, Chicago area. A frequent runner who loves learning and exploring new places, she has perfected the art of getting lost while simultaneously finding unique landmarks, boutiques and out-of-the-way nooks worth writing about. Her blogs are geared toward the newly transplanted who want to learn as much about Chicago as they can, as quickly as possible.

DOGS NEED TIME TO ADJUST TO A MOVE TOO

AshbyI may be adjusting well to living in Chicago, but my dog is having a tough time. If there were a poster dog for separation anxiety, my shepherd-mix would be it. Ashby is normally calm and quiet when I’m near her. But when I step out to run errands without her, she turns into a bundle of nerves and begins to bark incessantly.

First, I tried a Thundershirt at Jameson Loves Danger in Andersonville. A tight-fitting shirt that wraps around a dog’s torso, the Thundershirt essentially swaddles canines, calming them and making them feel more safe and secure. The employees at Jameson Loves Danger were very nice and helpful; they were gentle and kind with Ashby, who stood quietly while one employee wrapped the Thundershirt around her chest. The Thundershirt was somewhat successful; it made Ashby a bit more reserved. However, when I was gone for two hours later that night for a community meeting, Ashby again barked continuously.

I needed a quick and effective solution. It came in a barking collar that I bought at PetCo Animal Supplies, in Lakeview. For about $99, my super alert and intelligent shelter dog learned rather quickly that what was allowed in my house in Southern Indiana is far from acceptable in a Chicago condo complex.

After just one bark, the collar emits a warning sound. Two barks, and Ashby gets a mild shock. Three barks in a row, and she gets an even bigger shock. While this method isn’t ideal — I don’t want Ashby to be hurt in any way — it’s effective. What’s more, Ashby is now essentially monitoring herself. By following me around closely, she’s still able to communicate that she’s hungry or needs to go out. And she’s still able to get off one or two barks when she hears something she thinks is odd or threatening. But all in all, Ashby is a much better condo citizen now.

VGrabnerVictoria Marty has written for newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years and recently moved to the Lincoln Square, Chicago area. A frequent runner who loves learning and exploring new places, she has perfected the art of getting lost while simultaneously finding unique landmarks, boutiques and out-of-the-way nooks worth writing about. Her blogs are geared toward the newly transplanted who want to learn as much about Chicago as they can, as quickly as possible.

CHICAGO’S NORTH SIDE HAS GREEN SPACES, BLEND OF BUSINESS AND CULTURAL OPTIONS

Chicago BrauhausI’m always amazed by Chicago’s support of free green space for runners, walkers and bicyclists. Before moving here permanently, I visited the city multiple times to get a feel for what it had to offer. Running along Lake Michigan is easily one of my favorite activities here.

On my first full day in my new condo, I ran to Lake Michigan and then turned south to pass Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course before turning back around again. The views of the lake and of all the green space in Lincoln Park make it a worthwhile run even in misty, 45-degree weather. But another great thing about running is that I get to explore the area closer to my new home.

Within a mile or two of my condo, in the neighborhoods of Andersonville, Ravenswood and Lincoln Square, I have access to an incredible number of mixed-use local businesses and restaurants. These include Andersonville Hardware, Old Town School of Folk Music, Dolce Casa Café, Gene’s Sausage Shop & Delicatessen, Alley Cat Comics, Ruff N’ Stuff Pet Center (a nonprofit pet store), Chicago Brauhaus restaurant, Bikram Yoga Andersonville, Women & Children First book store, the Swedish American Museum and Brunk Children’s Museum of Immigration, and performance art options like The Neo-Futurists.

Meanwhile, residential buildings seamlessly line the surrounding streets. There’s a blend of stores catering to the Chicago Vietnamese community as well as a Bosnian Herzegovinian American Community Center and the DANK Haus German American Cultural Center. I’m within walking distance of the Metra and elevated trains. Mariano’s, an upscale grocery store, is just several blocks away. Winnemac Park, which includes tennis courts, a playground, a track, and a number of dog-friendly trails, is close by, too. These only add to the vibrancy, diversity, and local feel of Ravenswood, Lincoln Square and Andersonville.

VGrabnerVictoria Marty has written for newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years and recently moved to the Lincoln Square, Chicago area. A frequent runner who loves learning and exploring new places, she has perfected the art of getting lost while simultaneously finding unique landmarks, boutiques and out-of-the-way nooks worth writing about. Her blogs are geared toward the newly transplanted who want to learn as much about Chicago as they can, as quickly as possible.

TRY LINCOLN AVENUE IN LINCOLN SQUARE FOR UNIQUE GIFT OPTIONS

Maggie Finegan has been a great help to me here in just my first week as a full-time Chicago resident. She’s the leader of a team of Keller Williams realtors called Move With Maggie which facilitated the purchase of my condo in Lincoln Square. Not only has Maggie connected me with a great group of small business owners for possible networking opportunities, but she has also told me about a number of local small businesses that have proudly set up shop here in the Lincoln Square, Ravenswood, Bowmanville and Andersonville neighborhoods.

Recently, I stopped by Lincoln Avenue on Lincoln Square to do some holiday shopping. I was amazed by the sheer number of diverse boutiques, restaurants and cafes on either side of the small square. Savory Spice Shop, 4753 N. Lincoln Ave., sells both cookbooks and spices. Within minutes, I knew I had found the perfect gifts for my father, who loves to cook. Across the street at Fleet Feet Sports, 4762 N. Lincoln Ave., I found an outdoorsy gift for my brother-in-law. There, I learned that, once the holidays are over, I can take part in Fun Runs three times per week. As a new runner to the area, that’s something for me to keep in mind.

Victoria Grabner

Victoria Grabner

On the same side of the street as Savory Spice Shop, next to the little square, is Café Selmarie, 4729 N. Lincoln Ave. It offers omelets, cinnamon roll griddlecakes, and more for breakfast. It’s also open for lunch, dinner, and Saturday and Sunday brunch.

Victoria Marty has written for newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years and recently moved to the Lincoln Square, Chicago area. A frequent runner who loves learning and exploring new places, she has perfected the art of getting lost while simultaneously finding unique landmarks, boutiques and out-of-the-way nooks worth writing about. Her blogs are geared toward the newly transplanted who want to learn as much about Chicago as they can, as quickly as possible.

BUILDING COMMUNITY IN ANDERSONVILLE, CHICAGO

Patio1How does a patio become a Placemaker?

In a recent blog, I described our process of having a patio installed in the front yard of our Ravenswood townhouse, located in south Andersonville, 60640. The patio has delighted us with two neighborly surprises.

Now that we take our dinners out on the patio, we see our two kinds of neighbors. There are neighbors who stop by or yell a hello across the fence. We expect to hear more of these now that two of the eight neighbors in our row of townhomes love what we have done, and are planning their own patios. Then we have begun to notice wildlife. These are our quieter sorts of neighbors, including a lovely monarch butterfly that has appeared the last three nights to sit Patio2on our heads and shoulders. There’s also a very tiny rabbit that munches on the new grass to enjoy dinnertime with us.

It makes me think of an article I read that mentioned a new concept called Placemaking – inspiring people to create and improve their public spaces. I can see how the patio is Placemaking, as it strengthens the relationship between people and the places they share. So now my husband Keith and I are thinking about organizing a progressive open house/patio walk with the 8 townhouse owners living on our side, and will invite the other 8 owners that live across the alley. Also I am beginning to understand what happened at our homes on Paulina, and will write about that in a future blog.

THE PLEASURES OF LIVING IN EDGEWATER & ANDERSONVILLE IN CHICAGO

Edgewater lakefront from 5455 Sheridan 36th floor In the space of just two days, I experienced the best that Edgewater and Andersonville have to offer. Even after 12 years as a realtor, I am inspired by the beauty of our lakefront and how easily we can enjoy it. Took a client to see her condo prior to closing and the view from her unit at the 5455 N. Sheridan building was spectacular. Green space all the way to Navy Pier and views of the beautiful beachfront at Foster are truly amazing.

 

Foster beach surreyMy family and I went to Foster beach this weekend. We rented a surrey large enough for all six of us, including grandparents, parents and kids, for an unbelievably wonderful family event. As we pedaled along the lake and through the park from Foster to Montrose harbor, the laughter and conversation we shared as we rode past the beaches and family barbeques representing all nations, was truly amazing. No texting, cell phone conversations or looking at videos at all. Living in Edgewater is the best.

URBAN GARDEN PLANNING IN RAVENSWOOD – PART 2

urban gardeningIn my earlier post I mentioned that we are planning to create an inviting urban garden in our front yard of our town house in Ravenswood. We want a patio with space for a table and four chairs, for reading, dining, and entertaining. And room for a small grill.   We met with Patch Landscaping as well as Greenlawn, both local landscapers/designers. They presented several options for the space. There were many good ideas, including several we had not thought of that will make the space feel a bit more private. The quotes came in higher than we expected.

We decided to take on the planting of shrubs and perennials ourselves, to shave 25% off the cost of the project. This weekend, my husband Keith installed the three foundation plantings that include three boxwood shrubs.   We will hire the landscapers to install the patio, as the installation is a little more complicated than digging out the dirt and putting in bricks. After the excavation, a layer of crushed limestone must be installed before the pavers. The cost estimates are running approximately $2,000 for a 10’ x 12’ patio. We are a bit disappointed to learn that the earliest date available for the installation is one month out, and that is if we make the decision soon. Our next step is to request color photos or samples for the pavers. And since we want a patio that is curved, rather than a rectangle, we will ask them to come back and show us the proposed shape of the patio, using the garden hose for the outline.  Will write more once we decide on pavers and have the final meeting.