It’s almost time to celebrate the spirit of the season with parties and get-togethers to reconnect with our families and friends, especially those who live far away.

The information for this month will help you throw the perfect holiday party without breaking the bank. You’ll find several tips to help make the planning process fun, stress-free and budget friendly, from prioritizing where you’d like to spend most of your dollars to ordering food and coordinating entertainment your guests will love. Whether you’ve been planning your holiday party for months or you’ve just decided to throw one, you’ll find this information valuable.

I want to take a minute to thank you for your business. Your business and referrals drive my business and make it successful. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

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2015 03 15 yabandersonvilleIf you’re lucky, you hear the phrase every day: You are Beautiful. If you’re lucky enough to live in Andersonville, you’ll likely see it every day, too.

Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $7,312 and ended on Wednesday, March 4, four public art projects dedicated to that concept will be installed in Andersonville, a north side Chicago neighborhood, by April.

“The idea we are going after is, number one, the positivity of it, having a positive message out there on the street,” said Brian Bonanno, the sustainability programs manager for the Andersonville Development Corp. eco-Andersonville, an initiative of the development corporation, has teamed up with artist Matthew Hoffman to bring the project to Andersonville. “But really what it’s about is trying to get people to realize that there are a lot of under-utilized spaces all over the city.”

Whether they are fences, or gaps, or eyesores in commercial districts, with a little creativity, “you can fill those spaces in or activate them, and that generates points of community interaction,” Bonanno added. “It’s kind of a way of making people feel more comfortable in their urban environment.”

Hoffman, of Skokie, Illinois, began the You are Beautiful project in Chicago in 2002 with 100 stickers, according to his video.

Since then, the project has grown worldwide with both temporary and permanent installations. In Andersonville, the project will include floating texts at the corners of Clark and Winona, Ashland and Foster, Clark and Olive, as well as a smaller planned installation on the sign of what was Trumbull Elementary School at 5200 N. Ashland. eco-Andersonville also hopes to establish displays in the neighborhoods of Lawndale and Englewood.

The art pieces will be fairly large, with the letters themselves 3 to 4 feet tall each, and the bigger pieces 50 to 60 feet long. The words will be painted white and silver. The pieces will be made of either wood or plastic.

Bonanno said he saw an example of Hoffman’s work in Gary, Indiana, last winter and that he reached out to him last summer. The Kickstarter campaign started in February and lasted 30 days. Its goal was to raise $5,500 and it successfully raised $1,812 over that benchmark. The You are Beautiful signs will be hung on fences and will likely remain as long as the property owners will allow.

“I think it’s important for people in the community to support this because it gives them an opportunity to shape the neighborhood that they want to live in,” Bonnano said. “They make a community more livable and more vital.”

And livable, vital communities, by extension, raise home and condo values.

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.


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.


water tower posterI decided to take a walk down Clark Street in Andersonville in Chicago in honor of the beautiful spring weather.  Spring has finally arrived. The DIVVY racks are full of rental bikes once again, the planters are starting to fill up with flowers.  Tomorrow there is a neighborhood clean- up day, so we’ll meet at the corner of Glenwood and Winnemac, do some raking and planting,  and there will be a mini green fest too.  There are Save the Tower posters in shop windows announcing a campaign to save the blue and yellow water tower that is our neighborhood icon.  It all reminds me of why I love living in walkable, sustainable, friendly Andersonville, and why it’s such a special part of Edgewater community in Chicago.


Get ready to have fun at the 26th annual North Center neighborhood outdoor festival BenFest on the campus of St. Benedict Parish and Preparatory Schools.  Festivities will be held Friday, July 15th and Saturday, July 16th in the St. Benedict campus courtyard located at 2215 W. Irving Park Road.There are activities for all ages and interests.   The Main Stage will host performances with start times from 5pm-10:30pm.   Saturday, July 10th Main Stage events will begin at 4pm with the last act beginning at 9:00pm.

The Kids Block is located on Byron between Leavitt and Bell and will include kid friendly entertainment both days beginning at 4pm.   Activities in the Kids area include a petting zoo, a waterslide, a bounce house, sports arena, arts and crafts, face painting, a tot area, glamour photo shots, and much more.

There will be a Tween area with a 3-on-3 basketball tournament starting at 4:00pm on Friday, July 15th and a 7pm movie night on Saturday, July 16th.

Plenty of food and drinks will be provided for all ages.   Celebrate this 26 year neighborhood tradition Chicago style with food, family, and outdoor fun!   BenFest benefits the parish and three Preparatory Schools of St. Benedict which include a pre-school, elementary school, and high school.

Ann Marie Walker, ABR, Move with Maggie Team


Families and kids of all ages have the opportunity to skate into the New Year at one of the city of Chicago’s ice rinks.   The Chicago Park District boasts 10 outdoor ice rinks open now thru February 27, 2011, weather permitting.   For North Center, Lincoln Square, Ravenswood, and other north side residents, the closest Chicago Park District ice rinks are as follows:

Start your skating crawl at The Rink at Wrigley outside beautiful Wrigley Field at Clark and Waveland thru February 28th.   Free parking is available at Clark and Waveland.   Admission runs from $3-$6 for children and $5-$10 for adults.   Skate rentals run $3-$5 for children and $5-$10 for adults.   Hours of operation are Monday – Thursday from 2-9pm; Friday from 2-11pm; Saturday from 10am-11pm, and Sunday from 10-8pm.

Next, head west to McFetridge Sports Center at California Park located at 3843 N. California.   It offers $3 skate rental, $4 admission for children 12 and younger, $5 for 13 years and older, and $2 for seniors aged 60 plus.   Open skates are available to adults on Wednesdays from 9:15pm-10:30pm, Teens and Adults on Fridays from 9:15pm-10:45pm, and All ages on Wednesdays and Fridays from 3:30pm-5pm and Saturday and Sundays from 4:30pm-6pm.

Finally, go north to Warren Park located at 6601 N. Western Avenue where there is free admission and $6 skate rentals.   It is open Wednesday – Sunday from 12:30pm-7:30pm.   Please call 773-761-8663 for more information.

Ann Marie Walker, ABR, Move with Maggie Chicago Real Estate Team


Out with the old and in with the new year and help the environment, too!   If you are looking to dispose of your real Christmas trees in an environmentally friendly way, then the Chicago Park District has just the program for you.   From January 1-January 17, 2011, the Chicago Park District will accept real Christmas trees at 23 Christmas Tree Recycling sites in the city of Chicago.   All trees will be turned into mulch which you can pick up beginning January 7th.   For North Center, Lincoln Square, and Ravenswood residents, the closest Chicago Park District Tree Recycling location is at Clark Park located at 3400 N. Rockwell.

For another way to help the environment after the holidays have passed, you may take your old, broken, and burned out holiday lights to North Community Bank located at 5235 N. Western Ave. or to Alderman Gene Schulter‘s office located at 4237 N. Lincoln Avenue.   The lights will be delivered to the proper city sites for recycling.

Ann Marie Walker, ABR, Move with Maggie Chicago Real Estate Team


Start the new year off on the right foot by empowering a healthier you!   Free workouts are being offered at Chicago Park District parks from January 2 – 9th, 2011 at any of the 70 Fitness Centers throughout the city.   For North Center, Lincoln Square, and Ravenswood residents, the closest Chicago Park District Fitness Centers are located at:Welles Park – 2333 W. Sunnyside, 312-742-7511

Chase Park – 4701 N. Ashland Ave., 312-742-7518

McFetridge Sports Center – 3843 N. California, 773-478-2609

New members who sign up for a Winter Session which runs from January through March, 2011 will receive a free Nike cinch bag while supplies last during the promotion.

Ann Marie Walker, ABR, Move with Maggie real estate team


Ring in the winter holiday spirit with some indoor fun at Chicago’s Navy Pier Winter WonderFest which began December 3, 2010 and runs through January 2, 2011.   Beat the winter cold by enjoying some carnival type of fun indoors at Navy Pier. Winter WonderFest is celebrating its 10th year with lower prices for the attractions and parking than last year.

Winter WonderFest dates and times are as follows:

Dec. 3-18th Sunday – Thursdays from 10am-5pm.   Fridays and Saturdays from 10am-10pm.

Dec. 19-Jan. 2, 2011 Sunday-Thursdays from 10am-8pm, Fridays and Saturdays from 10am-10pm.

Admission is free, but wristbands for special attractions and the rides are required and can be purchased at a discount on-line or at the box office on site.   Individual wristbands range from $18 at the box office and $16 online which include ice skating to $15 box office and $13 online which excludes ice skating on the Navy Pier indoor rink.

Family wristband packages can be purchased with or without parking included, including or excluding indoor ice skating from $47-$71 for 4 people depending on the date and time of arrival.

For a fun way to shake off the winter blues, consider spending a day or evening at Navy Pier’s Winter WonderFest now through January 2, 2011.  

Ann Marie Walker, ABR, Move with Maggie Real Estate Team


Chicago area residents and visitors will soon enjoy a million twinkling holiday lights at both the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Brookfield Zoo in the Chicagoland area.   The local electric company Commonwealth Edison presents both holiday light displays with the support of other sponsors.

The Lincoln Park Zoo lights (ZooLights) delight drivers along Lake Shore Drive at night when the full effect of the beautiful displays are optimized. Throughout the zoo itself visitors walk from one display to the next amongst the animals, carousel, and train rides.   Admission is free for both the zoo in general and during the ZooLights display.   ZooLights begins Friday, November 26, 2010 and runs through Sunday, January 2, 2011 from 5-9pm daily.   Week-end dates include November 26-28, December 3-5, and 10-12th.   ZooLights will be open nightly from Dec. 17-January 2, 2011 except for when it’s closed on December 24 and 25th.

Brookfield Zoo located at 3300 Golf Road in Brookfield, IL holds its annual Holiday Magic Light Fest on Saturdays and Sundays from 4-9pm beginning December 4, 2010 thru January 1, 2011.   Dates include December 4-5, 11-12, 18-19, and Sunday through Saturday December 26-January 1, 2011.   Radio Disney will rock in the new year on December 31, 2010 beginning at 8pm with a family-friendly countdown.

Ann Marie Walker, ABR, Move with Maggie Real Estate Team