Today's Chicago Woman

Foreclosures Drive the Chicago Residential Real Estate Market

RE Blog-5.30.11.jpgMany homeowner's and investors in the Chicago area are disappointed by the current value of their residential property that appears to still be decreasing.  They are concerned "if and when" the price for their home will return from record lows.

Most who bought their home between 2000 and 2007, during the housing "bubble" are greatly affected by the downturn in the market.  The value of their property is often 30-40% less than the market highs during this time; much lower than economists expected.  Many homeowners that do not have to sell are waiting on the sidelines for the residential market to improve.  But, will it and when?

The driving issue which is slowing down a recovery is the large amount of foreclosures that are still entering the Chicago market from homeowners and investors that can't afford to maintain and finance their property. 

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Your June To Do Calendar

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Mark these Chicago events on your calendar to make your summer a sizzler.

Compiled by Lois Kim and Ana Valentine

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A Date with the Bra Whisperer

It's a funny thing, a woman's attitude toward her bra. Every day we don one, and wear it for 16 hours. It touches our skin. It supports us through our morning commute, our long day at the office, our dinner button-front blouses and flimsy tee shirts alike. And how do we treat it in return? Often with equal parts disdain, irritation and neglect. We complain that straps fall down or dig into our shoulders, underwires cut into our breast tissue, bands create back fat, support just isn't supportive enough. The bra becomes our frenemy.

Susan Nethero, founder of Intimacy lingerie boutique, is out to change all that.

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Design Tips from Chicago's Newest Furniture Retailer


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There's a new furniture store coming to Chicago. I recently met with the owners of the store which bears their names, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.

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Facebook's New 'Best Practices Guide' a Winner

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Building a Facebook fan base can be extremely time-consuming, but the company has made it easier with its new "Best Practices Guide."  The 14-page guide does a good job of explaining not only how businesses can build a fan base but also how to use Facebook to reach specific business objectives.

The guide opens with five "guiding principles": build a strategy that is social by design, create an authentic brand voice, make it interactive, nurture your relationships, and keep learning.

Next comes common business objectives and ways to reach them.  These include building awareness, differentiating yourself from the competition, increasing traffic and sales, building loyalty, and gaining insights by observing customer's actions and comments.

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Travel Sense Tip: Check out Cultures at Home Before Going Abroad


Thinking of exploring Costa Rica? Before you go, check out Irazu', Chicago's only Costa Rican restaurant. During a recent visit, I savored "El Tico," a "chef's favorite" meal featuring rib eye steak sauteed with onions and bell pepper and served with sweet plantains, cabbage salad and "gallo pinto," the trademark rice-and-black-bean dish in Costa Rica.


The Alliance Francaise de Chicago not only offers a great range of French-language classes, but offers fascinating cultural events, as well. Earlier this year, the Alliance hosted author Kiratiana Freelon (third from left) for a lecture based on her book "Kiratiana's Travel Guide to Black Paris: Get Lost and Get Found."

For me, the real fun in traveling is in planning my trip. In a post on my blog, I wrote not long ago about the joy I find in first considering, then pondering and finally PLANNING my getaways. And when these trips involve traveling internationally, the fun factor goes through the roof. While I know some folks hate the hassles of exchanging currency, packing foreign-language phrase books, and haggling over hotel reservations several hours and time zones away via Skype, I jump in with gusto.

But then, I've got a pretty broad definition of what constitutes planning and "research." Picking up guidebooks, phrasebooks and e-mailing friends and associates in advance to find out who they know in the country I'm visiting is just one leg of my reconnaissance. The other, when I can, involves checking out the culture I'll find abroad before I leave home. And it's probably easier to do than you think--especially when you live in a metropolitan area as diverse as Chicago's.

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Bright Ideas for Home Lighting

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There are three key components to creating a lighting design, according to experts at the American Lighting Association (ALA).

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Can You Protect Your Investment Portfolio From Risk?

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I recently moderated a panel of experts whose job is to research investments for financial advisors and individual investors. This particular panel presented the results of its research on how to manage portfolio risk and in particular, tail risk. Tail risk means the holdings in a portfolio fall in value more than two standard deviations from the average. In simpler terms, tail risk happened to most of us in the fall of 2008.

The presenters discussed the research and they agreed that there is no easy or perfect way to reduce investment portfolio risk.

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Lisa Loeb Talks Life, Work and Being a Mom

"You say, I only hear what I want to..." You might remember Lisa Loeb, who will be in town performing on June 3 and 4, from her #1 '90s hit, "Stay." It wasn't easy, but I was able to talk to the singer for a few minutes about life, work and being a new mom.

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Schwarzeneggers Face Termination of a Marriage

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What drew them together for many was inexplicable. It was reminiscent of the famous saying, "The heart has its reasons for which there is no reason."

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, who may be divorcing after 25 years of marriage, always seemed to me to be a mis-matched couple. She was elite and charitable while he was a body builder and egomaniacal. She had a serious career in journalism, and he had a questionable career as an actor without serious talent. He was a Republican of convenience and she was a Democrat of conviction.

Their marriage lasted longer than the statistical percentage of American relationships. They had four beautiful children with whom they are well pleased. They were an apparent glamour couple who combined the strengths of many worlds: Washington and Hollywood, National and International, beauty and brawn, brains and muscle.

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A Meeting of Body & Mind: Chicago's Newest Spa Wellness Center

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Chicago has a new Spa & Wellness Center in the Loop that is changing the definition of Spa's.  Maximus Worldwide, an asset management firm specializing in the management and branding of spas, has teamed up with real estate developer Michael Reschke to create one of the most innovative spa, exercise and wellness centers in the country.

Located in the JW Marriott Hotel at 208 South LaSalle Street, the VALEO has a philosophy of "pampering with purpose".  It caters to business people who are seeking a refugee from their busy lives, where they can exercise, get a facial, and a nap in their infrared sauna which is said to help bodies, detox.  They also bring in special meals to those that request vegan, soy or gluten-free food.

The VALEO opened November, 2010 and is already building a loyal following.  Featured on the Oprah show this week, it already has the seal of approval from the "O".  The staff at the VALEO provides services for those who are seeking a total body and mind experience,  in one place.  There's a feeling of calm the minute you step off the elevator into the space.

VALEO subscribes to an "Integral Balanced Platform".  They have an 8-point program that defines their unique philosophy on total fitness and well-being.


  1. They believe in controlling inflammation by reducing it through various spa services and exercise.
  2. A nutritionally balanced diet is recommended with fresh foods and complex carbohydrates and ascribe to the Zone diet.
  3. The infrared sauna is used to reduce toxins in your body which they say helps the body warm up from the inside, acting as a catalyst to stimulate your body to release toxins.
  4. They believe in using exercise and body therapy combined to stay in shape.  Yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates, martial arts and Sheanectis (a combination of all martial arts) classes are offered to focus on the mind and body.
  5. Believe in using beauty enhancements when needed such as Botox, Restaline and other fillers.
  6. They believe in the rebalancing of hormones and the proper sugar balance to ensure good health.  They have sources to help their members with this regime.
  7. Appropriate supplication of vitamins is recommended and testing can be done to make sure your body has the "right" vitamin supplements.
  8. Lastly, live long and keep learning is key to their philosophy.

As unique as the VALEO is, so is their membership program that is being offered. The first 250 members of the club can lock in their $175/mo dues, if they stay current on payment.  There is no contract term and the only requirement of a prospective member is that they fund their Wellness Bank.  No monthly dues are collected, until their bank funds are exhausted. It's an interesting concept that has worked well for the current members who typically use up their "bank" of experiences in three months.

The VALEO hours are 7am-8pm, 7-days a week.  They will also open the club to those that need specialized hours.  The exercise room has state-of-the-art equipment, an infrared sauna that is like being in Aspen in front of a fireplace, relaxation rooms that are like being in your own den and experience rooms, which are as nice as any I have seen.

The VALEO is a special health club spa wellness center where one can engage in experiences that help them look and feel their best.

Contact Shannon Helfrich at for more information or call her at 312.660.8250.  Mention this article on the TCW blog and receive a FREE experience of your choice! Don't miss the opportunity.  I can't wait to take my first Sheanectis class, followed by the infrared sauna!

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e-Marketing Workshop Series Will Help You Create an Online Presence

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Business owners who want to establish or enhance an online presence will learn how to do so at a new e-Marketing Workshop Series presented by our firm's client, the Women's Business Development Center (WBDC). 

Each workshop will be held on a Wednesday, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the WBDC, 8 S. Michigan Ave., 4th Floor, in Chicago. 

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Trends In Decor 2011

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WHAT'S NEW IN HOME DECORATING? Here are a few of the latest trends in home design.


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Hair It Is!

They asked a lot of detailed questions about my hair care routine, which I had never really thought about. Then they spent several visits teaching me the best ways to care for my hair so I can achieve a "healthy" head of hair and a healthy look that's easy for me to manage with my lifestyle.

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Small Business Competitions

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Winning business and industry awards can provide you with a way to set your business apart from the competition, attract new customers and employees while retaining existing ones, and be considered part of the elite category of women who've been designated as remarkable leaders. All too often, however, entrepreneurs fail to do the research and put in the time necessary to create a really great winning entry. Keep reading for a few tips and reminders as well as some awards currently accepting applications:
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Folding Screens As Decorating Solutions

Folding screens have always given a room style while concealing something unattractive or ugly. Screens do have a history in interiors.

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Are ETFs Better Investments?

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So much has been written lately about exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and all their so-called flaws. Some complaints and warnings about ETFs include:

1.    ETFs do not always sell at the price that reflects the underlying value of the holdings.
2.    ETF investing faces bubble-like conditions. ETFs as a class may come crashing down.
3.    Sometimes ETF fees are just as high as those of actively managed mutual funds.

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What Does My Child's Sneeze Mean?

Though much of the beauty of spring is its vivid colors, rosy-red eyes and noses aren't a part of them. Runny noses, sneezing and coughing often trumpet spring's return, but many parents wonder does my child have a cold or is it allergies?

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Sexual Assault Awarness Month Comes to a Close: Conclusions?

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Demonstrators with Rape Victim Advocates gather at Daley Plaza on April 29, 2011 to protest the silence that surrounds sexual violence.

This past January, a Toronto police officer told a group of citizens that the key to women avoiding sexual assault was to not dress like "sluts."

The remark sparked justified outrage; Slutwalk Toronto was born, and on April 3, over 1000 protesters took to the street to spread the message that "being assaulted isn't about what you wear...but using a pejorative term to rationalize inexcusable behaviour creates an environment in which it's okay to blame the victim."
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Brilliant! Royal Wedding's Best Hats, Plus 5 To Make Your Own

Now, now, readers. I have resisted the urge to blog endlessly on all things Royal Wedding style, but the delightful display of toppers worn by William and Kate's guests was simply more than I can keep to myself. Young and old, prim and Posh alike donned hats and fascinators (defined as a head adornment attached to a clip or a pin, as opposed to a hat, which fits over the entire head), providing endless inspiration to fashionable ladies across the pond.

So, on this most royal occasion, may I present to you my picks for best topped wedding guests, along with fabulous finds from around the web to anchor your own celebratory ensembles. Cheerio!

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'Travel Sense' Tip: Connect with local friends, or friends-of-friends, on your next trip

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Making connections with friends-of-friends when you're traveling can be richly rewarding. When visiting Positano on Italy's Amalfi Coast some years ago, my Chicago friend Pamela (bottom left) and I met up with Kelly Carter (bottom right), a fellow freelance journalist who's since become a great friend of mine. Also pictured here is an expat artist friend of Kelly's who lived in Positano.

It's one thing to visit a city or country on your own, but quite refreshing to see it through the eyes of those who live there. That's why it's a great idea to find out in advance if folks you know have any local connections in the place you're heading. I always do this when traveling abroad, but also try to make it a habit here in the States, as well. I find this opens up your perspective--and gives you a local's view of life in your chosen vacation spot.

I recommend this whether you're traveling alone, with family or friends, or your significant other. For one thing, you also introduce your companions to another side of the place you're visiting and give them stories to share when they get back home. (And if those companions are starting to wear on you, a visit with someone new can help break up the monotony.) These "appointments" with other folks' friends add purpose and structure to your vacation days, which can sometimes overwhelm with endless museum and monument visits. And when arranging our meet-ups, I always ask these friends-once-removed to suggest a meeting place that's a favorite of THEIRS--not just one that's convenient to the hotel or apartment where I happen to be staying. You then get introduced to cool, where-the-locals-go eateries and bars in different parts of town--places that you wouldn't likely stumble upon on your own.

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Tips To Tackle Kitchen Design

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Kitchen design by Karen Carpino

Kitchens have proven to be one of the most important rooms to a homeowner. However, most people select a kitchen design on how it "feels" for their lifestyle rather than its functionality The art of a good kitchen plan is scientific.


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Charlie Sheen Custody Battle Gone Bad

The most recent go-round in the Charlie Sheen custody war involves a fight for custody over the twin boys born to him and Brooke Mueller.  Allegedly, Charlie, who has joint parenting with this ex-wife, had sought full custody based, in part, on his allegations of her drug use.  Talk about the "pot" calling the kettle black!  He did not prevail in a court of law, and to date, the parents share custody of their twin boys who live primarily with their mother.

The case skirts very close to the saddest of stories:  those where, allegedly, neither parent is fit and proper to care for their children.  While the cases that usually get the most publicity are those where two qualified parents battle over custody or visitation issues (think Halle Berry and her former boyfriend, Gabriel Aubry), there are a surprising number of divorces, both celebrity and the not so famous, where one or neither parent is fit or do not even want to win their children's custody.

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Is Now a Good Time to Sell Your Home?


How do you determine what your home is worth and when to sell it?  Do you hire an appraiser?  Does your real estate broker set the value for your home?  Or, do you use the price of a comparable home or condo as the listing price for your property?


All of these resources will render a different number.  A bank appraiser may value your home at a lower price to protect themselves from a bad loan.  A real estate broker may price your home too high to secure the listing. So how do you know what the real value of your residence is and when to sell it?


I contend that the value of your home is what someone is willing to pay for it!  There are many other considerations besides comparables that differentiate your home from others.  Perhaps, it's your fabulous kitchen with Bosch appliances, your view of the Lake or an outdoor patio.  Yet, before you list your home or invest in another, it is important to have as much information as possible in order to set the right listing price for your home.


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My Life Is Worth It, I Deserve This!

The Color Analysis should have been easy for me. All I had to do was sit in a chair and let the analyst hold many, many color swatches up to my face to decide "my colors".

I've heard women talking about what color clothing and lipstick that they cannot wear because it's "not their color".  I had no idea what they were talking about.  A few friends even tried to tell me what my colors were. Nice information, but I had no idea what to do with it.

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Getting Media to Say "Yes" Requires the Right Approach

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You may be so busy "getting social" through social media that you've overlooked a powerful way to get exposure for your business: tried-and-true traditional media.

Newspapers, magazines and broadcast outlets are still alive, influential and receptive to a good story and reach in a single stroke far more readers, listeners or viewers than the average tweet or blog posting. The key to success is in your approach.

Bill Moller, host of a popular Saturday morning show on WGN radio, says he hates cookie-cutter pitches and can recognize them in a heartbeat. He responds to a great subject line, a succinct and convincing story angle, and a demonstration that you understand what he's looking for in a guest or topic.

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Style 911: Beyond the Black Suit

If my four years styling women has taught me anything, it is this: women of all sizes, ages and stripes struggle with many of the exact same wardrobe conundrums. From finding the perfect jeans to wondering whether one really can wear brown shoes with a grey suit (yes! try it!), their fashion emergencies have hatched my solutions, which I call Style 911.

In this edition of Style 911, I tackle a 9-to-5 delimma: How do you break out of the rut of the basic black suit?

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Combating Sexual Assault on College Campuses

When navigating the exciting choosing-a-college process, few parents or students likely take into consideration the number of sexual assaults reported by that university; bottom line, we trust our institutions to keep us and our loved ones as safe as possible. But recent events at USC, Yale, Notre Dame and other institutions raise the question: are schools looking out for their own best interests or their students when it comes to reporting sexual assaults and other related incidents?

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Parisian Chic In Interior Decor


Oh la la! I just returned from Paris and a view of the city of lights interior decorating scene. Parisian decorators favor the mix of sleek modern furniture with traditional antique decorative accent pieces.

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Taxes For 2011: Pay Less Starting Now

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 As for taxes, it's time to think about the old adage, "It's not what you earn, it's what you keep." Now that you may have felt the pain of writing that tax check, you can consider the most tax-efficient ways to manage your finances in 2011.

1. First, when managing your personal portfolio of investments, be sure you differentiate your taxable account from your tax-exempt account, such as your 401(k) or rollover IRA. Certain investments will benefit you more in one account than the other. If you like to invest in the stock market yourself and you buy and sell shares often, then that kind of activity is best done in the tax-exempt account because otherwise the federal government will tax you at your full rate if you incur a gain on the sale of a stock within 12 months.

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