Neighborhood News – Chicago Loop, Lakeview, Millennium Park, Navy Pier

Is there anything better than the holidays in Chicago? So much to do…so many memories to make!  

Still have shopping to do? Make it easy on yourself, and have fun! On Thursday, December 9, and Friday, December 10, the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, 12 S. Michigan Ave., invites everyone to get ‘Sauced,’ The Night Market Before Christmas, CAA’s 7th annual showcase of local vendors—plus food and booze, for a night of eating, drinking, and shopping from 5pm-10pm.  Vendors include Exile in Bookville, Gingergold, Golden Root, and A Girl & Her Pug, among many others. DJ Johnny Walker performs. For admission to the market, guests must show proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test administered within 72 hours of the event. Free. No RSVP required.

For nearly 40 years, a holiday tradition at Lakeview’s Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport starts Friday, December 10, and continues through December 23. The 38th Annual Music Box Christmas Sing-A-Long & Double Feature of two holiday classics—1954’s ‘Holiday Inn,’ starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, featuring 15 sing-along songs, and 1946’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Both classics use the holidays to explore the themes of family, sacrifice, heartbreak, disappointment, community, and ultimately, the triumph of the human spirit. Highlights include a Santa Claus visit and a Christmas carol sing-along, accompanied by Music Box organist Dennis Scott. All visitors ages 12 and up will need to show proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID test for all screenings. Check website for times and ticket prices.

Celebrate the holidays at the Millennium Park Holiday Sing-Along near Cloud Gate Plaza, 201 E. Randolph St., on Friday, December 10 at 6pm, and Sunday, December 12 at 4pm. The concerts run for an hour and reflect Chicago’s many faith backgrounds, cultures, and holiday music traditions. Friday’s concert features The Chicago High School for the Arts Chorale Ensemble. Sunday’s concert features the Kol Zimrah Jewish Community Singers. Free.

“Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” These familiar words are the powerful and triumphant opening of Handel’s Messiah. Don’t miss the Apollo Chorus of Chicago, who’ve performed the classic since 1879. This year, they’re performing Saturday, December 11, and Sunday, December 12 at 7pm. The chorus blends voices and hearts at the Harris Theater at Millennium Park, 205 E. Randolph. Check website for ticket availability.

For a completely different take on Charles Dickens’ classic holiday tale, see a ‘Q Brothers Christmas Carol,’ in Chicago’s rap master Q Brothers Collective’s ‘ad-rap-tation,’ the story follows Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey to redemption, accompanied by the ghosts of hip-hop Past, Present, and Future, to a mashup of hip hop, combined with contemporary musical styles, ranging from reggae to dancehall music, dubstep, and epic rock ballads—all underscored with beats spun live by a DJ. ‘Q Brothers Christmas Carol ‘ runs through December 23 at The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 East Grand Avenue. Tickets are $38-$56. Patrons must show proof of full vaccination OR Negative COVID Test, and wear masks.

Meet Jeremy Fisher, Simpkin the Cat, Peter Rabbit, and Tom Kitten at the The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party through December 24 at the Chicago Children’s Theatre, 100 S. Racine.  Performances are Saturdays and Sundays at 9:30am and 11:30am. As the website says, charming storytellers interweave the classic narration and guide gentle interactive moments, recruiting young watchers to join the adventure. After the show, come up on stage to gently play with the puppets and take pictures. Then, head to the lobby for a festive spread of chocolate milk and cookies! Tickets are $47 each.

Alison Moran and Dean’s Team Chicago

Restaurant Review – Robert et Fils

“There’s no better way to honor my father than by opening a restaurant in his name and recreating and sharing our experiences of French dining as a family—talking, drinking and eating amazing food.”

– Robert Shaner, Chef/Owner

Robert et Fils, which translates to ‘Robert and Son,’ describes itself as “intimate in scale and quaint in detail, infused with the elegance of classic French cuisine and the joy of dining like a Parisian.”

This is a French gem of a restaurant in North Center, near Lincoln Square. With universal 5.0 reviews on Google, and the indoor dining room opened on December 3, it’s a perfect time to experience the elegance of elevated French cuisine. 

Robert et Fils opened in late 2020 to rave reviews and earned its reputation by offering mouth-watering to-go menus with detailed, easy to read instructions for serving.   Their rotating menus, as they say on their website, explore modern techniques and Japanese ingredients, with a deep respect for French gastronomy. 

One Google reviewer opined, ‘The steak was really tender and well seasoned. We also liked the wine pairing add on. We will definitely be back….”

Their tasting menu rotates, but some recently archived examples included the following: 

Baguette Maison, served with cultured butter.

Terrine de Foie de Volaille: chicken liver mousse with mustard, served with a spring fennel salad.

Poulet Rôti / Mélange de Légumes Fermiers: Roasted chicken with preserved lemon stuffing and mixed farmed vegetables, along with the following instructions to enjoy it to the fullest:

“Place your desired amount of meat in center of the plate, and arrange the mixed vegetables around it. Use a spoon to contour the chicken with the jus provided. Chef recommends not oversaucing the chicken, as it may soften its crispy skin.”

Your instruction is our command, Chef!

This Parisian degustation feast concluded with Galette aux Fruits, which pairs Tarragon puff pastry with seasonal fruits in a buttermilk crème anglaise. 

To accompany the meal, the restaurant offers Wine and cocktail pairings for $90 per person, or a Spirit-free (non-alcoholic) pairing for $70 per person.

Christmas dinner 2021 could be a true joyeux Noël. Robert et Fils’ Christmas dinner to go includes a 10-pound whole aged goose, glazed with citrus chestnut and fermented honey. Other sweet and savory items including Pâté en Croute and Buche de Noel. ​Christmas dinners serve 6-8 people and are available for $205 per person via the Tock app.

Robert et Fils is located at 4229 North Lincoln Avenue, and is open for indoor dining on Friday & Saturday only, 5:30-10pm. Reservations are a must. For more information, click here.

Chicago Home and Lifestyles – Rethink Next Year’s Goals!

We are getting closer to Christmas and hopefully you are on schedule. This time of year, we need to think about our goals for the New Year. If we want to hit the ground running next year, we need to have a plan ready. Most people start the year with “resolutions.” Unfortunately, by the end of January, most resolutions are forgotten or abandoned. If you are serious about making some changes in your life you need a plan.

All goals need to be S.M.A.R.T. – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time bound

Specific rather than general. If you want to lose weight, say I want to lose ten pounds by April 1st, not just I want to lose weight. Or I will schedule two date nights in January, not that I want to spend more quality time with my spouse. 

Measurable goes hand in hand with Specific. How do you know you are progressing? You must have a way to measure. How many new pieces of business will you attain in the first quarter? How many workouts per week? 

Attainable means just what it says. Of course, you want to push yourself, but setting a goal to lose thirty pounds next month is neither healthy nor attainable. 

They also need to be Relevant. If you have a lofty goal to increase your business by 50% but a recession is looming you need to form your goals to be relevant to the realities of your market. 

Timely goals are the most important. If you have no time limits you will reach the end of the year with little accomplished!

As you think about what you want to achieve this year remember, less is more. Choose no more than three personal and three business goals. 

Personal goals should include family and spirituality along with health. Business goals will be the three strategies that will, when combined, achieve the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). 

Break down your year into quarters. Doing this will keep you from thinking I’m doing OK, there is a lot of time left. Quarterly goals also give you time to course correct before you get completely off track. 

Each goal needs 3-5 strategies for success. Weight loss could include a certain number of workouts per week, doing 10,000 steps, and adding two servings each of fruits and vegetables. 

Business strategies could be a certain number of prospecting calls and appointments per week or reorganizing your home or work office to make working more efficient. As you set up your quarterly plan you will score yourself each week. One point for every task completed. You are trying to achieve a score of 85% or more each week. If you have a total of fifteen tasks per week you will need to perform at least thirteen. If you notice that you are not progressing, or your percentage is not good you need to reassess. Perhaps you need to make more contacts or need to add a workout!

Yes, this is a little more involved than making a few New Year’s resolutions. But how many times have these resolutions ever been successful? I would think not often. If you are serious about changing your life, get a plan and work it! The only other thing I would add is someone to hold you accountable. This is a terrific way to stay on track. They can be a sounding board and help with forming your plan. You will be more apt to keep up with your tasks if you have someone to answer to at your weekly accountability meeting. 

So, get going with your plan and Good Luck! 

Kathleen Weaver-Zech and Dean’s Team Chicago

Types Of Mortgages You Need To Know About

Before you purchase a home, it’s important to educate yourself of the various types of mortgages you can get so you can make the right decision when the time comes to choose yours.

Fixed Rate. The most popular on the market, a fixed-rate mortgage is ideal for homeowners who expect to stay in their home for many years. With a fixed interest rate and monthly payment, this loan makes it easier to plan your budget year over year.

Adjustable-Rate. This type of mortgage offers a lower interest rate and monthly payment at first, then slowly increases as time goes on. This type of loan can be beneficial for younger home buyers who expect to grow in their careers and make more money in the future.

Government-Insured. There are several types of government-backed mortgages including Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) loans, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) loans, and more. These programs can help you finance a home if you meet each one’s qualifications.

Conforming. A conforming loan is one that falls within the maximum limits set by government agencies that back most U.S. mortgages, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. With this type of mortgage, borrowing costs and required down payment are generally less, but interest rates can be a little higher.

Jumbo. This type of conventional loan applies if the home’s price exceeds federal loan limits. Your credit score generally must exceed 700 and you are required to make a larger down payment. However, it allows you to borrow more money to purchase a more expensive home.

THIS WEEKEND IN CHICAGO – It’s Christmas Market Time Again!

Ok everyone, we have only three weekends before Christmas to get into the spirit of the holidays! This weekend we’ll focus on various Christmas markets throughout Chicago. Who’s with me?

After going virtual in 2020, the Christkindlmarket Chicago returns to the Daley Civic Center (50 W. Washington St.) in The Loop now through December 24th. This iconic German-inspired holiday market offers the smell of roasted nuts, fresh pretzels, bratwurst, hot spiced wine, the sound of festive music, the glimmer of sparkling Christmas ornaments, a unique shopping experience, and family-friendly events & intercultural activities all in a cozy atmosphere! Organizers have announced as well that they’ll bring back a virtual component to the market for those who still prefer to stay away from crowds but wish to partake in the most authentic traditional holiday market of its kind outside of Europe!

Chicago’s favorite holiday tradition is back and better than ever in 2021! ZooLights returns to Lincoln Park Zoo (Cannon Dr. at Fullerton Pkwy.) in the Lincoln Park neighborhood now through January 2 (4 p.m. – 10 p.m.). This event will again feature hundreds of luminous LED displays and seasonal experiences all under the glow of millions of lights. New features this year include the Zoo’s new Pepper Family Wildlife Center at the heart of the zoo, a new holiday lights experience on the Main Mall, an exciting new light show on the South Lawn, and an 18-foot holiday tree!  ZooLights will take place on select dates so check out the Zoo’s website for information on special ticketed events during ZooLights which include the BrewLights beer festival and a musical tribute to “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Where else can you find a cheerful, family-friendly holiday event in the heart of the city?

After a two-year pandemic hiatus, the Randolph Street Market returns to Chicago at a new location and will be decking the halls this holiday season on the ground floor of the massive space that once housed Topshop (830 N. Michigan Ave.) on the Magnificent Mile for the next three weekends. This European-style market will feature more than 75 vendors with a stylishly crafted mix of vintage and modern decorative objects, housewares, fashion, jewelry, art, and more at all price points for all ages. Plus, the festival fun continues with music, food, and drink. So, make your gift giving special this year since you never know what you’ll find at the Randolph Street Market!

The Andersonville neighborhood will be celebrating the holidays with its first-ever Winter Market on Catalpa Street between Clark Street and Ashland Avenue this Saturday (11 a.m. – 7 p.m.) and Sunday (11 a.m. – 5 p.m.). This tented outdoor bazaar will be stocked with holiday gifts, handcrafted goods, vintage items, and other treasures from over 20 local artisans, Swedish makers, and collectors! Don’t forget to nab a cup (or two) of Simon Tavern’s revered Glögg to sip and warm you up as you walk around and browse through the market.  After all, it’s an Andersonville tradition!

Join the Roscoe Village neighborhood and its businesses as they kick off their Winterfest on Saturday (5 p.m. – 9 p.m.) with a tree lighting ceremony followed by holiday shopping and festivities at local businesses. Enjoy special discounts and treats as well as participate in the window decorating contest by voting for your favorite window! Then on Sunday (1 p.m. – 5 p.m.) the festivities continue with carolers, Santa, and sleigh rides along with family-friendly festivities and special discounts offered again at local businesses!

Sue Moss and Dean’s Team Chicago

Neighborhood News – Chicago Loop, Millennium Park, Edgewater, River North, Andersonville

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, truly, and all Chicago is celebrating…join in and embrace Chicago’s many neighborhood celebrations and winter fun!

It’s a version of The Nutcracker no one saw coming, as reimagined by the Joffrey Ballet’s Christopher Wheeldon. Here, instead of a classic young Clara, we have “young Marie and the Nutcracker Prince, (who) go on a Christmas Eve journey through the 1893 World’s Fair, a dazzling spectacle of sights, sounds, and enchantment.” Performed at Joffrey’s new artistic home, the Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, the show runs from December 4-26. Tickets range from $35-$177.

When water turns to ice, there’s only one thing to do! Skating at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park, returns for its 20th anniversary season. The rink is open daily through March 6 (weather permitting.) Take advantage of the Park’s free beginner and intermediate skating lessons and hockey skills instruction from 8–9am on most Saturdays and Sundays. Wheelchairs, both electric and manual, are allowed on the ice. Admission is free, but online tickets and reservations are required. Check the website for schedule and details.

Another great option is to Gogh Skating at Maggie Daley Park’s Ice Skating Ribbon, 337 W. Randolph. According to Timeout Chicago, the skating ribbon will be decorated with designs inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” and “Starry Night” paintings, in collaboration with the art exhibition ‘Immersive Van Gogh’ and the Chicago Park District. Check the website for ticket prices, skate rentals and reservations. 

During this Hanukkah week, what better way to celebrate than seeing Strawdog Theatre Company’s production of the Caldecott Award-winning book, Hershel and the Hannukkah Goblins. The story starts when a troupe of actors comes to town to find no one celebrating Hanukkah. They put on a show to save the holiday! Can they bring back the spirit of Hanukkah to the town? Will Hershel of Ostropol (Morgan Lavenstein) outsmart the goblins? Music, puppets, and a little bit of magic tell the story for all ages. The show runs through December 12 at Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge Ave. Performances are Saturdays and Sundays at 1pm and 4pm. Free, but a goodwill donation will be appreciated. All mask mandates must be followed. 

Combining the best of music, light, and art, projected on the side of Chicago’s legendary Merchandise Mart, Art on the MART, 222 Merchandise Mart Plaza, creates light shows with a message. Three shows are running simultaneously now through December 30: Shaping the Future uses mosaics as a frame for teen performances, murals and original music composed by the After School Matters Future Music Creators program, led by instructor Gerald Bailey. The Nutcracker, Joffrey Ballet features images of their Christmas classic, set to music from Tchaikovsky’s beloved score. Harmonic AI, Ouchhh Studios Harmonic AI was created by training artificial intelligence with jazz compositions made by Chicago’s most famous jazz musicians. The resulting animation is a visual representation of Chicago’s musical legacy. Performances run nightly at 7:30pm and 8pm. Free.

For a Scandinavian celebration of the holiday season, head to Andersonville, just north of East Lakeview, for the first annual Andersonville Holiday Market, featuring Swedish vendors, vintage holiday market vendors and local artisans, topped off with Glögg (mulled wine) and roasted nuts under multiple big tents with heating and filtered air circulation for safety protocols. 

Julmarknad (Good Christmas) on Saturday, December 4,  at the Swedish-American Museum,  5211 N. Clark St. Julmarknad is the Museum’s annual Christmas Bazaar, where gifts, ornaments, food and more are available in traditional Scandinavian and modern handicrafts. Special visit from Santa, performances, and crafts make it an event for the whole family! In cooperation with Late Night Andersonville, the museum will be open Friday, Dec. 3, until 8pm, and for Julmarknad on Saturday, Dec. 4, 10am-5pm, and Sunday, Dec. 5, 10am-4pm. Check the website for additional information.

Alison Moran and Dean’s Team Chicago

Restaurant Review – The Walnut Room

Since 1907, one holiday dining tradition has endured in Chicago, whether the physical structure was called Marshall Field’s or Macy’s. 

As its website explains, the Walnut Room was the first restaurant to open in a department store. What better way to relax after an exhausting shopping trip…particularly during the holidays… than partake of an elegant meal just a few feet from the action? Or to take the children to visit Santa just two floors down? 

The Walnut Room became a rite of passage for generations of families. For many, it was a child’s first lesson in practicing ‘table manners’ under the elegantly appointed Circassian wood paneling imported from Russia and the Austrian crystal chandeliers. 

During the holidays,  Chicagohistory.com notes that 2021 is the 114th anniversary of the Great Tree, the fifty-fourth annual animated holiday windows, and as always, forty-two trumpets will fly along State Street This year, the 45-foot Great Tree is illuminated by 1,200 ornaments and 6,000 lights. 

Amid the splendor is some of the best comfort food imaginable. Start with a lobster bisque with sherry, or a cheese plate featuring blue cheese, Marcona almonds, and toasted crostini for sharing. 

A millinery (hat) clerk developed the recipe for the Walnut Room’s signature Mrs. Hering’s 1890 Original Chicken Pot Pie, with creamy chicken, carrots, sweet corn, leeks and peas in a flaky crust, served with a Walnut Room Salad of mixed greens, Mandarin slices, and toasted almonds with their special Toasted Sesame dressing. Other entrees include a cider-glazed, slow-roasted breast of turkey with whipped potatoes and gravy, green beans sautéed with cranberry pecan butter, and a cranberry citrus chutney. Meatloaf takes on elegant touch when paired with pine nuts and spinach, and is served with whipped potatoes and onion strings.

With so much history, how do people feel about the Walnut Room?

“I grew up coming here as a young girl, when only Sunday best was the acceptable attire,” recalled a Trip Advisor reviewer. “Fast forward 40 years & I find myself still smiling & happy in The Walnut Room.”

Another recent reviewer on Trip Advisor was rapturous. “Portions are generous and includes vegetables, and mashed potatoes in our case,” she said. “Pot Pie (is served with) a salad. Every dish was presented beautifully and served piping hot. Coffee served with a small metal tea pot for you to enjoy more at leisure. Every bite was scrumptious. Each meal cooked well. Not overly salty, vegetables tasted fresh, salad was large and mashed potatoes smooth and silky.” 

The pot pie is also available as a kid-sized portion on the children’s menu.

But no one should leave without a dessert taste of Frango Mint, either as a slice of ice cream pie or as a cheesecake. Often imitated, never duplicated, the creamy, minty, smooth texture of the ice cream and graham cracker crust are a nice contrast and a refreshing end to a sumptuous meal. Traditional Christmas yule log and a fanciful Build Your Own Snowman sundae are among the other, equally delicious desserts. 

The Walnut Room is located on the 7th floor of Macy’s, 111 N. Wabash, Chicago. The restaurant is open special hours for the holidays. During the weeks of November 28 and December 5, they are open Sundays-Saturday from 11am to 7pm. Check the website for any changes to the schedule. To make a reservation, click here.

Chicago Home and Lifestyles – Restore Order To Your Space

We’re getting to the end of the year so it’s about time to start thinking of New Year’s Resolutions!

A major one that should be on all of our lists is decluttering. 

Most of us don’t realize how much stuff we’ve accumulated over the years. We get used to having a choice between ten different mugs to use every morning, ten different bags to carry, 100 pairs of shoes, etc. – and usually end up going with the same familiar option every day! Even seemingly small choices like these, when given too many options, can bog us down mentally and emotionally. 

You might feel like, “oh my god – where do I even start?”

Make a plan. What cleaning supplies do you need? How long do you want to take on this project? Will you throw things out or donate? There is a good saying, “Fail to Plan, Plan To Fail.”  Having a good plan takes much of the stress of decluttering.

Start making decluttering a habit. It’s said if you do something for thirty days straight it will become a habit. Start with one drawer or kitchen shelf. Create small but impactful rules, like “for every new purchase, one thing has to go” – this works especially well with clothes. Give yourself deadlines and rewards so you can have something to look forward to! Once you get into a groove and start to appreciate your space free of junk, it’ll be hard to stop!

Keep track of your habits. Sometimes a little soul searching can be helpful too. Ask yourself: How did the clutter get here in the first place? Am I collecting stuff for comfort? Do I really need this thing, and if I keep it what will I do with it? 

Keep your choices to 3 or 4.  When it comes to things like shoes, clothes or bags, keep the option list SHORT. You’ll be surprised at the weight that comes off your shoulders. If you can manage to part with them, try to give away the rest. If you can’t, box it! 

Boxing. At the end of your decluttering, put the items you can’t bear to part with in a nice box, tape the box closed and stash it away. Put a reminder in your calendar for 12 months from the date of stashing your box. If you have not even looked at it in 12 months, toss it. 

Donate. You can check online for places to donate. Goodwill is great and will even take boxes out of your car when you drive up. If you are a major collector of stuff like me, it may be a good idea to talk to a Junk Man – yes, they still exist! There are many doing business all around the country, or you can get a referral from your friendly neighborhood Realtor. They will come in and carry away everything you want gone. Most will also donate and recycle whatever they can!

When you finish, make sure to congratulate yourself! Your house may not be ready to be in a magazine, but it will be so much more comfortable and livable. 

Kathleen Weaver-Zech and Dean’s Team Chicago

Investment Properties: How You Can Make Money In The Short And Long Term

You’re probably well aware that there’s more to real estate than just owning your home. There are countless success stories of people who made a fortune, or even just a comfortable extra income, by investing in real estate. Here’s an overview to get you thinking about an investment property.

Improving A Home
Quickly flipping a home is one way to make money off a real estate investment, but it can be risky. A safer play is to buy a fixer upper and carefully manage costs over a year or so as you improve the property. You’re likely to get a great return.

Rental Properties
Instead of selling your investment property, you can rent it and make a good monthly profit if the rent exceeds your costs. Renting to a stable, reliable tenant can put extra money in your pocket every month for years on end. You can even hire a property manager to handle repairs, rent collection, and other administrative tasks. And if you’re ever ready to stop dealing with tenants, you can sell the home and profit on the improvements and appreciation of your asset.

Multi-family Rental Properties
Renting out a single family home is a good starting place for investment properties, but you can get an even better return once you learn the ropes and move on to multi-family homes. Buying an apartment building or dividing a larger home into several apartment units comes with some added complications with taxes and regulations, but it also comes with huge income potential.

THIS WEEKEND IN CHICAGO – No Shortage of Holiday Festive Fun!

Still overstuffed and need help digesting your Thanksgiving meal? Well, you’re in luck this weekend as the holiday season is here in Chicago and, as usual, there’s no shortage of festive, fun things to do!

There’s a new holiday adventure taking place at Navy Pier (600 E. Grand Ave.) in the Streeterville neighborhood now through January 2ndLight Up the Lake (replacing Winter Wonderfest) fills up the Pier’s gigantic 170,000 square foot Festival Hall with indoor winter fun and is all decked out for the holidays too.  It’s Chicagoland’s biggest indoor, temperature-controlled event featuring a collection of oversized light sculptures displaying over 600,000 lights that include a giant Teddy Bear, a 25-foot-tall deer, a 60-foot light tunnel and a 40-foot tree. There’s also an Alpine ice rink with free skate rental, a Bavarian Biergarten, Enchanted Choo-Choo train rides, Santa’s Merry Main Street and a holiday gift market!  Plus, each ticket includes a free ride on the Pier’s 200-foot Centennial Wheel with fully enclosed and heated gondolas!

Back by popular demand for a third year, Stretch Bar & Grill (3485 N. Clark St.) in the Wrigleyville neighborhood will open as Elf’d Up now through January 3rd.  The 2003 holiday movie Elf takes center stage at this bar and grill that will be decorated from floor to ceiling with more than 1,000 elves of all shapes and sizes, a 10-foot Christmas tree, an upside-down Christmas tree, strands of festive lights, specific tributes to the movie such as figurines, wall quotes, snowflakes, Schylling Jester Jack in the Boxes, cut outs of Buddy the Elf and Miles Finch, and much more!  Plus, each table comes equipped with the four main food groups – candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup.  If you want to catch a glimpse of Buddy the Elf himself, he’s known to pop-by between Thursday and Sunday from time to time! It’s a casual neighborhood Christmas bar that never charges a cover and treats patrons to complimentary fresh elf-shaped cookies nightly at 10 p.m.

Returning for its 20th anniversary season, Hell in a Handbag Productions brings to you its most popular holiday musical Christmas Dearest now through December 31st to the Ebenezer Lutheran Church (1650 W. Foster Ave.) in the Andersonville neighborhood.  Joan Crawford (played by David Cerda) returns in Handbag’s very own version of A Christmas Carol. It’s 1953 and Joan is desperate to reignite her career with the new film, Oh, Mary! However, the stress of surviving Hollywood has turned Joan into a tyrant! She needs a miracle and fast. Will she find it?  You’ll have to attend this event to find out!

The Chicago Theatre (175 N. State St.) in The Loop will host Cirque du Soleil’s first-ever Christmas show ‘Twas the Night Before… this Sunday through December 5th. This show promises to spark lasting memories in the hearts of families this holiday season with an exhilarating spin on this beloved Christmas classic poem with a flurry of love, Christmas cheer, rip-roaring fun, and hugely lovable characters!  The only difference is they will be doing crazy flips and death-defying aerial stunts too!

Enjoy this holiday season with family and friends at Brookfield Zoo’s (8400 W. 31st St.) 40th annual Holiday Magic now through December 31st.  Zoo-goers can stroll along the walkways illuminated with over one million twinkling LED lights, walk through a 600-foot-long tunnel featuring colored lights synchronized to music, pose for a selfie next to the Santa Claus cutout, spot larger-than-life lit animal sculptures, be dazzled by a 41-foot-tree that dances to choreographed music, and much, much more!  Plus, catch this year’s new features – an illuminated gingerbread house and “Sea of Lights,” a mile-long display of colored lights along the West Mall! In addition, restaurants will be open as well as gift shops offering an array of unique items. Please note that advanced, timed-entry reservations are required.

Sue Moss and Dean’s Team Chicago