Getting some culture around town for FREE!


Not everything you do in the big city is expensive.  The locals have their own ways to get around and find things to do that are low cost and some really neat things to do for free.  One such place is the Cultural Center which has a visitor”s center that will provide you free access to attractions around down, get a visitor’s transit pass to save some money.  At the Cultural Center, there is also an art gallery on the first floor that has rotating exhibits from local artists.  The architecture in the cultural center itself is also amazing and you can just soak up the history while taking a coffee or snack break in the common area offering free WiFi Internet access.  the various ball rooms also plays host to various city functions and public meetings.

The Chicago  Cultural Center was originally constructed in 1897 as the Central Library of Chicago.  As the city’s population increased over the last century, the central library was relocated to Van Buren.  The country’s top architects and craftsmen used the most sumptuous materials, such as rare imported marbles, polished brass, fine hardwoods, and mosaics of Favrile glass, mother-of-pearl and colored stone, to create an architectural showplace. Located on the south side of the building, the world’s largest stained glass Tiffany dome ― 38 feet in diameter with some 30,000 pieces of glass ― was restored to its original splendor in 2008. On the north side of the building is a 40-foot-diameter dome with some 50,000 pieces of glass in an intricate Renaissance pattern, designed by Healy & Millet.


Driving Directions

From The North:

If traveling from the North on the Kennedy Expressway or Edens Expressway (Interstate 90/94), exit at Monroe Street and drive East to Michigan Avenue.

If driving on the Outer Drive (North Lake Shore Drive/Highway 41), exit at Randolph Street and drive West to Michigan Avenue.

From The South:

If traveling from the South on the Dan Ryan Expressway (Interstates 90/94), exit at Congress Parkway and drive East to Michigan Avenue and then North to Washington Street. If driving on Lake Shore Drive (Highway 41), exit at Randolph Street and drive West to Michigan Avenue.

From The East:
If traveling from the East on the Indiana Toll Road (Interstate 90), take the Chicago Skyway to the Stony Island exit, follow Highway 41 (Lake Shore Drive) to downtown Chicago, exit at Randolph Street and drive West to Michigan Avenue.

If coming in from the East on Interstate 90/94, continue on the Dan Ryan Expressway, exit at Congress Parkway, drive East to Michigan Avenue and then North to Washington Street.

From The West:
If traveling from the West on the Eisenhower Expressway (Interstate 290), which becomes Congress Parkway, drive East to Michigan Avenue, and then turn North (left) to Washington Street.



Convenient parking is located in the Millennium Park Garage, Grant Park North, Grant Park South and East Monroe Garages. For more information or directions for any of these parking garages, visit or call 312.616.0600.

 Public Transportation

Both Chicago Transit Authority buses and trains, and Metra’s commuter rail lines stop conveniently near the Cultural Center. For detailed travel information visit or call the Travel Information Center at 1-888-YOUR-CTA or 1-888-CTA-TTY1 (TTY).


Holiday Spirit in Chicago

One of the neat things about living in a large urban city like Chicago is that the city and businesses helps put people in the holiday spirit with holiday decorations. While the trees may be missing it’s foliage in the colder winter months, they are often draped with holiday lights. Many businesses will also put up their own version of the Christmas tree adorned with different lights. The city has its own official Christmas tree that is usually chosen from a suburban family, chopped and trucked in for installation at Daley Plaza where the Picasso Statue resides and the Christkindle Market happens during the holiday.

Street Scape along the Magnificent Mile (Michigan Avenue) with the infamous Water Tower in the background.

Street Scape along the Magnificent Mile (Michigan Avenue) with the infamous Water Tower in the background.

Christmas tree at the Cultural Center which is used for city offices, art gallery and visitor's center.

Christmas tree at the Cultural Center which is used for city offices, art gallery and visitor’s center.

Holiday tree outside of the legondary Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team

Holiday tree outside of the legondary Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team

Colorful trees at the base of the Skydesk for Willis Tower.  Chicagoans still call it the Sear's Tower.

Colorful trees at the base of the Skydesk for Willis Tower. Chicagoans still call it the Sear’s Tower.

The official City Christmas Tree at Daley Plaza with Chriskindle Market

The official City Christmas Tree at Daley Plaza with Chriskindle Market

Trumpets and Holiday Story Windows outsides of Macy's on State.  Chicagoans still call it Marshall Fields

Trumpets and Holiday Story Windows outsides of Macy’s on State. Chicagoans still call it Marshall Fields

Trees at the ice skating rink at Millenium Park.

Trees at the ice skating rink at Millenium Park.

The holiday tree on the plaza shared by The Tribune Company and NBC Tower

The holiday tree on the plaza shared by The Tribune Company and NBC Tower

Saving for a down payment to buy

There are some great deals out in the market for first time loft/home buyers or event folks who would like to upgrade their residence and/or get into a better neighborhood. But on thing gets in the way for the first time home buyer(s) — that is having enough saved for a down payment.

A savings and down payment is important because most residential lenders are looking for “Stated Loans” where you provide your income supporting documentation, the W2 or pay stubs from work (typically past two months worth) or your 1099’s and past tax filings (typically past two years). The underwriters want to make sure that you can 1) Afford the loan and have enough cushion to avoid default and/or foreclosure and; 2) Make sure that that the income stated on your income is accurate and that it meets their debt-to-income ration qualifications.

Here are some simple ways that will help you save:
1) Take Public transit – it’s fairly east to do in most Chicago neighborhoods and you can be on the monthly flat fee plan. Some employers can also pay for this through payroll deduction so you get to pay for it with pre-tax dollars. Some employers also subsidize it. Not owing a car can save you about $6,000 per year if you figure $500 per month for car payments, insurance and parking for the average car owner.
2) Reduce eating out and buying coffee from Starbucks or Dunkin Doughnuts. On average most folks spent $5-15 per day just on the coffee purchases and for eating lunch out (another $10-15 per day average). That’s at least $100 a week if you pack your own lunch or at least $50 a week if you eat out only half the week.
3) Reduce your alcohol intake – It’s good for your health and vital organs long term, but it also saves you a lot of money. If you go out with clients or other co-workers frequently, you can also just reduce the amount of drinking (at least the ones you pay for on your own). An average night out for me is at least $25 one a week which would provide a $1,300 savings a year. And not drinking as much also avoids those late night post drinking food cravings so that’s additional $$ that you are saving. You can also choose to reduce the amount going out you do to every two weeks or once a month if you are really on the savings track — think of all the new furniture you can afford with the savings.
4) Have a change cup or bucket – I use only dollar bills when I use cash for purchases and put the change in my cups and take them into the bank every month or two. This has allowed me to put at least $100-200 in savings per month and you’d be surprise with how quickly they add up.

These few savings will yield a $12,500 savings for down payment just within a one year (12 month period). This is equivalent to a 10% down payment on a house purchased at $125,000 range. Of a 3% down payment on a loft/home that’s around $415,000. Yes, there are still 3% and 5% down payment loans out there for first time home buyer(s) and if you have a FICO credit score of 700 or above.

Let me know your comments and thoughts or other examples that you have to save money on a regular baiss.

Christkindl Market in Chicago Loop Downtown

December 12, 2013

One of the most cool things around the holidays in Chicago is the Christkindl Market downtown.  It’s located at the Daley Plaza in front of the court house where during the summer months, they have various cultural festivals and fresh farmer’s market weekly.

Christkindl Market is a Santa’s Village of sorts replicating the Christkindl Markets in Germany, but on a small scale and more local to Chicago.  It was started by the Germany immigrants into the City and has been a yearly tradition for me to stop there. I used to visit more often when my office was located in the central loop across for it’s location so it was easy to go across the street for lunch to get a quick German bratwurst or schnitzel fix, to grab some hot apple cider or to meet friends for a beer, pretzels an/or potato pancakes after work.


Besides the food and drinks, it’s a nice place to shop for lots of holiday gifts from vendors and artisans and there are ample selection of Christmas Ornaments or Germany Chocolates to give out for business associates and clients during the holidays.

If you have little ones (or for the kid in you), You can visit Santa’s House and get a phone with Santa.

There are many options to get to Daley Plaza where the Chriskindl Market is located: You can take public transit and there is an El Station underneath Daley Plaza for both the Blue and Red Lines. The #20 Madison Bus goes right by Daley Plaza and it’s only a short 2 block walk from Michigan Avenue. A taxi is always nearby and there are plenty of parking lots in the surrounding blocks, but be prepared to pay hefty during peak hours for the parking downtown. There are a few metered spots in the blocks around the area if you are willing to wait and not planning on staying for more than an hours or two, otherwise, the paid parking is usually a better option both financially and for flexibility on time.

It’s open daily from November 26th through December 23rd! I hope you will make it a yearly tradition like I have in Chicago.


OTHER NEARBY WINTER ATTRACTIONS — There are some other Winter Attraction Nearby if you are making a day of it:
1) Outdoor ice skating in Millennium Park at Michigan and Washington Streets.
2) Visit Cloud Gate at Millennium Park.
3) Shopping along Michigan Avenue’s Mag Mile.
4) View the annual holiday Window Displays at Macy’s — it’s only a block away on State Street and there is usually a cute story to be told.
5) Take in a Theater or show in the Theater District close by

View more news videos at:

It’s a snow day! Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Photo Dec 11, 8 33 24 AM

Was tired last night and went to bed early.  Woke up at 4:30 AM and could not fall back to sleep.   So by 5:30 AM I was on the road dusting the light snow off the car to make my way into the office.  One thing about getting on the road early is that there are less vehicles on the road and it’s a quick 35 minute commute into the office.  A second big advantage is that in the West Loop of Chicago, where the office for C&C Realty Group, Inc.  is located, there is plenty or parking when I get here before 7 AM and I don’t have have to pay for parking.

I like the snow days for many reasons:  1)  It’s nice to have the season changes throughout the year so it does not get too boring.  2)  The temperatures during the winter are actually warmer on snow days because the water droplets tend to freeze when it’s too cold in the atmosphere so there is nothing coming down.  3)  It’s kinda fun to play in the snow during the winter time and make snow angels and such (just stay away from the colored snow, especially the yellow piles).  4)  I get to switch up my wardrobe during the winter months and wear some of the coats and jackets that I love.   5)  I prefer snow over rain because I don’t get too wet and it’s easy to dust off if I get some on me.

The negatives on snow days?

1)  People do not know how to drive on the road!  There are always accidents on snow days and sometimes 4-5 on each leg of the commute from people that drive too fast or don’t know how to control their vehicles on the road properly.  There are special techniques to driving during the winter which I might blog about some other time.

2)  There can be layers of ice on the road or worst, on the windshield of the car so you have to scrape that off and defrost it before you can get on the road — this adds some extra time to getting ready each day.

3)  People tend to cancel appointments and showings and I have to re-adjust my schedule.

On Heavy snow days here in Chicagoland, people tend to stay home which is good for reducing traffic and congestion on the roads and transit systems.  Many of the companies around Chicago area allow their employees to work from home and provide remote access for the winter time snow days and on days of extreme weather.


Overall, I don’t mind the snow days and prefer some chill in the air to keep me awake throughout the day and I’ve had 15 years to adjust to the winters here in Chicago and have been able to buy nice coats and winter clothing for when I’m outside.


View of parking lot from my office window.

View of parking lot from my office window.

How Couples on Social Security Can Learn?

One of the facts of life is that people will age, but for couples of the Boomer Generation, it can be harder than before to manage their expenses as they age. One of the many reasons is that life expectancy is longer and people don’t save. The other is that they have investments in stocks which may have resulted in losses of value time due to the economic climate. Many Seniors rely on Social Security as their main source of income. Here’s a great video on what couples on social security can learn about their benefits that they may not be aware of. This advice in this video could mean whether you are staying in your own home or having to sell or move.