suburban

The Full Suburban: Classy decor or murder house for Halloween?

Hang on to your witch hats, everyone, because we’re midway through October, and the Ditto party train is full speed ahead until spring.

I love fall, but with its advent is ushered in a relentless eight months straight of holidays and birthdays in our family with their accompanying decorations, gifts and expectations.

I feel weary just thinking about it. First, there’s Halloween, then two birthdays less than a week later. Thanksgiving rolls around with its do-gooding and overeating, and then we celebrate our anniversary, Christmas, New Year’s and a birthday all in the span of about two weeks.

From there, it’s a steady march of almost biweekly celebrations: Valentine’s Day, birthday, St. Patrick’s Day, birthday, Easter, birthday, birthday. By the time June rolls around, I am leaping with joy on the graves of holiday decorations past relishing the coming four months with relatively little to celebrate. That sounds bad; I promise, I’m not a horrible person.

I go all-out for Christmas: hand-stitched stockings, a 12-foot Christmas tree, wreaths, garlands, nativities and construction paper Santas collected throughout my kids’ 12 years and counting in the public school system. Christmas is a holiday I can really sink my teeth into, you know? But Valentine’s Day? St. Patrick’s Day? Bah humbug.

More specifically, though, I have disappointed my kids for years with my lack of effort in the Halloween decorating department. My style is more “tasteful autumn vignette” and less “murder house,” and they don’t seem to appreciate that at all. “This is it?” they’ll blandly ask when they come home to find I’ve put up our decorations for the holiday.

“What do you mean, ‘This is it’?” I’ll say defensively, gesturing grandly at the four or five doodads I’ve scattered throughout the room. “Look at the giant velveteen spider that appears to

Make the most of your home improvement dollars | Suburban Life

Home improvement projects provide homeowners with a chance to put their own stamp on their homes. In addition, many such projects make homes safer and, in some instances, more eco-friendly.

The opportunity to make a home more comfortable, safer and/or more eco-friendly entices many homeowners to open their wallets. In fact, the Home Improvement Research Institute estimates that the home improvement products market will grow by more than 5% in 2018.

Homeowners might experience some sticker shock when researching home improvement projects or receiving estimates from contractors. But there are ways for budget-conscious homeowners to transform their homes and still make the most of their home improvement dollars.

• Do your homework. Each year, Remodeling magazine publishes its “Cost vs. Value Report,” a comprehensive study of 21 popular remodeling projects in 149 United States markets. The report notes the value each project retains at resale in 100 markets across the country. Homeowners who want to get the strongest return on investment can access the “Cost vs. Value Report” (remodeling.how.net) to see which home improvement projects are best suited for them.

• Do some of the labor yourself. Homeowners willing to swing a hammer also can stretch their home improvement dollars. For example, the home improvement resource This Old House® notes that homeowners willing to do their own demolition before the contractors arrive can save substantial amounts of money. A professional contractor may charge $1,000 to demo a 200-square-foot deck, but This Old House estimates that homeowners who demo their own decks may spend only $450 (for the dumpster rental and parking permit).

• Hire a consultant. The DIY movement is incredibly popular, no doubt thanks to television channels such as HGTV and the DIY Network. Homeowners with DIY experience may be able to complete projects on their own with little

Illinois Democrats look to win more suburban state legislative seats in November despite corruption probe

After winning a slew of suburban state legislative seats long held by Republicans in 2018, Illinois Democrats are looking to expand their reach even further in November as renewed controversy swirls around their powerful leader, longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan.



a man wearing a suit and tie smiling and looking at the camera: Illinois state Rep. Grant Wehrli.


© Grant Wehrli campaign/Chicago Tribune/TNS
Illinois state Rep. Grant Wehrli.

Republicans for years have built their campaign strategy around vilifying Madigan, who has been speaker for all but two years since 1983, but it hasn’t paid off in a big way at the ballot box. This year, however, the GOP hopes its anti-Madigan message will resonate in a new way after federal prosecutors in July alleged that Commonwealth Edison engaged in a “yearslong bribery scheme” designed to curry favor with the speaker.

But Madigan, who has not been charged and has denied wrongdoing, is only on the ballot in his Southwest Side district, and Democrats are hoping to capitalize on a changing suburban electorate’s dissatisfaction with the name at the top of the Republican ticket: President Donald Trump.

All 118 Illinois House seats and 22 of 59 state Senate seats are on the ballot this fall. But because 52 House and 11 Senate races are uncontested, a handful of competitive districts — largely in the suburbs — will determine whether Democrats lose or add to their veto-proof majorities in both chambers. Democrats hold supermajorities of 74-44 in the House and 40-19 in the Senate, meaning Republicans would need a historic number of victories to take control of either chamber.



Michael Madigan et al. standing next to a man in a suit and tie: Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan walks out after a House Democratic caucus meeting on Nov. 12, 2019, at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield.


© Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan walks out after a House Democratic caucus meeting on Nov. 12, 2019, at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield.

The Democrats not only control both chambers of the General Assembly and all statewide offices, but they also enjoy