Chicago goes through a sort of metamorphosis as winter takes a firm grip over the city, bringing cold weather and incredibly short days. But don’t feel bad making runs to the local convenience store in sweatpants and slippers — during the coldest winter days, it takes a lot of motivation and sheer willpower just to leave the house. When not hibernating, Chicago residents can be seen digging their vehicles out from snow drifts and ice, meeting up at corner bars, or even jumping into a frozen Lake Michigan.
With winter officially here, we thought it was only fitting to highlight a few noteworthy Chicago traditions that mark the season. Keep reading and let us know your favorite winter traditions in the comments.
Try to picture hundreds of people clad only in bathing suits running and fully submerging themselves into a frigid Lake Michigan during the coldest period in Chicago. Sound like fun? That’s basically what the Polar Plunge is. Each year towards the end of winter, the event takes place to great fanfare — even sometimes featuring surprise celebrity guests (think Jimmy Fallon and Lady Gaga). And it’s all for a good cause, as proceeds from participant entry dues and their funds raised go to support Special Olympics Chicago.
There’s no local tradition more polarizing than parking dibs. For the uninitiated, the idea is simple: residents claim, or call “dibs” on a street parking space for a few days to upwards of a week (or sometimes longer) after clearing that spot out after a heavy snowfall. When not parked in that space, the dibs participant will place a chair, a traffic cone, or some other item in the spot to signal to others that it has been claimed. Let’s just say some people get particularly creative with the items they use to claim their territory.
One of the greatest things about the holiday season is the wonderment of lighting displays throughout the city’s neighborhoods and cultural attractions. In particular, the ZooLights installation at the Lincoln Park Zoo is a dazzling experience that excites the senses for people of all ages. For over 25 years, the recurring event has been free to the public, showcasing 2.5 million lights throughout the zoo.
Getting into a neighborly spirit
While the jury may be perpetually out on parking dibs, one theme that can be identified as a positive force is that of neighborly camaraderie and unity during cold snaps. We look out for each other during storms and dreaded polar vortex periods. Checking in on neighbors, helping shovel neighbor’s sidewalks, and generally being affable and available towards friends and neighbors is something Chicagoans do. It’s not only a point of pride, but one more reason why Chicago is a great place to call home.
Whether you have a significant home project planned for the coming year, you’re looking to refresh your home with some design tweaks, or you’re updating your house to sell, selecting paint colors, decor styles, and new pieces can be overwhelming. Updating your home is important aesthetically, and also impacts the overall feel and function of the atmosphere. Get inspired to refresh your home for a new decade by incorporating 2020 design trends throughout the space.
Paint Color Trends
Invoking feelings of relaxation
Every year, the major paint retailers announce their colors of the year — the colors they anticipate will be prevalent throughout home design choices. The 2020 color choices share the same theme: tones that will make you feel relaxed, grounded, and restored at home.
Soft rose – Benjamin Moore’s Color Trends 2020 palette “delivers modern paint color pairings that combine optimism with understatement, a timeless way to lighten up.” Their color of the year is First Light, a soft rose hue that “reflects a new definition of the home – a shift in mindset from the material to satisfying the core needs in life: community, comfort, security, self-expression, authenticity and ultimately, optimism,” according to the retailer.
Rich navy — Sherwin-Williams’ 2020 Color of the Year is Naval, a rich navy hue that strikes a balance between calm and confident. As a versatile neutral, Naval creates a grounded space that ushers restfulness and tranquility into the home, according to the company.
“The use of color in interior design is changing. It’s not just about what a space looks like anymore, but how it makes you feel,” said Sue Wadden, director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams. “People want to feel grounded and inspired to pursue their mental, physical and emotional well-being. Naval is reminiscent of the night sky, which people have looked to for centuries for guidance, as a muse and as a reminder to live more mindfully.”
Organic green — Behr’s 2020 Color of the Year is Back to Nature, an organic shade of green meant to purify and promote balance at home. “Back to Nature is a restorative and revitalizing green hue that engages the senses and pairs well with other colors both inside and outside your home,” according to the company.
Home Decor Trends
Investing in quality and bringing back the past
Invest in quality pieces — With a rise in direct to consumer companies, investing in quality furniture pieces at a lower price point is easier than ever. As the Marie Kondo effect continues to infiltrate our lives, buying fewer items of higher quality remains a theme that will carry into the new decade. Companies like Interior Define or Maiden Home sell beautiful, high-quality, custom furniture, at reasonable price points.
Ditch the accent wall — Whether it’s a single painted or wallpapered wall, 2020 is the time to expand the color or pattern to the remaining three walls. Leave the single accent wall in the previous decade and create a more cohesive and finished space by unifying the four walls. To boost the impact, extend color or pattern to the fifth wall, aka the ceiling. Painting or wallpapering the ceiling creates a jewel-box like effect and will make the space extra special.
Consider dark hues a new neutral — As Sherwin-Williams selected Naval as their 2020 Color of the Year, dark, rich colors will be used as a neutral in the year ahead. Pale grays and whites will step aside in favor of darker, cozier tones.
Home Technology Trends
Controlling your home from your smartphone
Home automation — Automating your home isn’t going anywhere, and 2020 will see an increased prevalence of homes turning into smart homes. Whether you want to make sure your garage door is closed after you’re several miles away, preheat the oven on your commute home from work, or adjust the lighting based on when you plan on arriving home, the ability to control these tasks on a smartphone will become more mainstream.
Home Wellness Trends
Creating an atmosphere of wellness
Sparking joy through self-care — Self-care will continue to play an important role in the coming year. Home is the best place to put this into effect. Whether that is lighting candles, eliminating clutter, displaying fresh flowers, or investing in hygge-inspired throw blankets, the small details throughout the house are what can make the most significant impact on how you feel in your home.
As the holidays approach, giving back is a great way to kick off the season. Whether you’re looking to give back in the form of time or monetary donations, there are many organizations across the Chicagoland area that could benefit from extra support. Read on to learn the ways you can start a new tradition, while lending support to those in need.
Blessings in a Backpack
This organization provides food on the weekends to elementary school children across America who might otherwise go hungry. While these children are fed during the school week, Blessings in a Backpack is dedicated to ensuring they receive nutritional meals over the weekend, too.
How to give:
- Through a one-time gift ($130 will feed one child on the weekends for one 38-week school year).
- Make a donation to a specific school.
- Make a monthly donation.
- Donate new backpacks or drawstring bags.
Cradles to Crayons Chicago
Cradles to Crayons provides homeless or low-income children, from birth through age 12, with the essential items they need to thrive – at home, at school and at play.
How to give:
- Make a monetary donation ($33 helps provide a child with the everyday essentials they need).
- Donate high-quality and like-new items, such as coats, clothing, diapers, baby gear, toys, bedding, etc.
- Create a KidPack (make a monetary donation or purchase items off an Amazon Wish List).
- Host a drive in your community.
One Warm Coat
This organization provides a free, warm coat to anyone in need. One Warm Coat also provides individuals and groups with the resources to hold a successful coat drive. The coats are then distributed in the communities where they were collected.
How to give:
- Donate a coat at a participating location.
- Make a monetary donation (every dollar donated warms one person).
- Host your own coat drive.
The Honeycomb Project
With a focus on family volunteering, the Honeycomb Project’s mission is to engage and inspire kids and their families to strengthen Chicago’s communities. Volunteering opportunities are centered around creating meaningful experiences and include events such as helping with conservation efforts in a forest preserve, working at a food pantry, sewing quilts for pediatric patients at hospitals and much more.
How to give:
- Register to volunteer for a project (registration opens the 15th of the month prior to the event).
- Donate your professional skills (in the areas of fundraising, events, photography, research or marketing).
Cara is a workplace re-entry program that helps people affected by poverty obtain and keep quality jobs. Most importantly, it helps these individuals rebuild hope, self-esteem and opportunity.
How to give:
- Donate professional attire for men and women.
- Make a monetary donation.
Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly
This non-profit is dedicated to relieving isolation and loneliness among those faced with aging alone. The organization provides friendship, conversation and connection to thousands of elders who no longer have relatives or friends to rely on.
How to donate:
- Visit an elder you’re matched with based on shared hobbies and interests by spending an extra hour a few times a month.
- Provide holiday help for the organization’s three big celebrations across the city on Thanksgiving, Christmas and in the spring. You can volunteer as a holiday driver, or for pre-holiday prep, event set-up, hospitality or cooking.
Ronald McDonald House Charities
Since 1977, Ronald McDonald House Charities has kept families together with their hospitalized children across Chicagoland. Every night, the organization keeps families close to the care and resources they need at five area Ronald McDonald Houses and three Ronald McDonald Family Rooms. Helping families stay close to their hospitalized child supports the child’s health and well-being, while saving families more than $10 million in annual hotel and food costs.
How to donate:
- Volunteer your time in the form of cooking, cleaning or comforting.
- Cook a home-cooked meal for those at the Houses and Family Rooms, through Meals from the Heart, which saves them from the stress of cooking and expense of dining out.
- Bake cookies through Cookies from the Heart, which provides homemade treats to help them feel comforted and at home.
- Purchase new, unused items from the wish list, such as unwrapped snacks, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, gift cards, postage stamps and more. Supplies can also be ordered through Amazon Smile.
The kitchen is undoubtedly one of the busiest areas in the home during the holiday season. Between being the site of delicious meal preparations to hosting your family and friends, it is sure to see a fair amount of foot traffic over the next few months. As you begin mentally preparing for the busyness of the holidays, make sure to give your kitchen a little love. Quick and easy fixes to get your kitchen ready for the holidays include swapping out old linens for new ones, clearing off unnecessary counter clutter and adding stylish and functional pieces throughout the room.
Here are some of our favorite items for sprucing up your kitchen for the holidays:
Place small appetizers or the main course on a platter that will wow your guests and complement your food. Look for unique colors and textures to add more interest to the dish’s overall presentation.
- Crate & Barrel – Marin Matte Black Oval Serving Platter
- Macy’s – Matisse Blue 15.85” Serving Platter
- Birch Lane – Jepsen Oval Platter
Salt and Pepper Sets
Salt and pepper sets make it easy to add that pinch of salt or dash of pepper. They are also a small but simple way to accessorize your countertops without adding too much clutter.
- Target – Thirstystone Marble Salt and Pepper Pinch Set
- Crate & Barrel – Hayes Marble and Wood Salt and Pepper Set
- Williams Sonoma – Marble & Copper Salt Keeper
Wood Cutting Board
Whether you use it to prepare food or as a rustic charcuterie board, a wood cutting board is a subtle and durable accent piece. Be sure to look up proper care techniques, as some woods may require maintenance for lasting function.
- Crate & Barrel – Teardrop Acacia Wood Serving Board
- West Elm – Marble + Wood Cutting Board
- Sur La Table – Mango Wood Board
Protect your countertops and dining room table with a trivet suitable for the hottest of dishes. Marble is a versatile material and has alternative uses as a cheese board or as a stylish place to organize cooking oils, seasonings or a vase of flowers on your countertop.
- Target – Thirstystone Marble Trivet
- Crate & Barrel – French Kitchen Marble/Graphite Trivet
- Food52 – Marble & Metal Trivet
Swapping out your kitchen linens is an inexpensive and quick way to refine your space. Opt for neutral linens with stripes to add an understated accent to your kitchen.
- World Market – Black Villa Stripe Kitchen Towel
- Crate & Barrel – Farmhouse Grey Stripe Dish Towels
- Magnolia – Camille Cotton Striped Kitchen Towels
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