May 15, 2012

New side project: Typography in the City blog…and book! #typeinthecity

a few examples of my new photographic obsession: typography

So, I was just recently talking about creative side jobs on the Creative Freelancer Blog. I’m happy to finally announce one of my side projects: a photographic essay on typography titled Typography in the City.

the inspiration

The inspiration for this project came about in July 2011. I had recently attended the HOW Design Conference in Chicago and picked up a book called Photo Idea Index by Jim Krause. It gave me a new perspective on photography and most importantly, the encouragement to practice daily.

At the time, I was in my last month of pregnancy so my only form of exercise was long walks with the dog. On these walks in my West Loop neighborhood, I started to notice typography—a letterform on a sign, an address number, words spray painted on the ground. With my new found photographic inspiration, I started taking photos and sharing them.

the blog

To share my collection of images—and to add to it when I’m on the go—I recently created a blog called Typography in the City. 

the book

I’m also currently designing the related book, titled Typography in the City. Send your email to be added to the mailing list when the book is released!

Follow along on instagram and twitter with the hashtag #typeinthecity


March 21, 2012

Spring has sprung: time for new growth

Filed under: Local (Chicago),Small Business — lidia @ 3:44 pm

A few signs of spring on my walk to my West Loop office

Today marks the first full day of Spring (i.e. the Vernal Equinox). And spring has certainly sprung in Chicago. We have been enjoying temperatures in the 80s, a full 30 degrees warmer than average. With Chicago usually going straight from summer to winter, this year’s spring has been a pleasant surprise.

As I mentioned in this Creative Freelancer blog post from last year, at springtime I like to think about “new growth.” This year, I am experiencing it quite literally as I watch my 7-month old son grow (and how quickly!) However, I’m also experiencing it in my business with a recent move from a home office to an office building.

Has Spring sprung where you are? Are you experiencing “new growth” in your business?

June 21, 2011

Shop local, eat local

Filed under: Local (Chicago) — Tags: , , — lidia @ 1:13 pm

Our first CSA box and dishes prepared with the featured ingredients

Since I’m a big supporter of working with local businesses, it only seemed natural (pun intended) to get food locally.

Growing your own food is healthy, but it’s a daunting concept for city dwellers like myself. So we decided to let the farm do the growing for us and join a CSA (community supported agriculture). We signed up with Harvest Moon Organics, a farm located in southwest Wisconsin, not far from Chicago.

How does a CSA work? You pay for a “share” of the season’s harvest. The farm delivers a weekly box filled with in-season produce (plus in our case, fresh eggs) to a nearby pickup location. You pick up your box and explore the organic goodies inside.

Our first box was filled with a few old favorites (lettuce, asparagus) as well as unfamiliar faces (garlic scapes). What to do with those garlic scapes? I promptly reached out to my twitter pals, who were happy to oblige with new recipe ideas.

Recent articles in Whole Living and Food & Wine have sung the praises of CSAs both as a way to support local farms, as well as a reason to mix up your cooking routine. Not to mention, upping the health ante in your diet with all that fresh organic produce.

Looking for a CSA in your area? Check for info and locations.

What about you… do you eat local? Leave a comment!

June 6, 2011

Hidden gems: unique sights to see in Chicago

Filed under: Creativity,Design & Art,Local (Chicago) — Tags: , , , — lidia @ 2:35 am

Summer is a great time to get out and explore Chicago’s great museums and public spaces. You may be familiar with the well-known spots, but but have you seen some of our hidden gems?

Being a fan of art and nature, I’m constantly seeking out new and interesting places to get my inspiration fix. Here are a few museums, gardens and cultural institutions that you may not have seen yet—tucked away in Chicago’s neighborhoods, along main streets, and in surrounding areas.

Unique sights to see in Chicago…

Loyola University Museum of Art (Magnificent Mile, Chicago IL)

A great stop on your next Magnificent Mile shopping trip, The Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA) is located in Lewis Towers, a historic 1926 Gothic Revival building on the Water Tower Campus of Loyola University Chicago. The Museum maintains collections that explore and promote the spiritual in art of all faiths and cultures.

Oriental Institute (Hyde Park, Chicago IL)

One of my favorite local spots, The Oriental Institute is a research organization and museum devoted to the study of the ancient Near East—a fascinating period in art history (and one of my favorites!) The museum displays objects recovered by Oriental Institute excavations in permanent galleries devoted to ancient Egypt, Nubia, Persia, Mesopotamia and others, as well as rotating special exhibits.

The current Huichol exhibit

National Museum of Mexican Art (Pilsen, Chicago IL)

Maybe I’m biased because of my love of Mayan art (not to mention they are one of my clients) but this small museum manages to host some of the most striking art exhibits I’ve seen. Pair that with a rockin’ gift shop and eclectic restaurants and cafes nearby and you have the makings of a great museum trip.

See my blog post about the invitation and gallery graphics I designed for the current Huichol exhibit.

International Museum of Surgical Science (downtown, Chicago IL)

Admittedly I have not visited this museum (I’m scared!), but my friend who is a nurse did and thoroughly enjoyed it. The Museum features historical and modern-day artifacts, paintings and illustrations relating to the medical field. See a listing of current exhibitions.

One of my hand-bound journals

Gallery at the Center for Book & Paper Arts (CBPA) at Columbia College Chicago (South Loop, Chicago, IL)

Did you know Columbia College—my alma mater—has a center devoted to book and paper arts? It sure does and I was lucky enough to study hand bookbinding there post-graduation. The gallery features intriguing book and paper-related exhibitions and lectures. Check the website for gallery hours and current exhibitions.

Lurie Gardens at Millennium Park (Downtown, Chicago IL)

A true respite from the bustling city, the Lurie Gardens are located in the southeast end of Millennium Park, just steps from downtown Michigan Avenue. Stroll through the beautiful wildflowers or attend a free guided garden walk.

…and just outside Chicago

Japanese Garden at Chicago Botanic Garden

Chicago Botanic Garden Regenstein Center (Glencoe IL)

In addition to the breathtaking horticultural displays and lovely walking paths, the Chicago Botanic Garden hosts a wide variety of exhibitions, including photography and artwork. They also have workshops and classes for gardeners and artists. Gardening questions? They also maintain an extensive horticulture library, available to Garden members. I’ve been a member for years and still discover something new on each trip!

Know other hidden gems in Chicago? Leave a comment!

May 27, 2011

Will chains oust local stores in downtown Chicago?

Filed under: Local (Chicago),Small Business — lidia @ 1:47 pm

Buckingham Fountain in Chicago's South Loop

A recent article in the Chicago Journal caught my eye today. It spoke about the increase in retail vacancies on South Michigan Avenue, a popular shopping and dining area in the South Loop neighborhood of downtown Chicago.

Due to rising rents, many independent retail shops are forced to close or move, with chain stores sometimes taking their place.

Will indie shops disappear in downtown Chicago?

The article was timely for me, having just returned from a vacation to a Florida island community where chain stores are practically non-existent. I realized that one of the things I love about visiting this island—or any new place for that matter—is stopping into independent boutiques or coffee shops and chatting with the owners.

I also recall my days at Columbia College in the South Loop, which included walks to the local art supply store or bookstore. Will this all but disappear in Chicago?

As the article pointed out, high parking fees can deter locals from shopping in downtown areas, while tourists tend to spend their money on food and dining. However, I can’t imagine that all Chicago visitors want to buy fast food or cheap, mass-produced souvenirs.

What can be done to promote local business?

What is the solution to keeping local retail business alive in downtown Chicago? Locals like myself need to make more of an effort to visit independent businesses downtown. Perhaps the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau can create a “Shop Local” campaign to encourage visitors to shop at local boutiques. Share your thoughts in the comments.

Read the Chicago Journal article.

May 6, 2011

Things are looking up for local business

Filed under: Local (Chicago),Small Business — lidia @ 1:43 pm

Recently, Local First Chicago shared an article from The Nation illustrating the “Localism Index.” (see image at right) The data shows that local businesses are growing and thriving.

Local business statistics:

Increase since 2002 in the number of Starbucks stores: 3,297
Increase since 2002 in the number of independent coffee shops: 4,923

Number of chain pharmacy locations that opened in 2009: 177
Number of independent pharmacy locations that opened in 2009: 474

Number of Independent Business Alliances and Local First groups in 2005: 30
Number of Independent Business Alliances and Local First groups in 2010: 143

View the article and download the full illustrated map here.

I shop local

I’ve always had a “shop local” focus with my small business. I partnered with a local company to develop my website, my line of greeting cards is printed by a local printer—not to mention the myriad of other local vendors that I work with. I’m also a member of Local First Chicago and a local Chamber, and host networking events geared toward local businesses. When I need a service or product, I always try to look within my local network first.

What about you?

Is your small business participating in local or neighborhood groups? Have you seen a difference in your business as a result?

Have you noticed more independent shops or small businesses opening up in your neighborhood—or is it the opposite?

April 11, 2011

Signs of Spring in Chicago

Filed under: Local (Chicago) — Tags: , — lidia @ 6:39 pm

Potted pansies, runners and a busy Mary Bartelme Park in the West Loop

With our first 80+ degree day yesterday, Chicagoans were pleasantly reminded: yes, it does get warm in Chicago.

After many long months of cold, snow, rain and greyness in general, the warm day brought the city alive. Bulky jackets were shed for shorts. Smells of BBQ lingered in the air. Kids and dogs populated the parks and streets. The warm day also nicely coincided with Chicago’s kick-off to the running season, the Shamrock Shuffle.

Though most trees and plant life have yet to wake up, I managed to find some signs of spring in my Chicago neighborhood, as well as in my mom’s garden. Go Spring!

Follow my Chicago spring tweets (and others’) at #signsofspring.

Snowdrops and sedum make their spring debut


February 3, 2011

Snowed in: scenes from the Chicago blizzard

Filed under: Local (Chicago) — Tags: , , , — lidia @ 1:44 pm

The lengths we go to for our morning coffee: snowy scenes from Chicago's West Loop. Click for more pics.

Yesterday was quite a day for many Chicagoans.

Between Tuesday and Wednesday we experienced one of the largest snowfalls in history, with totals creeping over 20 inches.

Snow was flying sideways at high speed. Thunder and lightning lit up the night sky. Chicago Public Schools were closed for the first time in over 10 years. Retail stores and banks were closed. Drivers were stuck in cars and buses for multiple hours on Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive. Homes lost power for 12 hours or more. Quite a day, indeed.

We were one of the buildings in Chicago that lost electricity for many hours. Not having heat, coffeemaker or internet connection, we trudged through the snow to our local Starbucks (one of the few places open!) for a warm breakfast. Along the way, we saw Chicago cab drivers and buses determinedly making their way through the snowy streets. While dogs (including our Essie) and children seemed to make the very best of the huge snowdrifts that accumulated in the streets.

The calm after the store—not to mention the massive clean-up—starts today. With cars still buried in side streets and temperatures dropping to frigid lows, many of my clients (and myself) are happy to be working from home again today. And schoolkids are once again enjoying a snow day.

See neighborhood photos of the Chicago blizzard posted by local public radio radio station WBEZ.

Share your links to blizzard photos in the comments!

December 14, 2010

‘Tis the season for giving

Filed under: Community Outreach,Local (Chicago) — Tags: , , , — lidia @ 8:29 am

"Hope" gift box from GothamChick on Etsy

With charitable giving taking a hit in the current economy, local and national organizations need all the help they can get. This is a great time of year to reflect on your good fortune and share what you can with others.

I have several friends and clients at local nonprofit organizations, so they are first on my list for giving. Over the years, I’ve seen how these organizations help the community so I willingly do my part to help out.

Ideas for holiday giving

  • Your local food pantry
  • An organization that supports a cause close to your heart or family
  • American Red Cross or other aid organization
  • Organizations that provide housing or care to the homeless
  • An organization that connects with your personal interests. Love music? Support your local music conservatory. is a good place to start your research: search by name, location or type of nonprofit organization.

Donating without writing a check

You don’t have to limit yourself to cash donations. Here in Chicago, there is an organization called Leave it for Love that takes unused gifts and “re-gifts” them to a local charity. During this time of year, you can also usually find organizations (or retail stores) that collect donations of coats, eyeglasses or shoes and donate them appropriately.

Do you have other ideas for giving during the holidays? Leave them in the comments!

November 24, 2010

Shop local this Saturday! #SmallBizSat

Filed under: Local (Chicago),Small Business — Tags: , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

A recent Duct Tape Marketing blog post made me aware of Small Business Saturday taking place this Saturday. (how did I not know about this?)

Small Business Saturday was created by AMEX OPEN and small business advocacy groups trying to encourage people to shop local (rather than at big chain stores) on Saturday, November 27th. Shopping local benefits both the overall economy, as well as your local community. Plus, it’s fun to get out and meet your neighbors.

Here in Chicago, the organization Local First Chicago (I’m a member) is spreading the word about the importance of buying local this holiday season with Unwrap Chicago: Eat, Drink & Buy Local. In my Chicago neighborhood alone, there are a number of clothing, gift and pet boutiques with lots of holiday goodies. Gift certificates from neighborhood restaurants are also a great way to shop local.

So why not take the opportunity on Saturday to skip the mall and take a stroll around your neighborhood. Many local shops and boutiques are hosting special holiday shopping events and parties, so keep an eye out in your local community.

Shop small business – shop local!

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