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 be climbing down the picture above the mantel!

“And you can’t tell me you aren’t impressed with the vases that I’ve filled with alternating layers of black and white dried beans that Martha Stewart said – and I quote – ‘would be a very classy Halloween decoration.’ ”

“You know what would be awesome?” one kid will say to his siblings, completely ignoring my decor explanation. “We should fill the whole field in front of our house with zombie scarecrows.”

“What’s a zombie scarecrow?” I’ll ask naively, again stymied by middle age and common sense.

“Hmmm, I’m not sure. Just a regular scarecrow with blood dripping from its face?” another kid will reply. “It’s hard to describe, but you’ll know it when you see it.”

“I’m not sure I want an army of bloody zombie scarecrows welcoming friends and family to our cozy farmhouse,” I’ll say.

Again, ignored. “We could have one zombie look like it’s coming to life when someone walks by!” someone will yell, way more into this idea than the tasteful black faux-feather wreath I have hanging from our front door.

“Alexa, how do you make a zombie scarecrow come to life?” someone will yell across the

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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” ( 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 consultation from professional contractors. Some contractors may not offer consulting services, however. The consultation route, which typically requires paying licensed contractors hourly fees to offer guidance, should only be considered by homeowners with legitimate DIY skills, for whom this option can be a great way to save money.

• Schedule renovations during homeowner-friendly times of year. Summer and fall tend to be contractors’ busy seasons, and homeowners will likely pay more for projects during this time of year. If possible, delay starting projects until right after the new year, when contractors aren’t so busy and might be more flexible with pricing.

Budget-conscious homeowners can employ various strategies to make the most of their home improvement dollars without sacrificing quality.

Story courtesy of Metro Creative Connection

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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.


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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 an overwhelming advantage in campaign cash.

With billionaire former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s funding out of the picture and other conservative donors focusing their spending on defeating Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated-rate income tax amendment, “if it were just about money, it really would be a wipeout,” said Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science with the University of Illinois system’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs.

On a larger scale for Republicans nationally, spending big to keep the Democrats from picking up a couple of seats in the Illinois legislature “doesn’t really seem like a good investment if you can flip a chamber” in another state, Redfield said.

“But for the Commonwealth Edison investigation, you’re really looking at a perfect storm in terms of the Democrats building their majority, with the changes in the suburbs and then the overwhelming money advantage,” Redfield said.

“If you want to ask the question, why are they making such a huge push when they already have such big majorities in both chambers, one of the answers might be that it’s an opportunity to so damage the Republican Party in the state of Illinois that it will be very difficult for them

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Avram Hornik comes home to the Main Line with Lola’s Garden, an indoor-outdoor restaurant in Suburban Square

Avram Hornik, who has built a career on restaurants and clubs in Center City and the Delaware riverfront over the last 24 years, is planning a long-rumored, indoor-outdoor restaurant/wine bar called Lola’s Garden in a prime spot on the Main Line, near where he grew up.

Hornik’s Four Corners Management has an agreement with Kimco Realty for the center courtyard of Suburban Square in Ardmore, taking the storefronts of the now-vacant Kate Spade and Jack Wills boutiques and a 2,000-square-foot outdoor area.

The design of the 260-seat project, with an anticipated opening next spring, is now under review by Lower Merion Township. The look borrows from his city projects, including Harper’s Garden and Morgan’s Pier.

A press release said Hornik himself would direct the project — “an eclectic garden setting that will feature lush greenery and flowers [complemented] by repurposed and recycled natural materials and found objects, with comfortable and community living room style seating and stylings. Even the inside dining spaces will have the look and feel as if you are in the great outdoors.”

Lola’s Garden’s cuisine will be American with a full bar, including 15 draft lines.

Lola’s Garden will be one of two full-service restaurants on the way to Suburban Square, now home of Not Your Average Joe’s as well as fast-casual concepts such as HipCityVeg, Oath Pizza, and a forthcoming Shake Shack. (Ruby’s Diner shut down last January and Besito, a Mexican restaurant, closed last spring.) A liquor application on the window of a long-shuttered restaurant next door to Lola’s Garden, once known as Parlor and St. James, bears the name DanDan, a Chinese restaurant with locations in Center City and Wayne.

The Main Line is not only a homecoming for Hornik, 47, who was born in California but raised in Merion Station. The move helps brings his overall career path full circle.

In the early 1990s, Hornik, then a young Vassar College graduate, said he had approached Suburban Square’s previous management with an idea for an outdoor coffee kiosk with seating — coincidentally at the very same spot as Lola’s Garden. He was rebuffed. In those days, he said, shopping centers were built exclusively around commerce. Now, they are seen as community-gathering spots.

Hornik took the idea to Old City, where in 1996 he and a partner opened Quarry Street Caf, a mellow coffeehouse. He followed with Customs House Cafe before opening a string of bars, including Lucy’s Hat Shop, Butter/Proto Lounge, SoMa Lounge, Bar Noir, Drinker’s Tavern, Drinker’s Pub, Loie, and Noche, some of which pushed the patience of neighbors. He revived South Philadelphia’s Dolphin Tavern and Boot & Saddle and opened a William Street Common, an indoor beer garden near the University of Pennsylvania and Union Transfer, a live-music venue.

Then he shed most of the bars and settled primarily into venues aimed at a more mature clientele, including Morgan’s Pier, a warm-weather beer garden on the Delaware; Parks on Tap, a summertime beer garden with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and the

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House Suburban Caucus advances congressional pandemic response

There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the everyday lives of many Americans. People have lost jobs, families have lost school and daycare options, and cities are grappling with health and safety protocols and an impacted economy. As our world starkly changes around us, our response to the challenges we face must evolve as well.

To help shape our nation’s response, today the House Suburban Caucus is endorsing a legislative agenda designed to address many common issues facing our constituents. The pandemic has forced us to reevaluate work-life balance and adapt to new realities, and we believe it is our responsibility to step up and offer solutions. The legislation we are endorsing targets issues that suburban families are grappling with, including health care, education and childcare.

To avoid possible exposure to the coronavirus, many have made the choice to stay away from doctors’ offices for all but the most serious concerns, an understandable fear that has unfortunately led to otherwise avoidable health complications. Congress has acted to improve telehealth options, and the Suburban Caucus is endorsing legislation that would expand and make permanent telehealth services to ensure people have access to the care they need, including mental health services. Last month, Rep. Ann WagnerAnn Louise WagnerDCCC reserves new ad buys in competitive districts, adds new members to ‘Red to Blue’ program Hispanic Caucus campaign arm endorses slate of non-Hispanic candidates The Hill’s Campaign Report: Even the Post Office is political now | Primary action tonight | Super PACS at war MORE, chair of the House Suburban Caucus, introduced a telehealth package made up of nine separate pieces of legislation written by Republican members committed to prioritizing health care access and affordability as part of our promise to build a better health care system for Americans.

The legislation would make telehealth more affordable for those on high-deductible health plans, expand telehealth for veterans, address restrictions that deter health care providers from providing telehealth services, and permanently waive the originating site and geographical restrictions affecting our seniors on Medicare, among other provisions. Telehealth is a new frontier of medicine that will give families and patients the ability to choose how to get health care on their own terms, not terms dictated by bureaucratic restrictions. The Suburban Caucus is also proud to champion legislation that would provide health insurance premium assistance to workers who are unemployed. No one should lose their insurance or be forced to pay increased premiums because they lost their jobs during a pandemic. Suburban Republicans are committed to crafting and implementing initiatives that help Americans struggling with health care affordability so that everyone has the coverage they need.

Our educational system has also been shaken by the spread of the virus, and many schools have already announced they will be moving to online or hybrid learning until a later date. Parents are concerned about the efficacy of remote learning, the potential effects of too much screen time, the challenge of balancing work schedules while

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