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This Year’s Holiday Shopping Expected To Increase

9 minutes ago
Flickr user Pictures of Money / "Money" (CC BY 2.0)

A national retail group says sales are expected to increase nearly four percent over last year's holiday shopping.

While the expected 3.7 percent increase is in line with the five year shopping average, there is a difference. 

A National Retail Federation report saying almost half of those sales will be on line...and 20 percent of shoppers will use their smart phone to make a purchase. That means solid hiring for the season at companies like Amazon and shipping firms like Fed EX and UPS.

Flickr user Brandon Blahnik / "House" (CC V 2.0)

Home prices are on the rise in Illinois.

The statewide median price of a home was up over 6 percent in October to 168-thousand dollars. But overall sales were down amid tighter inventory. 

The number of homes listed was down 10 percent compared to the same time last year.   

That means it's a good time to be a seller.  Homes are staying on the market fewer days … 68 now compared to 74 a year ago.

While the holidays tend to always see a decline in homes being offered, the state's realtors say the drop off in October was especially steep.

Flickr user Loren Kerns / "100/36: November PDX leaves" (CC V. 2.0)

It’s another sign of winter: the end of leaf pickup along with the regular garbage pickup – at least in one northern Illinois city.

Monday through Thursday will be the last days of 2015 that residents can put bundled branches or bagged leaves out with the regular garbage in Rockford.

Rockford officials note that yard waste will be taken only if it’s in compostable paper bags or in garbage cans clearly marked with a large X – and weighing less than 50 pounds.

Carl Nelson/WNIJ

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner says his moratorium on Syrian refugees resettling in Illinois is simply a request for the Obama administration to “take a deep breath.”

Rauner says the request is to tighten the review process to make sure Washington shares necessary information with the states.

Refugee-resettlement groups say Rauner has no authority to stop incoming Syrians. They say U.S. screening is exacting and there's very little chance a terrorist will sneak through.

Flickr: West Midlands Police / Photo cropped from original

A Chicago Democrat says he hopes a new state law will prevent the very situation that’s playing out over the death of a 17-year-old killed by a Chicago police officer.

The new law sets standards for officers who wear body cameras.

State representative Elgie Sims says it’s significant, given the release of a police dashboard video of the shooting death of Laquan McDonald.

“It only reinforces what we did,” Sims said.

Flickr user Daniel Borman / "Money, Money, Money" (CC BY 2.0)

When the state finally has a budget, who will be left out?

Illinois is facing the very real possibility of going for more than half of the current fiscal year without a budget.

Over that same six months, court orders, consent decrees and the one budget bill Gov. Bruce Rauner did sign — funding for K-12 education — put the state on track to spend well above the revenue it’s taking in. Illinois Comptroller LeslieMunger estimates that roughly 90 percent of state spending is still happening, even without a budget.

Jim Meadows / Illinois Public Radio

It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and your refrigerator is filled with leftovers from the big meal. You might just warm them up and eat them as they are … or you might get a bit creative. 

Jessica Gorin has some suggestions on the topic.

Toast Makes Thanksgiving Better

2 hours ago

Does anyone remember the Ma and Pa Kettle movies? I loved them.

In the end, Ma and Pa were all about family, and they had a huge one. 

As we all are still digesting Thursday's meal, let me share a Kettle family Thanksgiving moment.

Ma and Pa and their huge brood are seated around a full table, and she turns to Pa to say grace.

Pa removes the hat he always wore, looks to Heaven and says, "Much obliged, Lord."

And the eating frenzy begins. 

I assume for many families the toast is as traditional as the turkey.

Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

Thinking about attending Rockford’s Stroll on State this Saturday, Nov. 28? Well, now there’s an app to help you plan out your evening.

The Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau says the new interactive "Plan Your Stroll" application, available at strollonstate.com, will allow people to pick what events and attractions they want to attend.  They can then create a personalized map to help them navigate Stroll on State the night of the event.

Tristian Ellis’ test scores in reading and math dropped dramatically this fall from last. The difference: the Ellis family had its own apartment last year. Now, the family of four stays in a shelter on Chicago’s far north side.

For the 8-year-old student, who attends LEARN Excel Charter on the city’s northwest side, distractions abound. His mother, Latoya Ellis, lost her job in August and moved into the shelter a month later. She describes being homeless as “a very devastating experience,’’ which is particularly hard on Tristian, her youngest child.