We moved to Los Angeles and this is my "Goodbye, Chicago” gift; a hard-won list of favorite practitioners & service providers, gained over 18 years. I'm particular, so these are not offered lightly. I'm somewhat devastated at havng to re-create this list in LA, but hope this benefits Chicago pals. XO
Lincoln Square Acupuncture: My favorite community acupuncture spot; expect a roomful of folks reclining on chairs stuck with needles, with white noise & gentle music playing. David’s an expert at doing quiet consultations, even in a “public” space. And, there is a private room if you need individualized attention. Sliding scale, starting at $25/visit.
Essential Acupuncture Chicago: Leigh Stein is one of two women at this women-centric practice, they do a lot with internal organs, digestion, fertility. Super comfy space and individualized attention. She did an amazing grief point for me that released energy and helped me move on from serious stuckness.
Michael A. Pontarelli at Windy City Wellness
Discovering Mike 10 years ago saved my bod. He’s helped me recover from various ailments, plantar fasciitis, sprained ankle etc. he is a kinesiologist and appears sporty but is a true "healer" in every other sense. He uses modalities like acupuncture, massage (sometimes covered by insurance, and stretching/diet in his holistic approach).
Jason Borecki also at Windy City Wellness—Meaning, you can sometimes get referred to him for a short therapeutic massage to complement chiro treatment. I once came out of a relaxation massage wearing my dress inside out & backwards because I was just that relaxed, ENOUGH SAID.
Jana Robinson Cheffings, Bloom Yoga Studio—She’s great with musculoskeletal stuff i.e., carpal tunnel, tendonitis. Gentle yet skilled at getting all the bodily jankiness worked out. Love her, she’s brought me back from the brink many times.
Rover-Time Dog Walking & Pet Sitting: I am devastated to leave this service behind. My dog received regular walkers, whom he adored. They take photos, have an online check-in to let you know when the walk is complete, and are insured. Can’t praise them, or trust them, enough. Plus they do all these community engagement projects and events. Adore. Adore!
Allergies and sinus-infections are rampant right now, and lately at the gym, all I really want to do is hit the eucalyptus steam room. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how to do an hourlong detox bath ritual, but when you've only got a few minutes to spare, this refreshing and sinus-clearing eucalyptus shower is a great sub. Not to mention, it wakes you right the hell up. See DIY instructions below.Buy a bunch of eucalytpus; flower shops and floral departments at grocery stores keep them behind the counter as filler; a bunch is $5-$8. Mount it somewhere around your shower (using floral twine if you've got it; rubber bands or string otherwise). Sprinkle 15-20 drops of eucalyptus and any other of the essential oils listed below on the sides of the tub. Turn the shower on hot, close the door, wait for five minutes and return to your own personal spa/steam room. Breathe deeply.
Eucalyptus essential oil
(Opt) Peppermint essential oil
(Opt) Rosemary essential oil
Along with almost everyone else I know, I’ve got a bad cold right now. To cope, I'm planning on spending an exciting Friday night in my bathtub. I realized that with all my years of reviewing spa treatments and learning about handcrafting body products, herbalism, and self-care rituals, I’ve got a lot of accumulated knowledge, so I’m sharing tips about taking an detoxifying bath at home. This type of bath is particularly helpful if you’re sick, because it can help you clear your sinuses (see eucalyptus mention below), sweat out toxins, and just cleanse the lymphatic system. And it's much less weird and extreme than the (INVASIVE) Calistoga mineral mud baths or "meditation color-therapy" baths I've written about in the past.
I always emerge from my detox baths renewed and I hope this helps you, too!
Essential oils (whatever your favorites are; I like neroli, rose, lavender)
Body brush (with stiff bristles)
Moisturizer (I recommend jojoba or shea butter)
(If desired) Ground ginger
(If desired) Himalayan or sea salt
(If desired) Dried herbs like rose, lavender, rosemary
(If desired) Muslin bag for dried herbs
(If desired) Badedas Classic Bubble Bath has fresh, woodsy scent notes like chestnut, cedarwood, and light patchouli, and basically makes me feel like I'm taking a bath in the middle of the forest
(If desired) Kneipp Sweet Dreams Herbal Bath with Valerian and Hops has sleep-inducing valerian infused in the ix. It turns the water a disturbing shade of blue but does seem to help me sleep
- Set aside 45-60 minutes so you’re not rushing, and defeating the purpose.
- Get a huge bottle of purified water to drink while you soak.
- Set the tone: i.e., light candles; dim lights.
- Put on some chill music. Lately, I like Solange, Cecilia Bartoli (Italian opera singer), Charlie Haden (jazz bassist), Cesaria Evora (Cape Verdean ballad singer), Paco de Lucia (flamenco), Lhasa De Sela (Mexican-American chanteuse), and Jose Gonzalez. But you know what relaxes you best: If it’s Enya, Sinatra, or Massive Attack, godspeed.* Alternatively, listen to a guided meditation or 45-minute meditation talk by Tara Brach, Washington, DC-based Buddhist teacher and therapist. They are 45 minutes and filled with insights, funny/goofy stories, and Brach’s trademark empathy.
- Start filling the tub with warm (not super-hot) water.
- Dry brush your skin while you’re waiting for tub to fill: If you’ve never done this, find out more here. The most important thing to remember is to start at your feet and hands and use long strokes, sweeping towards your heart. The idea is to help your body shed dead skin layers and help the lymphatic system eliminate waste.
- Add Epsom salt to water (recommended amount for adults is 2 cups; when I’m stressed or achy I do more like 5 cups).
- Add 1-2 cups baking soda; (it softens skin).
- Add a handful of Himalayan or sea salt (the cheaper alternative).
- Add your favorite essential oils and/or bubble bath. To de-stress, I use neroli/lavender/rose/ylang-ylang. To clear sinuses, eucalyptus and rosemary are helpful. Dry herbs like rose, mint, lavender, or rosemary are nice too—just put them in a porous bag like this muslin one, so they don’t leave a mess in your tub.
- (Optional) Add a small amount of ginger (1-2 Tbsp) to help you sweat out toxins.
- Swirl the water around to dissolve the salts.
- Soak for 20-45 minutes.
- Brush your skin again (in the same motion, from the outer limbs towards your heart), with the dry brush or just your hands.
- Apply a moisturizing lotion like shea butter or jojoba. (Or, for deluxe moisturization that also can be kind of messy, rub a mixture of olive and castor oils all over; stand there for two minutes, and then shower it off.)
- Drink lots of water—with lemon if you’ve got it.
- Sleep like baby.
I wrote this piece recently for the Crain's Chicago Business "Mind/Body" supplement. The gist? If you rise in the ranks at your organization, you can perhaps look forward to a super-comprehensive bells and whistles physical what tackles everything from bloodwork to vision to radiology...in just one day.
One of my more fun assignments: I just published an (extremely schmoopie) essay about work burnout and my dog on The Dodo.
I wrote this 2014 feature while working at Imagination Publishing, for our Project Management Insitute client. The subject was the successful efforts of was Allied Health Connecticut, (a healthcare exchange and one of the three finalists for PMI's prestigious "Project of the Year" award. You can also view it on the PMI site, but the formatting makes it a little tougher to read, in spots.
Last week, I took a Soapmaking 101 class at Abbey Brown Soap Artisan. The class covered the "Cold Process method of soapmaking wherein we will learn about lye safety, necessary equipment, vegetable and plant based oils, and essential oils for scenting bars naturally." It's a basic course that combines lectures, demonstration, and a hands-on portion in which students make three large batches of soap together. Each student comes away with handouts, a bar of olive soap, and the knowledge of how to make basic soaps safely. This last part was exciting to me because I'd wanted to make soaps for a long time but had been intimidated by the process of working with lye, which is extremely toxic. Now, though, I'm confident I can do this safely, and in my own kitchen. I also appreciated Deborah Kraemer's advice around sourcing oils (both essential and olive) and the strong emphasis on using the right ingredients to make products suitable for sensitive skin.
Any other mosquito magnets out there? I've been researching what scents repel mosquitoes (apart from citronella). Turns out the varmints love florals but hate "green" smells, citrus, lavender, cedar. (They also hate bananas, so I'm taking blueberries in my cereal until October.) Since I love good smells so much, nixing perfume--or wearing Deep Woods OFF--all summer isn't an option for me, and I've been investigating non-floral scents, opting for woody/cedar-y, green, citrus, and lavender smells instead. Based on some internet research, I snagged appropriate samples from Nordstrom, along with some lemon oil and lavender body wipes. So far, this INCREDIBLE Aqua Di Parma scent makes me feel like I'm on the Italian Meditteranean with the Clooneys, and does seem to keep the critters at bay with its basil, cedar, and myrtle. The other two samples are Guerlain’s slightly more flowery Aqua Allegoria Herba Fresca, hearkening an English garden with notes of lemon, spearmint, green tea, and cyclamen, and Guerlain's strong, fresh, Aqua Allegoria "Pamplelune" Eau de Toilette, with vibrant notes of citrus (grapefruit, bergamot, neroli, and with a base of vanilla and patchouli).
And, for quick/easy application of lavender, I'm stocking great-smelling Herban Essentials towelletes in all my purses.
I'll also be making an essential oil blend this week, using knowledge from my natural botanical perfumery class. Herbal blends are less effective and have to be applied more often, but it's worth it to not smell like the strong DEET repellents. If all of this sounds extreme, keep in mind that the critters throw a party when I step in the vicinity and start swaming around me immediately. If any other mosquito-magnets wanna try out my home-blend, let me know & I'll send a sample!
(Above and below image from http://www.drwilkinson.com).
I love spa treatments, and over the course of my life I've done a lot of unusual ones: Aromatherapy "color baths" with light lasers, a gong bath, cupping, a facial with a "tesla wand," high-end seaweed wrap, no-touch reiki massage, etc. But immersing in a 4-foot tub of volcanic-ash mud last week in Calistoga, CA was by far the oddest treatment I've ever undergone. Dr. Wilkinson's has been around for over 60 years, and the retro look and feel of the buildings and locker rooms doesn't hide this fact.
Here's the procedure: You lock up your things, grab a bathrobe and are escorted by attendants (of your gender) into a large tiled room that has two large, rectangular tiled baths, mounted a few feet above floor level. They're filled with sulfuric-smelling "volcanic-ash" mud. THIS IS NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH. You strip down and the attendants assist you into the oozing, bubbling, stinky tubs, while reciting some science-y factoids to try and convince you that this is not the most disgusting thing that has ever happened to you.
Sinking into the mud is not as easy as it sounds: It's very thick (and did I mention BUBBLING), and it takes about a minute to get yourself fully immersed, up to your neck. If you're me, this is where some mild panic sets in, (AS THE MUD SINKS INTO EVERY CORNER OF YOUR BODY). Your attendant then gives you a pillow to rest your head on, and places cucumbers over your eyes, and instructs you to relax for ten minutes (easy for her to say). Once the time is up, you are escorted out of the tub and proceed to take the most complete shower of your life. Next is the wet-sauna (the attedants hand you glasses of cucumber water through a little window), for another ten minutes. Then, you head to an old-fashioned clawfoot bathtub behind a curtain (in the same room), which is being pumped full of hot-spring water. Last, the attendants have you shower one last time, and lead you to a relaxation cube, where you're wrapped loosely in towels for ten more minutes, while your body temperature returns to normal.
You can't take pics inside the spa of course, but my pal and I stayed in one of the cottages Dr. Wilkinson offers, and hit the outdoor tub later that night. And if you're curious about what the tubs look like, you can see images here.
Last week in Tel Aviv, I explored the markets in Old Jaffa. The olives and dried fruit made me drool, but it was overwhelming with so many to choose from. So, I confined my purchases to an olive sampling and some irresistable dried roses--that cost mere pennies--pictured below. They smelled divine, and now that they're smuggled home (Tel Aviv security either didn't see them rolled up in my t-shirt, or decided not to care), I'm not sure what to do with them, apart from making sachets for my lingerie, sock, and sweater drawers. I'm taking ideas!
I'm in Tel Aviv for a travel story, and went to this Jaffa perfumerie, Zielinski & Rozen, that offers custom-blended perfums based on not only your scent preferences, but also one's own personal scent and lifestyle--exactly the way I like to pick out scent. It's tucked away on a side street, (and basically doesn't advertise), so going inside feels like discovering a secret. The owner, Erez Rozen, compares building an individual scent to building a pyramid, using the traditional concepts of high, middle, and base notes. Apart from the Dead Sea and the desert fortress Masada, this was probably my favorite experience in Israel.
UR Chicago / Sounds section
Interview with: Christine Baze
By: Gretchen Kalwinski
Christine Baze wants to reach every “woman and every man who has a woman in their life that they love” so that she can scare the hell out of them. With good reason -- she's trying to prevent other women from suffering as she did in 2000, after being diagnosed with cervical cancer and having a hysterectomy 10 days later, throwing her life and musical career into disarray.
During recovery, Baze learned about cervical cancer and HPV (high-risk types of the virus cause cervical cancer and low-risk types cause genital warts). She also watched Harold and Maude, a film famous for its humorous morbidity and spirited, 79-year-old Maude. Inspired by Maude's yellow umbrella, Baze began playing music again and decided to incorporate cervical cancer awareness into her message. She started the nonprofit organization Popsmear.org and the Yellow Umbrella tour, an annual musical benefit that educates women about preventing cervical cancer.
HPV is extremely common -- almost 80 percent of women will get the virus by the age of 50. It gives no symptoms and is transmitted through sexual contact. Annual Pap tests are supposed to catch precancerous cells but they don't always do so, and Paps don't test for HPV, so it's important to get both the liquid Pap and HPV test. “People say, 'It's too invasive to get in the stirrups or get a finger up my butt,'” Baze says. “But you know what's really invasive? Getting a radical hysterectomy or internal radiation. Getting a Pap or an HPV test -- that's going to save your life.”
Having HPV doesn't mean you'll get cervical cancer: The immune system usually fights off the infection. But when high-risk types of HPV persist, precancerous cell changes can occur and cause cervical cancer. However, because it is one of the few types of cancer for which the cause is known, Baze says it's beatable. “We've got the answers and we can't say that about any other cancer.”
Baze's initial reaction to her own diagnosis was disbelief. “I was healthy and having the time of my life,” she recalls. “After the disbelief was incredible horror and anxiety.” But her compassion made her an activist. “Cancer disempowers you because your own body is betraying you,” she says. “But after chemo I felt so empowered and started getting onstage saying, 'Hey ladies! Pay attention! This can save your life.' It worked -- and now I'm in my fourth year of touring around the country doing essentially the same thing.”
This fall, Baze and headliner Kaki King (previous lineups featured Ben Folds and the Samples) will perform in 35 U.S. cities, including Chicago. The tour is also sponsored by companies doing work related to cervical cancer, such as Digene, the makers of the HPV test.
Baze, whose new album, Something New (Lime Green), mixes jazz with electronica, says her musical sensibilities shifted post-cancer. “I was trained as a classical pianist and did that for 20 years, then just before cancer my music had a nonsensical, whimsical attitude,” she says. “Now the songs come from a place of deep appreciation of my life. These days I think about the gift of cancer, the enlightenment that comes with it.”
The tour reflects the same spirit. “We're celebrating the passion of music and the passion of life,” Baze says. “Even the venues and promoters have been so supportive; these guys come up to me at the end of the night like, 'Hey Christine, what's that test? HPV? I gotta tell my wife.' And they write it on their hand to remember, which is so cool. If that happens once every show, everything I'm doing is worth it.”
Words: Gretchen Kalwinski
The Yellow Umbrella Tour hits Schubas (3159 N. Southport; 773/525-2508) October 14; Something New is out now
For more SOUNDS coverage, pick up the latest issue of UR Chicago in streetboxes now
I've taken soap- and candle-making classes at various organizations including Abbey Brown, and I'm also very interested in natural botanical perfumemaking. A year ago, I read a wonderful book about the history of NBP, Essence and Alchemy, by perfumer Mandy Aftelier. Among other things, it goes into the "primal" nature of scent, the history of perfume and why she chooses not to use synthetics (a unique perfumery choice.)
Today's natural botanical perfumery class at the Chicago Botanic Gardens, taught by the talented and generous Jessica Hannah, (who has studied with Mandy and is influenced by her). I learned so much, and love the vetiver-heavy custom perfume I made today. Jessica spoke passionately and emotionally about the proper and sustainable use of essential oils, and got me even more excited about delving into this world of NBP. Now, I feel ready to make some blends of my own; starting with a mosquito-repelling blend (using things like cedar, lavender, citrus--all proven to repel the pests).
I’m an acupuncture devotee, but getting several treatments each months is pricey—I’d rather funnel that cash into my footwear habit. So I decided to teach myself acupressure, which mimics the pressure-point system of acupuncture sans needles. Acupressure Techniques: A Self-Help Guide by Julian Kenyon (Healing Arts Press) includes instructional drawings organized by ailments. After bookmarking relevant pages (foot pain, insomnia). I apply direct pressure to the correct points for each ailment—the inside of my foot and my inner ear for foot pain, and points on my shins, ankles and wrists for insomnia. After three days fo doing this twice daily, my heel pain has eased a tad and my insomnia has improved slightly (but that could also be due to my new nighttime ritual of hot apple cider with rum.) All told, it’s no substitute for the spacey, peaceful feeling I get while my acupuncturists’s needles work their magic. Still, it’s a decent option for those frigid winter days when I can’t muster the energy to leave the house. –Gretchen Kalwinski
Spas Issue 2009
One of my favorite parts of working as a Time Out Chicago editor was our annual Spas issue. In 2009, I received treatments from premier manicurists & facialists and wrote about it. For full feature, see below:
Lisette Paez, Four Seasons
When I inform Paez of my pathetic record with manicures—I destroy them on day one—she takes it as a challenge, helping me choose a longlasting nail polish and declaring that her manicures should last a week. Then, at some point during my Chocolate-Orange Dipped mani-pedi—probably around the time she rubs my feet with citrus exfoliant after serving me a chocolate martini—I enter a state of bliss. A nail maestro for 12 years, Paez is the lead nail technician at the Four Seasons, where she’s worked for eight years. She’s hush-hush about her celebrity customers but admits one wealthy client visits from Europe every six months and will only go to Paez for pedis: “She has a blood disorder, and I’m the only one she trusts with her feet.” Despite the economic downturn, motorcycle/snowmobile-enthusiast Paez boasts a full schedule, including regulars with standing appointments. It doesn’t hurt that besides her training at Chicago’s well-regarded hair and beauty school Pivot Point International, she’s certified in reflexology—essentially foot rubs that focus on specific pressure points—which she often incorporates into treatments. Paez considers this work her calling. “I am gifted in my hands and very knowledgeable and I have the heart to do [this work], to serve people humbly and give quality service,” she says. I can’t argue about the “calling” part: Paez’s mani lasts three days— for me, a record. Mani-pedi $140, including chocolate martini. —Gretchen Kalwinski
Fred Goudy, Bliss
During my triple-oxygen facial, Goudy massages my spastic shoulders to Zenlike results, applies Bliss’s lemonsage products and finishes with an oxygen “blast” on my face, effectively rejuvenating my now-pink, glowy and zit-free mug. 90- minute facial $150.—GK
Nose plugged up and coughing?
Times Correspondent | Monday, March 20, 2006
Ah, spring. With warmer temperatures approaching, most of us are thinking happily of spending more time outdoors amidst the trees and flowers.
For others, however, the season also beckons massive amounts of sniffling, sneezing and general misery in the form of seasonal allergic rhinitis or hay fever that may be mistaken for a cold...[click here for web story]...or read the pdf version here.
Assignment: Get fancy spa treatments and write about them? Yes boss, I can do that. See below or click here for the full article.
Time Out Chicago / Issue 155 : February 14, 2008 - February 20, 2008
Time Out Chicago / Jan 3-9, 2008 / Detox Issue
My review of NOW Massage studio for Time Out Chicago.
Time Out Chicago / Issue 129: August 16–22, 2007. Click here or scroll down to read entire piece.
I wrote a few pieces for Time Out Chicago's recent "DIY issue," including a piece about making your own deodorant (so cheap! so easy!) and another about teaching myself to sing that actually inspired me to start voice lessons at the Old Town School of Folk Music. See below or read more here and here
Dated: Apr 23–29, 2009 / Time Out Chicago; Issue 217: DIY