• How to Take a (Deluxe and Healing) Detox Bath

    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!


    Epsom salt
    Baking soda
    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


    1. Set aside 45-60 minutes so you’re not rushing, and defeating the purpose.
    2. Get a huge bottle of purified water to drink while you soak.
    3. Set the tone: i.e., light candles; dim lights.
    4. 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.
    5. Start filling the tub with warm (not super-hot) water.
    6. 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.
    7. Add Epsom salt to water (recommended amount for adults is 2 cups; when I’m stressed or achy I do more like 5 cups).
    8. Add 1-2 cups baking soda; (it softens skin).
    9. Add a handful of Himalayan or sea salt (the cheaper alternative). 
    10. 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.
    11. (Optional) Add a small amount of ginger (1-2 Tbsp) to help you sweat out toxins.
    12. Swirl the water around to dissolve the salts.
    13. Soak for 20-45 minutes.
    14. Brush your skin again (in the same motion, from the outer limbs towards your heart), with the dry brush or just your hands.
    15. 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.)
    16. Drink lots of water—with lemon if you’ve got it. 
    17. Sleep like baby.
  • Essay in Rust Belt Chicago: An Anthology

    Photo credit:

    I'm honored to have an essay in this excellent upcoming Rust Belt Chicago: An Anthology. Editor Martha Bayne at Rust Belt Publishing has assembled a stellar batch of writers, WOW: Aleksandar Hemon, Zoe Zolbrod, Naomi Huffman, Kathleen Rooney, Kevin Coval, Eileen Favorite, and Bill Savage. The fiction, journalism, essays and poetry in the book explore how Chicago's "foundation of meat and railroads and steel" makes for a complicated political and cultural ecosystem. My essay, "Illiana," is about decades spent living on the Indiana/Illinois border, and includes the phrase, "feral Indiana girl with big hair."

    Even better than just buying the book, please consider PRE-ORDERING it, which helps small publishers enormously. Plus, you'll get a tote bag.

    Pre-order here

  • Interview with Kellogg finance professor

    I recently interviewed Northwestern Kellogg School of Management finance professor Mitchell Petersen, about the best ways to break down complex info for audiences. He had some wonderful insights, especially around storytelling.

  • Crain's Chicago Business story on executive physicals

    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 just one day. 

  • Interview with women's health advocate Christine Baze

    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 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