A TOC blog post about a beauty event I attended in the South Loop.
Assignment: Get fancy spa treatments and write about them? Yes boss, I can do that. See below or click the link for the full article.
Problem: This sunless, freezing weather is giving me a case of the grumps
Meditation bath at Kaya Day Spa
I had high hopes for this treatment’s ability to boost the serotonin levels that seasonal affective disorder depletes. It promises to “ground the mind and body” and “soak away the cares of the world” with the scents of sandalwood, pine and lavender. I was led into a private room with a huge bathtub, and crawled into the (already drawn) bath with 48 massaging water jets and colored lightbulbs that can be set to coordinate to your preferred mood: blue for serenity, red for creativity, etc. I chose orange (for energy) and I dug the idea until I started thinking I could easily create a similar experience for a lot less money in my own tub by plugging in colored Christmas lights nearby. Also, the sides of the tub were very high and very vertical, which forced me to sit upright—not terribly comfy. But I did emerge from this aromatherapeutic treatment relaxed, if not a tiny bit giddy. 30 minutes for $45.— Gretchen Kalwinski
Acu-energetic therapy at exhale
Since I’m a SAD sufferer and get lethargic and cranky in winter, any treatment that claims to produce “a sense of wonderful expansiveness and a profound state of peace” has me at hello. When I entered exhale (freezing, pissed at public transit), the staff gave me a robe and chamomile tea while I waited in the quiet room for my acupuncturist. She asked about my food cravings and energy levels; since I complained of insomnia and stress, she told me that my adrenal gland—which helps to regulate stress-managing chemicals—was overtaxed. To fix this, she inserted 15 needles into my forehead, wrists and feet, then pressed vibrating tuning forks to those points to “align my chi.” Outside, a friend waited in a warm car to drive me home. Who cares if it was the tea, quiet room, acupuncture or ride? At the end of the session, I truly felt happier. 60 minutes for $150.— Gretchen Kalwinski
Problem: Death Valley’s got nothing on my parched skin
SCRUB A DUB DUB The herbal body wrap at Chicago Male starts with exfoliation—all the better to get moisture into your skin.
Remineralizing and moisturizing marine algae wrap at Allyu Unless I moisturize fiendishly during winter, my legs turn crocodile-esque, so I hoped this wrap would make up for all those times I jumped out of the shower and skipped body lotion. In the treatment room, the aesthetician dry-brushed my body with a rough loofah; applied an alpha-hydroxy and seaweed mixture to “draw out toxins”; and wrapped me in foil while she zapped zits using a “Tesla current” wand (surely Nikola Tesla never imagined his invention would be used for pimple popping, but the painless procedure did result in a clearer complexion). I felt relaxed afterward, sure, but was unconvinced my skin’s moisture level had improved. True, my man noticed my smooth legs, but that was just because I shaved (another thing I don’t usually bother with during winter). 60 minutes for $100.— Gretchen Kalwinski
Reflexology massage at the spa at the Four Seasons Hotel
This treatment, basically a fancy foot massage, purports to “enhance circulation and help balance body and mind.” With my general malaise, sleepiness and cold feet this time of year, I’ll take all the balancing I can get. While working on my tootsies, my therapist told me reflexology stems from the idea that every body part has a corresponding point on the feet, and if you activate those pressure points, you’re “working from the inside out” to restore balance. Afterward, I was led to a relaxation room to recline on silk pillows and feast on Champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries. There’s no question I felt relaxed and had warmer feet; all I want to know is, when can I move in? 25 minutes for $65.—Gretchen Kalwinski
Yeah, yeah—everyone’s busy. But my insane schedule causes me bodily harm. There’s that persistent tension headache and cough. And the fainting episode on the El. And the trouble sleeping. When chest palpitations began, my doc said these symptoms were anxiety related, and suggested slowing down. Great, but who has time? To see if I could get a quick fix, I went hardcore, doing a detox treatment every day of the week. Bonus: These treatments require little effort on my part other than a cobra pose…and an occasional dash to the bathroom.
SUNDAY colon cleanse
After scaring myself silly reading online gut-cleansing forums and viewing photos of toothed intestinal parasites, my adventure begins with Ultimate Cleanse, a series of pills with ingredients such as dandelion that are taken to “release accumulated toxins in the body” and combat “low energy.” User forums say the first day is the most, um, urgent, so I stay home, close to a toilet, and boy am I glad—I visit the loo seven times today. I don’t see any fanged parasites, thank God, and I do feel lighter and more energized by day’s end. Whole Foods (locations citywide, wholefoods.com). $28.95.
MONDAY ear candling
Proponents of this folk-medicine treatment claim it clears gunk from sinuses, so during lunch I visit Elizabeth Adam Salon. While I lie on my side, an aesthetician inserts a conical candle in my ear, lights it and trims the end until the flame is 4 inches from my ear. At the end of the half-hour treatment, she shows me my earwax gob: disgusting. But my congestion doesn’t improve. Next! 845 N Michigan Ave, suite 908E (312-988-9611,elizabethadamsalon.com). $68.
TUESDAY Ionic Foot Bath with Detox Pedicure
At Silken Tent, I put my feet in a tub of water with a noisy black Aquavida “array,” a contraption designed to stimulate glands in the feet, drawing out toxins like aluminum, lead and mercury (which can cause headaches, insomnia and poor mental concentration, respectively). My water turns orange, (other common shades are black and green), but no one in the salon can explain why, and the Aquavida website says the water changes even without your feet due to “chemical interactions.” Hmm, sounds fishy. However, an amazingly detailed pedicure and reflexology treatment follows. I’m so mellow afterward that friends at dinner note my tranquil state. 2300 Chestnut Ave, Glenview (877-774-5536, thesilkentent.com). $105.
WEDNESDAY hot yoga
I’ve done this type of yoga before and know to expect an intense, 105-degree session at Bikram Yoga Chicago. During the sweaty poses, I relish in knowing that hot yoga not only improves strength and flexibility, it also opens pores, energizes the body and releases toxins through sweat. Postworkout, I’m a wet noodle and sleep like a baby. 1344 N Milwaukee Ave, third floor (773-395-9150, bycic.com). $15.
THURSDAY Enercupping therapy with acupuncture
My headache is no longer raging, but I’m still having palpitations. When I say that to my acupuncturist at Ruby Room, she focuses on acupuncture, since she says cupping is more for increasing circulation and “promoting the free flow of qi [vital energy],” while needles “calm the shen [spirit] and unblock stagnation” that causes tension issues like headaches and chest-tightness. She presses warm cups on my back, then painlessly pokes my arms, legs and forehead with needles. Afterward, the palpitations have lessened and the headache is gone. Good thing, since I’ve got a wine party to attend. If only acupuncture could hurl a preemptive strike against my inevitable hangover. 1743–45 W Division St (773-235-2323, rubyroom.com). $150.
FRIDAY ESPA detox body envelopment
Today’s after-work treatment at the luxurious Peninsula Spa is supposed to stimulate the lymphatic system and help purge whatever environmental toxins you carry around (bus exhaust, heavy metals, etc.) First I’m scrubbed with a dry brush, then lathered with a mix of seaweed, clay and ginger. A layer of plastic and hot towels comes next to get me sweating, which helps draw out those toxins. My therapist has magic hands—only problem is the oils she uses to give me an (amazing) scalp massage render my locks greasy, and she says I shouldn’t shampoo till tomorrow to allow the oil to moisturize my scalp. Since I’m now a greaseball, I bail on a gallery opening and opt for bed. I feel so pampered that for once I couldn’t care less about my social obligations—a liberating thought. 108 E Superior St (312-573-6860, chicago.peninsula.com/pch/spa.html). $155.
SATURDAY mind detox
I’m loving my spa lifestyle, but I’m sick of being touched by people I don’t know, and am relieved that today’s treatment involves only me, my apartment and my boyfriend. This detox is a mind-cleanse (prescribed by our Chill Out editor who knows about these things). The idea is: no phones, stereos, TVs or computers, so we proceed with brunch making and newspaper reading, free from white noise. We’re so into kicking it Amish-style that instead of turning lights on at dusk, we light candles, which allows for few activities except taking a walk and smooching by candlelight. We’re so relaxed by bedtime that we vow to repeat this monthly.
POST DETOX, my tension headaches are gone, my chest palpitations have quieted and I’m two pounds lighter. It’s hard to tell which treatment did the most good, but my instincts say the mind detox and acupuncture were the most effective, so I’ll continue with those on occasion. But now I know that my doc was right: Sometimes “balance” can be less about chichi spa treatments and more about simple downtime—and in the end that’s way more satisfying than being manhandled by strangers.
Use plants, water filters, organic sheets and other earth-friendly goods to give your entire apartment a green sweep.
By Gretchen Kalwinski
Refined recycling Rubbermaid is fine, but plastic ain’t good for landfills—plus, it’s not all that attractive. For separating paper and (non-funky) plastic recyclables, try Nice Home’s metal bins (pictured, above) in colors like baby blue bright or orange. $19.99–$29.99 at Target (locations throughout the city, target.com).
Bag it Our Old World grandmothers reused plastic baggies. We should, too. After washing, hang ’em on a nifty Countertop Bag Dryer, a multipronged wood contraption shaped like an upside-down cone. $19 at gaiam.com.
Hit the bottle Bottled water wastes plastic and oftentimes is just repackaged tap water anyway (ahem, Aquafina). By installing a filter that attaches to your faucet and toting a reusable bottle, you save plastic and cashola. Brita filters are easy to install; just screw the attachment onto your faucet and change filters when the little warning light flashes. $19.97–$39.97 at Home Depot (locations throughout the city, homedepot.com).
Got any herb? Grow cooking herbs (mint, basil, parsley) in your kitchen window—you won’t waste plastic packaging and won’t have to buy tiny bunches of herbs at jacked-up prices. Gethsemane Gardens has a range of herbs and cute pots to transplant them into once you’re home. $3.99–$8.99 at Gethsemane Gardens (5739 N Clark St, 773-878-5915).
Photo: Sarah McKemie
In hot water Take shorter showers or get a luxury low-flow shower head, which can save about 4,000 gallons of water per year. $59.99–$89.99 at Bed, Bath & Beyond (locations throughout the city, bedbathandbeyond.com).
Shower power Buy a hemp shower curtain. Sure, the light tan color is a little drab and it’s pricier than PVC (vinyl) ones, but you don’t need a liner, hemp is naturally resistant to mildew and bacteria, and the EPA reported in 2002 that PVC shower curtains “can cause elevated indoor-air toxic concentrations.” $99 at Bean Products (1500 S Western Ave, 312-666-3600, beanproducts.com).
Skin deep Since conventional body products often contain cheap, synthetic and potentially toxic ingredients, using organic products is a no-brainer. Treehugger.com recommends making sure that you buy only products that have the USDA Organic seal, which means the product is truly free from synthetics and supports organic farming and agriculture. Dr. Bronner’s and Aubrey Organics never test on animals and led the fight for the USDA seal. We recommend Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castille Peppermint Soap (pictured, right) and Aubrey Organics Camomile Luxurious Volumizing Conditioner. $12.49 and $13.78, respectively, at Whole Foods (locations throughout the city, wholefoods.com).
Sound asleep Drown out serious noise pollution from the El and nightime sirens with the soothing trickle of a waterfall fountain lulling you to sleep. No need to rely on white-noise machines—the Art Institute gift shop has a gorgeous fountain made of slate. $115 at the Art Institute gift shop (111 S Michigan Ave, artinstituteshop.org).
Sheet sandwich Use chemical-free organic cotton sheets to avoid skin irritation and aggravated allergies. The Haven “Hotel Collection” at Macy’s is available in a variety of soothing neutrals and has a 400 thread count. $49.99–$59.99 on sale at Macy’s (two locations in the city, macys.com).
See the light Choose soy candles instead of paraffin ones, which produce carcinogens and soot. Tatine’s soy varieties, like creeping moss and ginger grapefruit, smell fabulous. $15–$24 at tatinecandles.com (online shop opens mid-August).
Photo: Martha Williams
Air fresheners Not only do these plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, they also help to clean the not-so-fresh air that drifts into apartments near highways or busy streets. Garden centers and nurseries throughout the city always have a supply of the best air-filtering plants: English ivy, spider plants (pictured, above), peace lilies and rubber plants. $4.99–$32.99 at Grand Street Gardens (2200 W Grand Ave, 312-829-8200, grandstreetgardens.com).
Clear the air If you’re not into houseplants, buy an indoor air purifier instead. Sharper Image has a wide variety of nonhideous ones. $149.95–$499.95 at Sharper Image (835 N Michigan Ave, 312-335-1600).
Pull the plug Your TV and stereo, as well as cell-phone and camera chargers, gobble energy even when not in use. For simplicity’s sake, plug your electronics into a surge protector, and just flip the switch when you head out for the day.
$9.99–$39.99 at Best Buy (locations throughout the city, bestbuy.com).
Slash your paper trail You can get off any company’s catalog mailing list by calling its 800 number. To opt out of prescreened offers for credit or insurance, visit optoutprescreen.com.
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
Nose plugged up and coughing?
BY GRETCHEN KALWINSKI
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 rest of article]…