Not Your Average Mother’s Day

(Published April 30, 2019)

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

Treat mom to a unique Mother’s Day experience that goes beyond brunch.

Family Game Night Out

Does mom love family game night, but is often stressed playing host? Try Family Game Night Out in Lakeview, which takes the pressure off mom. Invite the whole family, from 6-24 guests, to play familiar party games in a private room that includes a host. Family Game Night Out is BYOB and welcomes guests to bring snacks. $45 per person for a 2-3 hour experience, depending on the number of guests. Make reservations in advance. Recommended for game players 18 and up.

gamenightout.com

2828 N Clark St., Chicago

312-448-724

Donut Tour

If mom is a pastry fan, then the Chicago Donut tour will be a treat. The Underground Donut Tour has two Chicago-based tours, one of which covers downtown, the other covers Wicker Park. The downtown tour encompasses two miles and each donut shop stop includes samples. Tours run Thursday to Sunday and begin at 9 a.m. The downtown tour is $35 for adults and $15 for children.

undergrounddonuttour.com

Freeze and Float

For a relaxing Mother’s Day, take mom to River North’s Freeze and Float, a recently opened spa specializing in cryotherapy treatments, infrared saunas and flotation therapy. Cryotherapy hyper-cools the body for three minutes, with temperatures in the chambers reaching -184F. According to the Freeze and Float website, Cryotherapy has rejuvenating effects, similar to the benefits of icing inflamed muscles. Infrared saunas improve circulation and help with injury recovery. Floatation therapy in Epsom-salt filled water is a meditative experience. They also offer classic massages, facials, and beauty treatments. For pricing and more information, visit Freeze and Float’s website, or call them.

freezefloatspa.com

371 W Ontario St.

312 809-7008

Windy Kitty

For the cat-lover mom, Windy Kitty is the place to go. Windy Kitty is a cat cafe in Wicker Park, where mom can hang out with some rescue cats, while having a snack or coffee. Cats at the cafe are available for adoption, but enjoy being visited too. Windy Kitty also features a kitten nursery, available to visit for those over 10. Windy Kitty strongly suggests reservations. Admission is $14 per person per hour. For parties of five people or more, Windy Kitty recommends a private party reservation. They often have fun events, such as Yoga with Cats or Painting with Cats. For more information, visit their website, or email them. w

1746 W North Ave

Let it Out

Moms often are subject to a lot of stress. To give mom a way to let go of that stress, take her to The Rage Room, in River North’s Escapades Escape Room. For those over 18, the Rage Room allows visitors to break as many items, such as televisions, crockery, and computer equipment, as they desire. The Rage Room provides safety wear to go along with a baseball bat, crowbar or golf club. The room can be shared with up to 15 people in a party, but only one person goes in at a time. Experiences can last up to 2 hours, or can be as little as 15 minutes. Prices vary. Online reservations required. Visit their website for more information.

www.escapadesescapegames.com

153 W. Ohio

312-526-3072

Learn Something New

For the jack-of-all-trades mom, check out Dabble, which has classes available in a variety of subjects. Pasta making, archery, glassblowing and soap making are just a few available on Dabble in the upcoming weeks. They also have food tours, architecture tours and drinking tours. Prices, locations, and times vary. Dabble’s website has a list of classes and is constantly updating new times, dates, and experiences.

dabble.co/chicago/

Peregrine falcons find a home in Chicago

(Published April 30, 2019

Abhinanda Datta, Staff Writer

If you spot a mid-sized raptor swoop in at incredible speed and catch another bird in flight, don’t be surprised—it is just a peregrine falcon.

Found throughout the world, these birds have found a home in the Midwest, with more than 20 American peregrine falcons in the Chicagoland area.

With a body length of 15 – 20 inches, the peregrines can attain a speed of 200 mph when diving on their prey.

According to Mary Hennen, collections assistant in the Bird Division at the Field Museum, an estimated 400-500 pairs of Peregrines once nested in the Midwest and eastern United States. But by the 1960s, the species had been wiped out regionally.

“The primary cause was the buildup of DDT and its byproducts in the birds,” she said. “These accumulated chemicals caused abnormal reproductive behavior in adults and thinning of shells, which led to egg breakage.”

The Chicago Peregrine Program began in 1985 as a cooperative effort between the Chicago Academy of Sciences, Lincoln Park Zoo, Illinois Department of Conservation and the Illinois Audubon Society, with the aim of restoring the population.

From a single breeding pair at a Chicago-Wacker site in 1988, Illinois had 12 breeding pairs in over 23 different territories by 2011.

“Although Peregrines still remain endangered in some states, in Illinois, the population has rebounded. In fact, our Peregrine status has been upgraded from endangered to threatened,” Hennen said.

In May, eggs that were laid during March-April, are incubated for about 30-32 days. The male and the female take turns looking after the eggs. Hatching begins in mid-May or around Mother’s Day.

“This is also the time period where the adults are most defensive of the nest site. Males will spend most of their time hunting in order to feed the female and chicks,” Hennen said.

In the coming months, especially around mid-June to July, people can see the peregrine fledglings’ first flight as they glide down from the nest site. People can also observe the birds through the Illinois Peregrine Webcams found on the Field Museum website. For more information, visit fieldmuseum.com.

A peregrine falcon from a 2018 webcam in Rockford. Photo courtesy the Field Museum

Learning to cook; kids can hone their culinary skills at Sur La Table

(Published March 31)

By Angela Gagnon – Staff Writer

Kids can get busy in the kitchen at Sur La Table and experience some hands-on cooking fun this summer and learn to make delicious classic summer eats from scratch.

Sur La Table, located at 900 North Michigan Ave., offers three- and five-day cooking classes for kids 8-12 and teens 13-17. The classes start in July, last about two hours each and are limited to 16 students.

“All of our classes are taught by classically trained culinary professionals,” said Adam Leach, resident chef at Sur La Table.

Sur La Table will offer two camps this summer. One incorporates different themes each day like backyard BBQ or pizza parties and will include about four different recipes per day. The other camp will focus on teaching different techniques, like working with pasta and pizza dough, learning knife skills or grilling or BBQ techniques.

“There will also be a bakery and pastry component this year, which will take place one day as an all encompassing experience in the five day camp,” added Leach.

Kids get to eat what they make and even compete in a friendly mystery box competition at the end of each series similar to the TV show, Chopped wherein chefs must create a meal with a box of mystery ingredients.  

“Teams get a menu together, curated through the instructor, but created by the kids. They use what skills they’ve learned the previous days to put it all together for a final menu,” said Leach.

The chef picks a mystery ingredient to be used somewhere in the menu, and kids are encouraged to use a kitchen gadget they haven’t used before. “The winning team gets a prize,” said Leach.

“I look at my job here as inspiring people to cook more at home and build confidence in the kitchen,” said Leach. “I like people to leave the class wanting to cook more!”
In addition to gaining culinary skills, kids will take home a packet of recipes and a Sur La Table apron. Register for the classes at surlatable.com.

Sweetwater Tavern and Grill reopens after repairs

(Published March 14)

By Jesse Wright

After being closed for months for repairs, Sweetwater Tavern and Grill reopened its doors on March 8.

The popular New Eastside bar and grill, at 225 N. Michigan Ave., was packed by 5 p.m. that day and longtime fans said they were happy to have their favorite spot back.

“I had come here about a dozen times before it reopened,” customer Ken Goncharoff said.

In the two months since the restaurant closed, construction crews added stainless steel accents, more seating options, including more bar seats, and an updated ceiling.

But Goncharoff said he didn’t notice most of it because his favorite parts of the bar are unchanged.

“To be honest, it looks the same,” he said. “The bar looks different and the ceiling looks different, but I love the atmosphere here. That’s why I come here, and that hasn’t changed. I liked it before and I like it now.”

Sweetwater is gearing up for a massive St. Patrick’s Day patio party March 16.

The bar and grill will open at 9 a.m. and will offer green beer, bagpipes and Irish food, including corned beef Reuben, shepherd’s pie and corned beef poutine.

For more information, visit sweetwatertavernandgrille.com.

Mega companies coming to downtown Chicago leads to opportunities in housing market

By Urban Real Estate

A new year has brought a wait-and-see attitude as the national climate, interest rates and a major local mayoral election bring some pause to buyers and sellers looking to make their next move. Chicago City Hall, the future of the city’s pension plan and property tax proposals all have people watching to see what the next Chicago will look like.

Multinational companies, however, have bigger bets set on the Windy City and that might be the key difference to our future over any other market.

Matt Farrell, managing broker of Urban Real Estate, sees this as the opportunity that makes downtown neighborhoods desirable even when the national and local climate may differ.

“Each of these companies has hundreds of employees who are also making their move into the city. Some are renters, others are prospective buyers. They all need a place to live, and there are few communities like the New Eastside that offer an immense level of convenience, privacy and beauty, all within steps of the hustle and bustle of the city.”

Chicago has a great deal to offer, both to companies and residents.

“There is really no surprise as to why this city continues to draw investors and businesses from across the globe,” Farrell added. “We may have our winters, but the access to public transportation, universities, museums, medical systems, an unrivaled lakefront setting, paired with O’Hare’s planned expansion, make Chicago the perfect fit.”

“The best advice we can give our seller clients is to do everything they can to make their homes look as pristine as possible. Beautiful, updated homes will always do better than a home that hasn’t been tended to. Consider your own personal and financial goals, and plan whether this may be the time to sell your home or to seek a second home at a great price,” Farrell said. “The market pace may have stabilized, but Chicago has and will continue to find its way to continued growth.”

GEMS students get lessons in fashion, music and literature

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

Sixth graders strutted their stuff on Jan. 17 at the annual GEMS World Academy fashion show.

The show is in its fifth year. The students wrote music and then designed a clothing ensemble and wrote a poem based on that music.

The interdisciplinary exercise was the brainchild of Elysia Sheehan, the school’s art and design teacher. The project is a fun way to kick off the school year and it also combines several subjects into a participatory, interactive learning assignment.

“It started from a conversation I had with a new student in our first year while we were doing some team building activities during the first week of school,” she explained. “She was expressing that at the time she felt more nervous than excited about starting at a new school. We began talking about what we could do to help ease her transition into GEMS and about the things she enjoys most. She spoke about how much she enjoys drawing and making fashion designs. The whole idea evolved from there with input from students and teachers who were excited to build out our curriculum for the year.”

The project starts with a design. This year, students had to pick a genre of music and design an outfit that would represent that. To build their wardrobe, students are given $10 and taken to a thrift store.

“Students learn to sew, have weekly visits with a fashion designer, keep a process journal to document their personal growth and goals, and build on their foundation for constructing fashion,” said Sheehan.

Besides designing and sewing original clothing, the students also got a musical education. Music teacher Chris Roebuck and language and literature teacher Melissa Cuclich helped students discover new genres of music and understand poetry, respectively.

“In previous years, their fashions have reflected technology, humanities inquiries, science, et cetera,” said Sheehan. “After designing the garments, the students model them on the ‘runway’ during a fashion show event in our gym.”

Parents, teachers and other students packed the place in support of the sixth graders who walked, strutted and, in one case, skateboarded down the aisle.

GEMS sixth grade student Max Robertson skates his way down the runway for a fashion show in January. Photo by Jesse Wright

GEMS World Academy is a private school in the New Eastside. To find out more about the school, visit them online at gemsworldacademy-chicago.com.

Mister Rogers documentary to air on PBS in February

Staff reports

(Published Jan. 16)

Fans of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood will get a treat Feb. 9.

That Saturday, WTTW11, Chicago’s public broadcasting station, will air “Won’t you be my Neighbor,” a hit documentary film about Fred Rogers, the host of the hit childrens television show.

The film highlights Rogers’ pioneering contributions to public television and children’s programming, namely promoting kindness and tolerance. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year and has been nominated for numerous awards.

 The show aired on PBS stations around the country for decades and generations of adults watched the show as kids.

The top Chicago openings for 2019

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

The New Year will bring new developments to the city. Here are the top new developments residents can look forward to this year.

Hotels

1.     Actor and New York developer Robert DeNiro is coming to Chicago. DeNiro’s development team is opening the Nobu Hotel in December 2019 along Restaurant Row. In addition to luxury hotel rooms, the property will boast a street level Japanese restaurant and a rooftop lounge.

2.     The Hotel Essex has been working on its Michigan Avenue property for a while now, and it’s expected to open in May of 2019. Located at 800 S. Michigan Ave., across from Grant Park, the hotel will be in the heart of the city and offer 254 rooms.

4.     The Hilton brand will open another Homewood Suites in downtown Chicago in May. This one will be across from Grant Park at 1101 S. Wabash Ave., within easy walking distance to the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium.

Restaurants

1.     Some of the top names in Korean food are coming to the city. Dave Park and Jennifer Tran operated Hanbun in Westmont until early 2018, and now they’re looking to open Jeong at 1460 W. Chicago Ave. Park offers a modern take on Korean food in a fine-dining space, and Jeong will hold about 40 people.

2. James Beard Award-winning chef Zach Engel’s Israeli restaurant Galit is nothing if not ambitious. Engel will serve up the usual pita and hummus, but he will also feature Midwestern produce to combine the familiar with the foreign against a formal dining background. Galit will open in Lincoln Park at 2429 N. Lincoln Ave.

Residencies

1.   New for the New Eastside, the Vista Tower project is expected to wrap up this year. At 1,191 feet, the tower has 101 floors and at floor 47, there is an outdoor pool, a reservable kitchen and a wine-tasting room.

2.    Nema, at 1200 S. Indiana Ave., will be completed this year. The building will offer 76 floors and 800 units and stands 887 feet tall and the luxury apartments are sure to make a mark on the South Loop.

3.    In Streeterville, the One Bennett Park building at 514 N Peshtigo Court is already open, but on the top floors of the luxury apartments, the work continues. However, the 70-story building will be completed in 2019 after the final condominiums are finished.

Best places to stay active inside

By Angela Gagnon, Staff Writer

During the cold, dark winter months, it can be easy to stay sedentary. Getting motivated to move outdoors requires lots of clothes and a tolerance for low temperatures. Never fear—plenty of businesses specialize in indoor activities, offering a variety of opportunities for fitness.  

Ice skating

The McFetridge Sports Center, 3843 N. California Ave., offers indoor ice skating, tennis and yoga. Open skate costs $5 per person during select hours and tennis costs $25 per hour. Try a drop-in yoga class for $12. For more information, visit mcfetridgesportscenter.com

Rock climbing

Go indoor rock climbing at Brooklyn Boulders, 100 S. Morgan St. Try an Intro to Climbing class to learn the basics of climbing under the guidance of expert instructors. The 60-minute class takes place on both ropes and boulders and includes gear rental. $25 for members and $49 for non-members. For more information, visit brooklynboulders.com/gowanus/

Ping pong

Hone your ping pong skills at SPIN Chicago, 344 N. State St., in a fun and energizing social environment. Taking aim at that tiny white ball will get your heart pumping. $25 per hour during off-peak hours / $39 during peak hours. Stop by for $10 ping pong on Sundays from 5-8 p.m. For more information, visit wearespin.com/location/chicago/

Bumper cars

WhirlyBall, 1825 W. Webster, offers fitness-forward and fun activities to get visitors moving. WhirlyBall is not only the name of the business, but also a game where players sit in souped-up bumper cars armed with a hand scoop and fling a wiffle ball around with friends. There’s also bowling, laser tag, pool tables and a climbing wall. Walk ins are  $15 for a 30-minute session with a four-player minimum. For more information, visit whirlyball.com

Bowling

Pinstripes, 435 E. Illinois, features bowling and bocce ball games in a social setting with game-side food and drink. Bowling is $8-18 per hour per person, depending on the hours. Shoes can be rented for $5. Bocce ball is $5-12 per person per hour. Reservations are recommended. For more information, visit pinstripes.com/chicago-illinois/

Indoor golf

Play18 offers an ultimate indoor golf experience in a relaxed country club atmosphere. Play18 features PGA Tour simulators and personal driving bays along with a locker room, full bar and lounge. Reserve online. $50 per hour. For more information, visit play18chicago.com

Air workout

AIR®, a boutique fitness lab, offers classes that incorporate aerial exercises on hammocks for a unique twist on the average fitness regimen. The 50-minute Air Foundation class fuses elements of conditioning, pilates, ballet and HIIT (high intensity interval training) on aerial hammocks. There are two locations to choose from: River North, 357 W. Erie St., and South Loop, 1317 S. Michigan Ave. $30 per class or $10 for community classes. For more information, visit airfitnow.com

Basketball

Check out Swish House for basketball fitness classes that makes working out fun. The high intensity interval training classes provide a unique team-based environment that engages the competitive spirit. Classes are $25 and are held at The Mercy Home for Boys and Girls at 1140 W. Jackson Blvd. For more information, visit swishhouse.com

Take a walk

Take a walk through the beautiful Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave., or Lincoln Park Conservatory, 2391 N. Stockton Drive, to get your heart rate up while enjoying warm lush gardens and a brief respite from the cold. Free admission to both.

GEMS holds topping out ceremony for last beam in Upper Builing


By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

The topping out ceremony is an old ritual for new buildings. The ceremony celebrates when the final beam is laid in place and is a milestone for any project. On Nov. 30, the New Eastside’s GEMS World Academy got to hold their own topping out ceremony for their new building.

With the new building, dubbed the Upper School, the private academy can expand class sizes and will serve grades six through 12. The building is located at 355 E. Wacker Drive, behind the main building at 350 East South Water St. and the Upper School means more than just extra space. Students will get a full-sized gym, music practice rooms, new lockers and classrooms dedicated to design courses.

This represents the largest expansion to date for the five-year-old campus. Thomas M. Cangiano, head of the school since July of 2018, said he understands what a big deal the topping out ceremony is for the students and faculty. “All the work is going to be in the interior from now on,” he said. “When the kids left the school last spring (in 2018), they left a hole in the ground. So to see this frame come up so quickly and to see there were already a few floors built, I think it gives the kids a sense of how quickly the building can go up.”

Cangiano said he hopes the Upper Building will wow the neighbors as well. Much of the first floor will feature practice studios for dance and other activities and all the action will be visible to pedestrians through large plate glass windows.

The building will be ready for move in by the fall 2019 semester.

As Chicagoans will be able to look in, Cangiano wants the students to look out, beyond the school and into the heart of the city. The school has a sizeable international student population, but Cangiano has long maintained that the school must prepare international citizens to also be citizens of Chicago. “You can’t really be a true international citizen unless you’re a good local citizen,” he said. “You have to understand the context in which you live and go to school and play and the economics, economic development, transportation, infrastructure and mundane things like revenue and expenses.”

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