Old is OK in Skyline Village Chicago

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

At 76, Phyllis Mitzen is — in her words — an old woman. Others might use words such as elderly or mature but Mitzen does not.

Old is OK, she says, and so is aging, provided people have the right resources and this is where Skyline Village Chicago comes in.

As president of Skyline Village Chicago, an organization for older adults, Mitzen spends a lot of time thinking about aging. According to Village to Village Network, the concept of a “Virtual Village” is simple—an organization for older adults that provides access to services, fosters community relationships and does “anything [its] members need to age safely and successfully in their own homes.”

The Village model began in Boston over 15 years ago and has been spreading since. These organizations not only connect to other villages, but also connect members to each other.

Skyline Village Chicago is open to residents of Streeterville, the Gold Coast, River North and New Eastside. Mitzen said other villages in the Chicago area focus on providing access to services and transportation, the neighborhoods that Skyline Village covers tend to be “resource-rich,” meaning they have resources for the elderly.

Because of this, the Village focuses on socialization, so neighbors can get to know each other, Mitzen said. Through Skyline Village’s newsletter, residents find out about local news, event dates and life updates from members.

Mitzen’s favorite village event is the Women’s Salon, which meets monthly to talk about “what it means to grow old in our society.” She said it’s not a therapy group, but a place to share information, talk about ageism and come to an “active understanding of our aging selves.”

The village also has an advocacy group, Mitzen said, which advocates for senior issues. For instance, the group is working with the park district to discuss installing equipment for all ages in the city’s playgrounds, Mitzen said.

She added that “owning old” is something that comes up often in the Women’s Salon and something she tries to do every day.

“There are frailties, and people do become disabled when they grow older, but it shouldn’t mean that their voices aren’t as strong,” she said. “I’m happy to be able to do what I’m doing at age 76, and if I can’t do it when I’m age 80, I’ll still be an old woman who deserves respect.”

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.

Fashion design classes offer creative fun for kids

By Angela Gagnon, Staff Writer

Children in downtown Chicago have an opportunity to channel their artistic, creative energy while learning from a fashion professional.

New Eastside resident Michelle Kim, a fashion designer, has been offering design classes to kids since July 2018. Kim is the founder of Mizel Jewelry and holds a masters degree in fashion design from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Parents said the classes encourage their kids to be creative and to develop ideas, while Kim said the classes inspire her, too. “Teaching these classes is very inspirational for me because I am a designer myself, and the kids often think of things adults don’t, like a unique color combination or pattern,” Kim said.

The classes, geared toward children as young as first grade, are held every other weekend in the New Eastside and typically follow a seasonal theme. Kim has introduced embroidery, fabric embellishment, collaging, beading, sewing and knitting since she began teaching the classes.

Her students have worked on hair accessories, backpacks, shoes, jewelry, clothing and lunch boxes and used various kid-friendly materials to create unique and personalized designs.

Kim will lead a winter class focused on cold weather items such as berets and sweatshirts. Students will work with material like faux fur and pom-poms along with fabric paints, felt, sequins and fake gems.

New Eastside mom Michelle Johnston said her 6-year-old daughter, Dilly, has gone to seven or eight ofand the design classes, and her daughter loves getting creative. “Dilly was so proud of her creations and Michelle was always so encouraging and complimented them on their designs,.” Johnston said.

Kim stresses that “perfect is not creative” and that the kids should “relax and have fun.” Once the drawing is complete, they embellish or decorate it with the materials to make their image come alive. “Dilly loved having access to all these wonderful tools, ribbons, jewels, fabrics at her fingertips,” Johnston said. “She learned a new skill each week and it was wearable art… shoes, t-shirt, hat, backpack and was personalized.”

Kim also puts together themed events for adults around holidays or special occasions. Plans are in the works for a Valentine’s Day “Moms’ Night Out” in which neighborhood moms can work with Kim to make something for their kids.

For more information about themes and price, visit https://www.mizelkids.com.

[Designer Michelle Kim teaches neighborhood kids the finer points of fashion at one of her design courses for kids. Photo by Angela Gagnon]

The best places to see and be seen with Santa in Chicago

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

Adults may dream of a white Christmas, but for many kids, the holiday evokes another color altogether as a trip to see the old man in red is almost compulsory. Luckily, children in and around the downtown area have plenty of options:

Water Tower Place

The shopping’s never been better at Water Tower Place, a Mag Mile institution, and this year just as in years past, Santa will be around to meet with kids and pets. Reservations are encouraged to avoid a wait and there are various theme nights—like pajama night—so be sure to scroll through the options to get the perfect fit. To find the best night for your schedule and to make a reservation, check www.celebrateyourholiday.com

The Driehaus Museum

This popular destination has added Sunday dates for Santa. Kids under 2 are free, tickets for kids up to 12 are $15 and adult tickets are $20. The tickets include activities like sing-a-longs, story times and family fun. Anyone interested should get tickets as soon as possible, as several dates have already sold out. For more information, check the museum website at http://driehausmuseum.org

Soldier Field Breakfast with Santa

For a full morning with the big man, why not sign up for breakfast with Santa at Soldier Field on Dec. 8? Adult tickets are $50, $25 for kids ages 4-12 and free for younger kids. The tickets include a train display, an ornament contest and a cookie decorating area for children. This event includes a toy drive, so be sure and bring a new, unopened gift for a child in need. For more information, call (312) 235-7063 or email SoldierFieldBistro@aramark.com

Shedd Aquarium Breakfast with Santa

The Shedd Aquarium is offering a full morning of fun with Santa every weekend leading up to Christmas. Ticket prices vary for members and non-members, but the event includes breakfast, crafts, a Polar Express train ride and parade, an aquatic presentation and more. For more information, visit www.sheddaquarium.org/

Macy’s State Street Santa Events

Breakfast no good? Well, Macy’s has the solution for parents who want more options. The State Street department store is offering breakfast, lunch and/or dinner to folks who need some variety in scheduling time to visit Father Christmas. The events run through the month. For more information, visit http://macysrestaurants.com

Skate with Santa at Maggie Daley Park

Anyone who wants to get the kids out and about could do worse than this free opportunity to get the kids out on the ice with Santa at Maggie Daley Park in the heart of the New Eastside. On Dec. 16, from 10 a.m. to noon, kids can lace up and hold hands with the jolly red elf. For more information, visit www.chicagoparkdistrict.com

Swissotel’s Santa Suite

The hotel admits their newly-renovated Santa Suite is over the top, so expect to be wowed on the 41st floor by sights, sounds and decorations. The suite is open through Dec. 23 and tickets begin at $15 for individuals, and family packs can be had for $40. For more information, visit www.swissotel.com

Other places to find Santa

If you still can’t get enough Santa, follow the merry fellow as he travels through Chicagoland and beyond. This month, Santa will be visiting a number of nearby suburbs, and families can visit him in a variety of places. For more information, check out www.santainchicago.com

Cold weather, hot chocolate: Getting the most from your mug

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

When the weather gets cold and the Christmas tunes start playing, nothing gets the body warm like a mug full of hot chocolate. For the best tastes, check out:

Hot Chocolate Bakery, 125 S. Clark St. (inside Revival Hall)

Start with the Medium for a basic milk chocolate flavor with a touch of caramel, then move on to the Dark, made of 72 percent dark chocolate. Mexican hot chocolate is also available at  $6 per cup. Drinks include a house-made marshmallow that takes up almost the whole mug and adds a milky sweetness as it melts. Adults can try the drink with cognac, whiskey, rum or brandy.

Ghiradelli 400 or 830 N. Michigan Ave.

At Ghirardelli, try the Lombard Street Hot Cocoa for $4.25—a cup of hot steamed milk served with four of the chocolate shop’s sweet milk chocolate and truffle squares to mix into your drink, or try the Sea Salt Caramel Hot Cocoa topped with whipped cream,swerved with milk chocolate caramel squares.

Dylan’s Candy Bar, 663 N. Michigan Ave.

Chocolate—hot or frozen—runs for $6, topped with whipped cream, hot fudge and mini marshmallows.

Bombo Bar, 832 W. Randolph St.

The West Loop’s hot spot’s “hotter chocolates” are overflowing with toppings and flavor. Snap some photos of these Instagram-worthy treats before you start sipping. The Hotter Chocolates, $9 each, come in two flavors—S’mores and Party Monster. The drinks may be spiked with Baileys, Stoli Vanilla Vodka, RumChata, Jameson or Grand Mariner for $8.

L.A. Burdick, 609 N. State St.

This 30-year-old New England chocolate shop and cafe has but one Midwestern location—and this is it. The Chicago shop opened in 2017, and though  they are known for their European chocolates, L.A. Burdick also offers a variety of hot cocoas—dark, milk, white or spicy—that start around $5.

Young Professionals Streeterville mixes services with mingling

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

This November saw the start of something in Streeterville when the first meeting of Young Professionals Streeterville kicked off.

The group is in part the brainchild of Mario Hollemans, an attorney, who was installed as president of the group, though he is far from the only young professional eager to kick off a networking group in Streeterville for the under-40 set.

Vice President Casey Doherty said he’s lived in the area since graduating from college in 2017. These days he is in law school and hopes the organization will give young people an opportunity to socialize and volunteer in the neighborhood.

“There is a strong young demographic in the neighborhood that wants to give back. We wanted to showcase the talents of young people and we wanted to create a vibrant community of young professionals in the neighborhood.”

Doherty said that while the group is a younger demographic, it is professionally diverse. Another member, Dr. Valerie Mayuga, is a physician who is also in charge of the group’s philanthropic efforts, and Doherty said it’s just nice to know people who share common interests and hobbies.

“It’s nice to have strong community connections,” he said.

Hollemans said he did little to plan the group; the whole organization sprung more or less fully formed by the membership who wanted to formalize something. That said, the group will hold monthly mixers to attract more members and to network—but also to do more for the neighborhood.

“There are a lot of young professionals in the neighborhood looking to give back,” said Doherty. “I think young people have always wanted to get involved and give back to their communities, and recent times have shown how important that really is.”

Anyone looking to get involved with the group can email Hollemans at ypstreeterville@gmail.com or check out their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/YPStreeterville.

A closer look at the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

The Chicago Thanksgiving Parade has been bringing joy to residents for decades. The event started in 1934 as a way give people a little happiness during the Great Depression and this year’s parade promises to be as joy-filled and as fun as ever, with a few modern flourishes.

What’s new…

Viewers should tune in on time because right in the very first hour of the Uncle Dan’s Outdoor Store Thanksgiving Parade will feature a performance by the Black Ensemble Theater. The performing arts group will offer a preview performance of their “Women of Soul” production, which runs through Jan. 13. The performance will include a special salute to Aretha Franklin as well as a celebration of some of the biggest stars of soul.

What’s returning…

Every parade features familiar balloons, floats and music. But how many have Wookies?

Yes, the The 501st Legion – Midwest Garrison is back again. In late October parade officials announced the return of the largest Star Wars costuming club in the area.

The star warriors will be joined in the parade by another group of relics—knights. Returning this year will be Medieval Times’ Knights of the Realm.

Also returning is the The Southland College Prep band, a college band that formed in 2010. The band has grown in recent years and is now considered one of the premier marching bands in the parade, boasting 100 members with 25 dancers to boot.

Speaking of bands, local favorite Kelly High School Marching Trojans will return to perform their 2018 winter festival show.

The grand marshal…

While this year’s grand marshal had not been announced by press time, Chicagoans and parade fans can expect the marshal to be beloved and a part of the city’s history. Past marshals have included Ronald McDonald (2017) (the company is headquartered in Chicago),Chicago native and actor Matt Walsh (2016) and Chicago native and wrestler CM Punk (2012).

For a complete list of what to expect, check out the parade website, www.chicagothanksgivingparade.com.

Behind the scenes…

Of course, there is more to the parade than the floats and smiles most people see. Amanda Caswell, who does public relations for the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade, provided some of the parade’s fun facts. Here’s a look behind the scenes at the parade:

In 2014, 400,000 people attended the parade — that’s almost equivalent to the entire population of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

That year, 2,500 gift bags were handed out.

There are 5,280 feet in the parade route, which is exactly one mile.

It’s a global phenomenon with 19 states, 16 countries and 23 different cultural groups were represented in the 2014 parade, making it a true international affair. Thanks to television coverage, the parade is annually available to approximately 80 million homes and viewed by millions around the world. In addition, many visitors come from around the world, from places like Switzerland, Mexico, Australia, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Canada and beyond.

According to media reports of last year’s parade, there were around 5,000 parade participants, 1,300 volunteers, 15 floats of all kinds and 18 marching bands, according to numbers from Thrillist, the Chicago Tribune, and Patch.com.

Finally, about 200 people handled the parade’s balloons in the 2014 parade, and those balloons were filled with 39,500 cubic feet of helium.

For the record, in 2014 there were 70 members of the “poo crew,” who ensure State Street would not smell like manure after the parade was over.

The Chicago Thanksgiving Parade will take place on Nov. 22, 8–11 a.m. on State Street from Congress to Randolph. Don’t want to leave the house? Anyone can watch the parade live on WGN America and WGN9.

If you go…

Leave early and plan well. Streets will be blocked off for the parade route and parking will be tough, so give yourself lots of time. Public transportation will be running, though on a holiday schedule so if you take a train, check the schedule.

If you want a front row seat on State Street, good luck and set the alarm. It’s best to arrive by 7 a.m. to claim a spot, though there are usually spaces near State and Van Buren not too far from the Harold Washington Library. Expect train noise around that area.

 

The Chicago Thanksgiving Parade provided statistics from the 2014 event. Updated stats will be available after this year’s parade.

New takes on the Thanksgiving table

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

 

Thanksgiving does not have to consist of the same canned cranberry sauce, cornucopia and bread stuffing every November. This year, throw out the rulebook and use these tips to augment your favorite holiday classics.  

Lighter dishes

Staying on the lighter side of Thanksgiving can be satisfying. Try adding cauliflower to stuffing in lieu of bread or rice. For vegan guests, swap out animal byproducts for lentils or chickpeas in a stuffing-type side dish. Sweet potatoes are a good substitute for regular potatoes in mashed, baked, or fried forms, while butternut squash soup is a light and classically-inspired alternative to heavier side dishes.

Cultural additions

For extra flavor, try adding a cultural twist to Thanksgiving favorites. A chile rub on the turkey can give your bird a Southwestern kick, while pumpkin egg rolls or turkey dumplings can make great finger foods. For a simpler option, add a dish from a favorite international cuisine: carbonara, stuffed grape leaves, rice pilaf and spring rolls all fit in with Thanksgiving mainstays.

Fun with pumpkins

Pumpkins aren’t just for Halloween. Spray paint pumpkins gold, white or silver for a unique addition to a table or decoration. Painting the menu on a pumpkin is a bold way to announce what will be on the table. Mini pumpkins can be used as seat markers or to denote what cheeses are on a cheese plate. Add flowers and glitter or string lights to pumpkins for an extra dimension.

Say goodbye to turkey

For the main course, consider going with a Midwestern classic like a  honey baked ham, and make your stuffing with a meat such as lamb or beef. A pescatarian Thanksgiving could feature lobster or salmon with a cranberry sauce. Or get rid of the meat altogether for a vegetarian spread – mushroom and chestnut “beef” Wellington can substitute turkey for a vegan main dish.

Reilly nixes Spire for now over community concerns

Staff reports

After months of speculation, Chicago Alderman Brendan Reilly rejected the 400 N. Lake Shore Drive development, also known as the Spire Site.

In late October, Reilly announced that he would reject the proposal after the developers failed to consider any community concerns. This is a setback for a development that has been in the works for over a decade, but it does not mean the project is dead.

“As you know, I joined with SOAR to host a community meeting on May 15 to review the developer’s proposal,” Reilly wrote in an email to constituents. “The meeting was very well attended and we received a tremendous amount of community feedback. My staff catalogued all of the community input from that meeting and we created a list of priority issues that needed to be addressed during my negotiation process with the developer.”

Reilly said he sent the developer a “detailed memo” in August enumerating community concerns, and that their reply did not address any of those issues.

 

“Unfortunately, several weeks later, Related Midwest provided me with a response that did not adequately address any of the major concerns about their proposal,” he wrote.

Reilly said the community had concerns about the hotel use, the tall podium base of the buildings, traffic concerns and security concerns along the Riverwalk and at DuSable Park.

However, the alderman said the project is not dead because Related Midwest may still address the issues at some point in the future, allowing development to move forward.

“In the event the developer chooses to address the legitimate concerns regarding their proposal, my office will be sure to provide all impacted neighbors with an update,” he said.

Reilly then listed exactly what must be addressed.

  • Access to the site via East North Water Street must be significantly restricted
  • Proposed hotel use should be eliminated
  • Podium height and bulk must be reduced
  • Make greater use of the Lake Shore Drive access ramp system and below grade parking system to manage deliveries, services vehicles and pick-up/drop-offs.
  • Developer must assemble a security plan for the Riverwalk and DuSable Park
  • Elimination of the proposed Ogden Slip Public Esplanade

 

No ‘paws’ in winter fun for Fido: Indoor activities for your dog

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

 

Doggy Paddle

Doggy Paddle, 1430 W. Willow St., has indoor pools for pups, allowing your four-legged friends to get some aquatic exercise even when the lake is frozen over. Swimming for dogs has many physical and psychological benefits, including improved flexibility and mobility and reduced stress and anxiety, according to Doggy Paddle. where, dogs can swim privately, or in groups based on temperament and experience. An instructor is always present while dogs are in the pool. In the new member pool, the instructor will help guide furry friends. Private swimming lessons are also available. Doggy Paddle also has an indoor dog park, use of which is included with a swim. Vaccinations are required and unneutered dogs can be booked for private swims only. Prices begin at $32 for group swims. For more information, visit doggypaddle.com

K9University

K9University, 2945 W Lake St., has an indoor open-play, climate-controlled dog park, open 9–11 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday that allows your dogs to get out all their energy on winter weekends. To use the park, customers pay $15 for the first dog, with $8 for any additional dogs in the family. Staff is on hand at all times, but owners are encouraged to watch and learn what safe play between dogs looks like, according to K9University’s website. The space is also available for private reservations to throw a puppy birthday party or get-together. K9University recommends checking its calendar for special events or a specific pup party. Vaccinations are required. K9U also features boarding, training and daycare. For more information, visit k9uchicago.com

See Spot shop…

Running errands with a pup can kill two birds with one stone by giving your dog some exercise while you knock things off your to-do list. Certain stores and shops welcome pets in downtown Chicago, so you can bring your buddy along with you. Besides pet stores such as PetSmart or Kriser’s, The Shops at North Bridge, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdale’s, at 900 N. Michigan Ave., are pet friendly. Be sure to enter in the Walton entrance for Bloomingdale’s, as the rest of the mall does not allow dogs. Other stores that allow dogs include LUSH, Restoration Hardware, Anthropologie and the Apple Store.

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