Tag Archives: Illinois

Laughter Yoga

“Laughter is the best medicine,” you might have heard. That adage — probably more credible than “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” — is the basis for a form of yoga, appropriately called laughter yoga. We attended a laughter yoga workshop with our friend Allie yesterday at the Old Town School of Folk Music to try out the practice, and because an hour of laughing sounded like the perfect Sunday activity.

Laughter yoga originated in India about 15 years ago when Dr. Madan Kataria noticed the medicinal benefits of laughter among his patients and organized the first laughter club. He coupled laughter exercises with Yogic breathing routines, and the practice is now an international well-being phenomenon.

Our bodies cannot discern the difference between real and fake laughter, and as we found in class, what starts as forced laughter inevitably turns into real, and often uncontrollable, laughing. You won’t be expected to tell jokes, and there’s no need to sport your Lululemon, because you won’t be contorting into downward dogs or warrior poses. (Still, being comfortably clothed helped us relax.)

“It’s kind of like reawakening your joy, like you’re a little kid again.” -Judith Sample, certified Laughter Yoga instructor

Our instructor, Judith Sample, took the 10 of us through an hour of activities that included introducing ourselves to each other with a laugh, imitating types of laughter, including animal laughter, slow motion laughter and shy laughter, and practicing deep breathing. Less than halfway through the class we were already feeling lighter and happier.

If nothing else, laughter yoga is a healthy reminder to smile more, relax about how seriously we take ourselves, and just laugh.

Tara and Karina for TKGO

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Chicago’s Korean Day Spa

Flying to Asia to explore beauty ideals may be Jessica Simpson’s thing, but you can do it in Chicago, too.

We spent the better part of this past Saturday tucked away in the unassuming, far-flung Korean day spa, Paradise Sauna. At the urging of our friend Adryanna, who had visited a Korean spa while in, well, Korea, the three of us made our way (El, bus, walk a block) to Albany Park. That’s not to say it took much prodding to get us to go; it’s gotten warmer and everyone’s showing more skin, so it was a logical time to give ours some attention. Plus, who isn’t down for some pampering now and then?

“Pampering,” however, isn’t quite the service Paradise Sauna aiming to provide, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. While it is a spa with complimentary towels and robes, and facilities like a nap room, it’s more about getting down to business and whipping your skin into shape at a modest price. A day’s use of the steam saunas, whirlpools and cold and hot tubs are included in the $18 base price (plus a $2 key deposit), and services include scrubs and massages, which start at $30 and $40, respectively, for 30 minutes.

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The scrub is a must, and for both of us, it was a first. We each took turns lying on a table in the bathhouse while a very nice but stern, middle-aged Korean woman in a black bra and panties set to work systematically buffing us with what looked like a Brillo pad (of course it wasn’t) on each hand.

For those who have never experienced a Korean body scrub, especially at Paradise Sauna, there are a few things you should know. First, leave your bathing suit at home. This is a bathhouse, after all. (Don’t worry, women’s and men’s facilities are separate.) But do bring flip flops or other waterproof sandals to wear in the pools and on the pool deck. They provide towels and some shampoo at Paradise, but you might want to bring your own.

Before using any facilities, you must shower and thoroughly clean yourself. Before a scrub, sit in the whirlpool for an hour or so, to soften your skin so it’s less painful and more like a massage. The scrubber at Paradise doesn’t speak English, and while it’s not necessary to talk, it’s helpful to know what’s going on. She starts at the feet and works her way up. You’ll start on your back and turn four times: first onto your right side, then onto your stomach, your left side and finally back to a face-up position. The scrubber will let you know when to turn with a brusque “turn!” and tap of the table (or your calf).

We feel like new people, and with a layer of our skin gone, we kind of are. “Once a week!” the scrubber recommends, in order to keep skin healthy and glowing.

This no-frills spa is clean and basic, but like any bathhouse, isn’t for the overly self-conscious. To fully experience the facilities, which you’ll probably share with a handful of other Korean grandmas, middle-aged Caucasian ladies and younger Asian women (all of whom aren’t looking and don’t care, same as you), leave your inhibitions (and your clothes) in the locker room.

Paradise Sauna, 2910 W. Montrose Ave., Chicago. (773) 588-3304.

Tara and Karina for TKGO

It’s here: TKGO City Guides, Naples, Florida!

Check out the latest addition to the TKGO City Guides collection: Naples, Florida! There’s more to southeast Florida than fun in the sun. This guide is a must-read for any 20-something trying to navigate the land of the retired. Find plenty of great restaurants and — dare we say it — nightlife!

If you’re stuck in the midwest, check out our recent updates to the Chicago and Evanston guides, including a classic brunch spot in Andersonville and a Cuban “food mart” in Rogers Park.

Tara and Karina for TKGO

Chicago Celebrates St. Patrick’s Day

Chicago takes St. Patrick’s Day seriously — few other cities’ residents eagerly awake in the early morning to drink green beer at a bar that opened at 9 a.m. before watching men in speed boats dye two blocks worth of a river bright green. So of course, we brought our video cameras to document this year’s overcast celebration. Check out our footage of the annual parade on Columbus Avenue and the dyeing of the Chicago River (which isn’t sponsored by the city, but is instead a tradition of the Plumbers Local Union 130 since 2007), as well as some celebration scenes from around the city.

Maybe it’s because we didn’t start the day with green beer, but we thought St. Patty’s was particularly outrageous. We saw:

  • Roughly 40 children under the age of 14 carrying green balloons two feet long
  • A word-slurring man with a clear 7-Eleven Big Gulp cup full of beer, shouting at the parade queen as her float passed
  • Way too many ridiculous green hats, including one that was shaped like a large mug of beer
  • A teenager watching the parade from atop another teenager’s shoulders in a shirt that read “Kiss me I’m sober”
  • A middle-aged woman who took off her green plastic hat and lovingly placed it on an iron fence post
  • A decked out group of all ages and sizes jumping and kicking in a circle to the sounds of a bagpipe in Millennium Park

So did Chicago make St. Patrick proud? Let’s start with a different question: Who was St. Patrick? Well, we did some digging and it turns out he was a Scot who was kidnapped and thrown into slavery in Ireland at age 14. Apparently, he ended up converting the entire country from paganism. And a side perk for the Irish: He banished all snakes from the island, according to legend, although pretty much all scientists agree Ireland didn’t have any snakes at the time. He was never officially canonized by a pope, which means he’s not even officially a saint, and what we’re celebrating on the Saturday before March 17 every year is actually his death. We all know, though, that it’s really an excuse to celebrate all things Irish. Sláinte!

Tara and Karina for TKGO

Akram Khan and Cross-Cultural Dance

Akram Khan’s bahok came to Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art Stage this past weekend, and it was a show we were eager to attend. Karina had been hearing all of the (well-deserved) hype at her internship at the MCA, and Tara is taking a Cultural Studies of Dance class at Northwestern and learning, among other things, about the problematics of authenticity in cultural representation and how a message is communicated to an audience. But even if we had just wandered into the show, we’re certain we would have been just as riveted throughout the entire entertaining and thought-provoking 75-minute show.

bahok, which means “carrier” in Bengali, premiered in Beijing in January 2008 and was voted “Best new vision of global interchange” by Dance Magazine before it embarked on a world tour in 2009. Akram Khan has been called one of the greatest young choreographers by the Dance Critics’ Circle, dance critics and fellow choreographers (including Tara’s flamenco instructor and Northwestern professor Joel Valentín-Martínez). With all the hype, you’d expect an overly abstract piece from the kind of choreographer who works on the too-buried-in-metaphors-to-understand kind of dances. Instead, the Londoner (his family is Bangladeshi) offers a simple but profound message set to an international score from composer and longtime collaborator Nitin Sawhney and, at times, humor in bahok.

(Below is a clip from one of our favorite numbers in the show.)

Set in an unidentified airport (though it really could be any transportation station), bahok explores what happens when people of different origins — China, Spain, Slovakia, India, South Korea, Taiwan and South Africa — are forced to interact and communicate with one another despite language barriers and cultural differences. The dancers in Khan’s company are from all the aforementioned countries, which brings another level of nuance to the work.

Total unison is rare in bahok. Instead, Khan plays with levels and shadows in his choreography. Dancers fly across the floor and lift each other in the air, showing their differences even when all move at the same time. Stage lighting gives the work even more dimension, leaving some dancers in the dark while others are featured in “monologues.”

While language is used in the show (a big electronic departures sign serves at times as the subtitle screen, other times to display cryptic messages), it does not aid in communication. Characters retreat into their own memories, describing their childhoods in a way no one else can understand, or they unsuccessfully attempt to answer simple questions for a customs official. Movement is the only way characters can explain their feelings and communicate who they are to one another. In portions of the show where only one or a few are dancing in the spotlight, each expresses an individual personality on stage, whether it be obsessive paper collecting or a private dance with a father’s shoe.

(Learn a few bahok moves in the MCA’s informative promotional video, below.)

The work, ultimately, is honest. Khan understands that a transportation station is both a void and transient space, and though his characters overlap and spend a long time waiting together in the same space, they never completely accept or understand one another. They exclude each other, they ignore each other, they bicker with one another (but without a cliché dance fight scene). Even when all embrace in one scene toward the end, the most eccentric character is left out and must force her way into the huddle. All are from different places and going different places, but inevitably they end up getting to know each other, whether or not that’s their intention.

Moreover, they are all from somewhere and going somewhere, all the while carrying (hence, “bahok”) memories, aspirations and experiences. It’s a theme that resonates with us especially now, as we (and our friends) conclude our final months at college, which perhaps is an equally adequate representation of transient space, and figure out where we’re going. The final image on the train schedule board is a play on words that sums up the piece: Replace the ‘M’ in “HOME” with a ‘P’ and you see “HOPE.”

How’s that for a representation of the world as it is today? Bravo, Akram Khan, for not only revealing a new perspective on human nature that’s highly relevant in today’s ever-transient society, but also for teaching the world another — better — way to communicate: dance.

Check Akram Khan’s calendar to see if the tour’s headed your way; we both agree you don’t want to miss this. And lastly, check out Nitin Sawhnye’s music, because the score was sublime. (We want the soundtrack!)

Tara and Karina for TKGO

Chicago French Market

How very Harry Potter. Between tracks 8 and 9 of the Ogilvie Transportation Center, descend a staircase and follow signs toward MetraMart, where you’ll soon find the Chicago French Market: a glowing oasis of underground vendors of cheeses, produce, meats, fresh sandwiches, sweets, popcorn and pastries galore! Naturally, we spent hours talking and tasting.

You’ll find old favorites like Espression by LavazzaVanille Patisserie and Pastoral, but the new-to-town retail locations are the most exciting! You no longer have to order Sweet Miss Giving’s online, and Provo’s finally expanded from its Riverside, Illinois location.

One of our New Years’ resolutions? Always have spare change and an extra 15 minutes every time we pass through Ogilvie. With this many goodies below the tracks, it’ll be hard to forget.

Here’s what we tasted:

Saigon Sisters

We’re no strangers to the Vietnamese answer to hoagies and subs (having tasted bánh mì sandwiches in the heart of New York City’s Chinatown), and Saigon Sisters didn’t disappoint. We ordered a Porky (braised Duroc pork belly, pho flavors, hoisin glaze) and a Frenchman (duck confit, pickled mustard seeds, candied kumquat, rouille). We happily devoured both. The Vietnamese baguettes, made with rice and wheat flour, were the perfect balance of crispy outside and soft inside, and the pickled veggies added the right amount of tang. We loved that the Sisters offers a vegetarian sandwich and a classic bánh mì, too. This is the only location — it’s not a chain!

-Tara and Karina

Necessity Baking Co.

We used a free $10 scratch-off coupon we got after making a purchase (gosh, we love the French Market) to purchase a loaf of olive bread before leaving, even though we were about stuffed from our culinary purchasing tour of the market. The bread at Necessity Baking Co. is so soaked with olive oil, we ate it on the way home, sans condiments. But if you want to make a sandwich out of it, try lightly buttering both sides of two slices and throwing in a little gruyere and/or swiss. Nothing beats a gourmet grilled cheese!

 

Kalamata olives, mmm

 

Provo’s Village Bake Shoppe

When I first saw the foot-and-a-half long slab of poppyseed coffee cake, my heart dropped. Just like my grandma used to make! Except it was $6 (far less than what she paid for ingredients) and much more authentic (she got the recipe from her Danish grandparents but was born and raised in Wisconsin). With a light glaze over the top of the lumpy poppyseed mixture and crisscrossed ribbons of puff pastry, it’s unmistakably homemade, and unmistakably an authentic recipe. Provo’s has a location in Riverside, but this is its first in Chicago. I’ll be back for the kolachkis!

 

Some of Provo

 

-Tara for TKGO

Canady le Chocolatier

We visited the French Market on a good day, because the employees of Canady Le Chocolatier knew exactly what to recommend. TimeOut Chicago had just named their crème brûlée truffle — complete with a hardened sugar disk on top — one of its 100 Best Eats of 2009. I picked up one to see what all the fuss was about (it was delicious). Sticking with the Chicago theme, I also went with a raspberry truffle, which had a cello and the words “Chicago Symphony” adorning the top of the dark chocolate ganache. Then I chose another (completely gratuitous) chocolate topped with flecks of sea salt to indulge my sweet/savory hankering. If you can’t get to the French Market, Canady has a location at 824 S. Wabash, 312-212-1270.

 

Canady

 

 

My choices

 

Sweet Miss Giving’s

As if we needed another excuse to purchase baked goods! Sweet Miss Giving’s is a “premier bakery and jobs program,” and more than 50 percent of the profits go toward the formerly homeless and HIV/AIDS-affected men and women living in Chicago.

After sampling pieces of the banana cream pie muffin and chocolate toffee pecan cookie (thank you, free samples) — not to mention asking what exactly was in every item displayed in the cases because it all looked so delectable — I decided on a small pumpkin upside-down cake. It was lightly sweet, moist and had pecans and cranberries baked into the bottom. I planned to save it for breakfast the next morning, but needless to say, that didn’t happen.

The bakery outpost is reason enough to trek to the market; it’s their first and only retail outpost. If you want the goods otherwise, you’ll have to go through their site to order catering, wholesale or gift packages.

Karina for TKGO

Chicago French Market, 131 North Clinton at MetraMarket (in the West Loop). Monday to Friday, 7:30 a.m.—7:30 p.m.; Saturday 8:30 a.m.—6 p.m. Not open yet: Bowl Square, Chundy’s Bistro, RAW. (We were especially sad that Frietkoten wasn’t open yet either, where we hear the Dutch fries and Belgian beer are some of the Market’s highlights!)