Between now and early spring, Chicago would have to see almost 43 inches of snow to have the same amount it had last winter. But that’s unlikely, said Richard Castro, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service’s Chicago office.
After getting more than 50 inches of snowfall for four consecutive years, why was Chicago’s first real snow day halfway into the season?
The mildness comes from two weather systems: La Niña and the Arctic Oscillation.
At its very basic, La Niña is a polar jet stream from the Pacific Ocean that causes chilly winters. La Niña allows cold air to drop south into the Midwest, Castro said. “But there’s been a very persistent feature above Alaska that’s keeping cold air from dropping down here.”
That feature: Arctic Oscillation, which refers to pressure patterns over the Arctic and has two phases, positive and negative.
Castro said it’s in a positive phase this year. This means less pressure at the polar region, which moves storms toward the north.
Since 2000, Chicago had comparatively cold winters as well as mild ones, but it’s not that unusual.
“It’s all over the map,” Castro said. “It fits the theme as how variable the weather patterns can be in this part of the country.”
To get more details, read Castro’s article about this year’s mild winter.
In the wintry chill of Chicago evenings, when most people lie snug beneath warm blankets, you will find Alvah White, 68, rounding the frozen Lake Michigan, running unperturbed against the cold wind. He thrives on running in the winter, and at his advanced age, he runs about 15 miles per week.
“There is nothing better than running in the snow,” White said. “A nice evening in the 20s with the fresh snow, everything is quiet. It’s an amazing feeling.”
White makes winter running sound like a walk in the park. In reality, it requires dogged persistence and determination. Of course, the greatest problem in winter running is simply leaving the comfort of your home. Then, there’s the battle with the elements around: you have to brave the uninvited iciness of the outside air.
Bogdan Petre, 23, a researcher at the Northwestern University, started winter running last year to prepare for a winter mountaineering trip. He found running in the winters “a lot more strenuous” than he imagined. “The exhaustion that I felt [after running] was significantly more than what I felt when I used to run in the summer or spring or fall,” he said.
Obviously, White is not an ordinary runner. White has been running for more than forty years. He has “run six marathons, numerous half marathons, and plenty of 8-, 10-, 12- and 14-mile runs,” he said.
“I came to Chicago in 1989, and I have been running in Chicago winters ever since.”
For runners like White, running becomes an integral part of their life. “Running is important for me because it allows me to feel good, it allows me to maintain my health and it allows me to eat almost anything I want,” he said.
The “isolation of a run” provides him with a mental space to think about and focus on things at the heart of his life, he said. “If I don’t run for a week or more, my wife is the first one to notice it. She tells me I get cranky.”
As the president of Evanston Running Club, White organizes social, recreational and competitive events around running. “There is a relaxing social element to running that makes it much more therapeutic,” White said. “And it allows me to meet some terrific people.”
Studies have suggested that running keeps you young, and White agrees. “My doctor has told me I have the body and health of a 48-year-old— I’ll take those 20 years to the bank, thank you very much,” he said.
Running in winters requires proper apparel and equipment, he acknowledged. But winter running is now much easier because of improvements in winter running gear, he said.
Winter running requires three layers, namely the base layer, the mid layer and the shell layer. The majority of modern base layers, undershirts and leggings, are made up of thinner and synthetic materials, which wick away the sweat from your body to keep you warm and dry. Base layers made of cotton are not good for winter running, because cotton retains moisture. Once it gets wet, it remains wet. The mid layer is made up of insulating material to keep you warm. And finally, the shell layer provides protection against wind, rain and snow.
“You can now go a lot deeper into the cold with a lot less layers of clothing,” he said. “And if you use things like L.L. Bean toe warmers and hand warmers, you can do really well.”
“There is no reason not to run unless it is terribly cold or particularly icy,” he said. “Just get out and have fun.”
The trees may be bare, but don’t think nature has completely abandoned us. There are still plenty of fresh produce and vegetables native to the Midwest to warm up your meals. The Midwest is home to grains, legumes and root vegetables this time of year. Take a look at the collage below to explore your winter options, and click on the plus signs for all the juicy details.
As the first real signs of winter poke their heads out this week, the walk to the grocery store may seem that much further away.
But have no fear. There’s no longer any reason to risk life and limb braving the elements for a six-pack of beer or a last minute dinner. Through the magic of the Internet, a variety of online grocery and food delivery options are available to Chicago residents.
Yeah, there’s a delivery fee. And you might pay a little more than at the traditional store, but sometimes it’s cold, or you’re tired or you just don’t feel like leaving the house again. During these unavoidable times, online grocery delivery may be just the ticket. Customers order products online and then later that day or within a few days (depending on the service), your groceries are delivered to you at home.
Peapod.com is one of the oldest and biggest such sites. Founded in Evanston and now based out of Skokie, Peapod began partnering with Chicago-area Jewel-Osco Food Stores to make deliveries in 1990. By the time the Internet swung into full gear in 1996, it created its own website and began delivering independently. The same year Peapod was named to the Inc. 500 list of fast-growing privately held U.S. companies. As the largest of the Chicago-area delivery services, if you live in the city, they probably have you covered.
There are a few large national services such as netgrocer.com, which offers a full range of goods, including frozen foods, for delivery or Amazon Grocery, (through amazon.com) which will deliver a large variety of nonperishable goods to your home or apartment. Whole Foods delivers its prepared foods through wholefoodsmarket.com. The locations in the Gold Coast, Lincoln Park and South Loop areas deliver in the city.
Don’t forget about the little guy. Many local businesses have been able to use the online and home delivery models with success in the city. Karen Keane, co-owner of Newleaf Natural Grocery in Rogers Park, said her store has been able to expand its home delivery service of organic fruit and vegetable boxes as well as specialty goods.
“In the last nine to 10 years, the whole idea of expanding the business by moving beyond the brick and mortar and using the Internet and social media has really been amazing for us. To go from a tiny little place to having a deliver zone that runs from Wilmette in the north to UIC in the south. That’s huge for a little tiny place like ours.”
Newleaf sells an average of 200 to 250 boxes of organic fruits and vegetables per week during the summer and up to 350 in the winter and spring months when there is less access to fresh produce available.
“We deliver downtown to a lot of offices,” Keane said. “Instead of a 3 p.m. sugar fix they have fruit in their refrigerator.”
Local businesses offer specialty products and other amenities: in the case of Newleaf, a delivery driver who has been making the rounds for the last nine years.
“He won’t put your groceries in the refrigerator but some people will give him a key and want him to drop it inside the door, and he’s just that trustworthy and great,” Keane said.
If a quick dinner from you’re favorite restaurant is all you can think about on that train ride home, restaurant delivery services like grubhub.com or seamless.com will have a meal delivered to your door roughly about an hour after you place an order from your computer, smartphone or tablet device. Again, the dreaded delivery fee may come into play, but sometimes it’s worth the extra $2-3 to have dinner meet you at home.
First there were onion blossoms and Chicago-style hotdogs. Then, it was bite-sized tapas, coffee shops and food trucks. And for the last few years, Asian-influenced frozen yogurt shops, cupcakes the size of softballs and petite desserts tucked neatly into shot glasses have safely found their way into the consumer lexicon and most of our bellies.
Our hungry team of dedicated reporters scoured the streets of the city to bring you a few new food trends that may be next to capture the city’s imaginative food cravings.
If your standard BLT sandwiches just aren’t cutting it anymore, you may want to get in on the latest craze: Vietnamese sandwich shops. Light, airy bread, called banh mi, filled with grilled meat is sure to quell your cravings. Think cucumber slices, pickled carrots and oven-roasted pork belly or Vietnamese sausage. Or try soy options with fried eggs, cheese and tofu. Whatever your preference, these sauteed chicken, pork meatball or spicy chili sauce sandwiches are sure to replace your standard brown-bagged lunch.
Nhu Lan in Lincoln Square, Ravenswood
2612 W. Lawrence Ave
Chicago, IL 60625, Map
Bun Mi Express in Lakeview
3409 N. Broadway St.
Chicago, IL 60657, Map
Bon Bon Vietnamese Sandwiches in Wicker Park
2333 W. North Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647, Map
When you’re ready to give up on your New Year’s diet resolution, your local bakery (or should we say cupcakery) should be your first stop. We know cupcakes have been around for a while, but we’re okay with that. At Molly’s Cupcakes in Lincoln Park, a portion of their profits go straight to local schools. That means you’re giving in and giving back all in one bite. Sweet!
Molly’s Cupcakes in Lincoln Park
2536 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614, Map
Crumbs Bake Shop in the Loop
303 W. Madison St.
Chicago, IL 60606, Map
Phoebe’s Cupcakes in Lakeview
3327 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL 60657, Map
Bring Your Own Beer, or B.Y.O.B., sushi is a hip way to experience the eclectic compositions of Japanese cuisine and still enjoy that whole bottle of wine without paying an arm and a leg. Enjoy the invigorating coolness of raw fish with sharp-tasting patches of wasabi without thinking about paying for that spicy, big-flavored wine.
Toro Sushi in Lincoln Park
2546 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60614, Map
Seadog Sushi Bar in East Ukrainian Village
1500 W Division St
Chicago, IL 60642, Map
5143 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60640, Map
You can perhaps call it the most colorful treat in a city known for its indulgent foods. Self-serve frozen yogurt, or Froyo, is a new alternative for ice-cream. You can put many spins on your treat by mixing flavors and adding spice – or calories – to it with toppings of fruit, nuts and candies. You can fill your cup with as much or little yogurt as you want because the payment is based on weight.
Your fingers are slightly frozen and mouth slightly parched from the cold dry air outside. As is the perennial wintry problem of living in Chicago. You can take refuge at home, but then you may miss out on six months of the culturally diverse food sprinkled throughout the city.
Solution: cultural-infused soup at home.
Chicago winter never seems as treacherous with a smooth heat-radiating bowl in your hands. Or even better the slow sipping of a steaming flavor-infused soup on your couch under a fleece blanket. Below are some easy make-at-home recipes that celebrate the city’s penchant for both never-ending winters and cultural flair. So try one out and spice up an otherwise frosty grey evening.
Sante Fe Soup
The ultimate definition of hearty. This Tex Mex soup is chock full of corn, tomatoes and beans. And the best part? It takes 10 minutes max to throw it all together. Click on the photo to the right to access a slideshow showing you how to make this easy dish.
Irish Potato Soup
Take everything that is good about a warm buttery baked potato, complete with sour cream and bacon, and then put it in a soup. So much more satisfying than the chilled salads your supposedly dieting friends are enjoying. Did I say bacon?
Italian Wedding Soup
Don’t worry, no one has to get married with this dish. It was named after the seeming perfect union between the soup’s green veggies and meat. While you can make it with a variety of meats, the most common Italian-American version is with meatballs.
Japanese Egg Drop Soup
This light soup goes well with almost any meal. So if you’re looking for comfort but light on the hearty, this one might be for you.
Finnish Beer Soup
Yes, beer soup. It may seem a bit suspect with mixing beer, cheese and cinnamon, but it’s a common and well-liked dish in the Nordic countries, including Finland and Sweden where it’s called biersuppe.
Mexican Taco Soup
The best part of this soup are the bits of tortilla that turn into small corn dumplings when submerged in this zesty meal.
Chinese Chicken Noodle Soup
A twist on the original. A spicy twist. The trademarks of this soup are the chicken (obviously) and the varied seasonings, including garlic, tahini, ginger and chili-garlic sauce. This is the soup to go far if you want a lot of punch in each bite. And who can say no to Asian noodles?
French Onion Soup
This one has been around for a long while, but it’s just as irresistible. Probably because it has the trifecta of French culinary goodness: cheese, butter and baguettes.
Hungarian Beef StewKathryn Ferrara/Chicago Loopster
While technically not a soup, this dish has all the makings of a comfort dish. And a filling one at that with its chunky meat, potatoes and noodles. If you’re looking for something similar but a thinner, try to traditional Hungarian goulash dish.
Greek Avgolemono Soup
Egg-lemon. That’s what that long word means in case you were wondering. With just four main ingredients, this just may be the easiest one of the bunch.
No one likes to think about getting attacked, let alone getting mugged, sexually assaulted or just plain punched in the face. But, if you’re walking the streets of Chicago solo, you need to be prepared to protect yourself. A few self-defense tactics can help keep you out of harm’s way.
You don’t need a black belt to fend off an attacker, even if they’re twice your size. Read on for kickass instructions on how to, er, kick ass.
No need to raise your fists for these first few steps. The most important thing to do before you leave the house or leave the store is choose to be aware of what’s going on around you.
Hide your valuables
Keep your iPod, phone, Kindle and any other electronics out of sight. If a potential attacker sees you’ve got these goods, that gives them incentive to mug you. Besides, if you’re playing with electronics as you walk you aren’t staying alert to your surroundings.
…but keep your pockets full of weapons
A ballpoint pen, rattail comb or a key can be used to stab an attacker. Some people hold their keys between their fingers as they walk home — bad idea. If you stab someone with your keys between your fingers, the key pointing out will go through your fingers and slice your tendons. Instead create a fist around a group of keys with one protruding out, so you can use more of a hacking motion and avoid hurting yourself.
You could also use a cellphone to strike an attacker; just keep it secure so it doesn’t fly out of your hand. Hold the phone and hit the bridge of the nose. Got a hairbrush? Swipe an attacker’s eyes with the bristles.
Change your route
Take in your surroundings and listen to your gut — this can provide you with a safer route home. Walk in areas that are well lit and well populated. Varying your route can keep someone from knowing where you’re going.
Be a bad victim
If someone is approaching you or giving you bad vibes, make sure they know you’re paying attention. Stand up straight with your gaze up. Many aggressors will back down if you maintain eye contact with them and aren’t intimidated. Walk with confidence.
Set a verbal boundary
When an attacker approaches, put your hands up and tell them ‘Stop. Leave me alone. I don’t want any problems.’ Use commands rather than questions to help prevent potential conflict.
People may not come to your aid if you yell “help!” because they could think you’re joking or may not want to get involved. Yelling “fire!”, however, concerns the people around you and they will try to figure out what’s going on. Not to mention yelling something as loud as you can helps you recognize danger and will fuel your get-away instincts.
…and if that fails, it’s time to get scrappy
An attacker can come out of nowhere, giving you little time to think and react. You can get attacked in different ways and from different directions. You need to go for their weakest points with the strongest parts of your body to deliver the most damage, so you can escape. I’ve summarized some tactics from three self-defense groups: Fight Like a Girl and Win, Girls Fight Back and Just Yell Fire. Don’t let the titles fool you. These aren’t just for the ladies. Man or woman, strong or weak, young or old — anyone can benefit from knowing how to open a can of whoopass.
Your attacker comes at you from the front
Feel the heel of your palm — that’s hard bone. Curl your fingers, pull down quickly and strike your attacker’s nose with the heel of your hand.
Knee to the groin
After the palm strike, your attacker may lean back, exposing the groin. Grab their shoulder and pull them toward you and then strike upwards with your thigh. Pulling your attacker towards you actually gives this move more power because you have two forces going in opposite directions.
Too far away? Try the scoop kick
Kick up into the groin and pull back with your toes.
Knee to the face
Your attacker could buckle over from the knee to the groin, giving you an opportunity to knee them in the face. Hold onto their head for stability and accuracy.
Elbow to the back
Another option if your attacker is buckled over is to strike the back with the point of your elbow.
Go for the eyes and ears
The eyes and ears are vulnerable. Stabbing one eye with the index, middle and ring finger slightly bent will temporary blind your attacker. Pulling the ear will cause incredible pain.
They attack you from the front and grab your arms
Flip your elbows out to give yourself more space and strike with a knee to the groin.
They attack you from behind and put their hands on your neck
Stick ‘em up
Swing your arms straight up towards the sky. It’s physically impossible for them to keep their grip on your neck.
Comb your hair
You can also bend your arm and move it up and back, as though you’re combing your hair, and move away from the attacker. This move releases their grip on your neck.
They attack you from behind and cover your arms
Slap the groin
If you’ve still got movement in your lower body, you can move your hips to one side, exposing their groin. Swing your arm backward slapping the groin (and possibly pulling forward).
Stomp the foot
Stomping on an attacker’s foot could cause them to let go if they have you in a bear hold.
If an attacker covers your arms, your lower half is still free. Swing your pelvis forward and strike them in the groin with your booty. This will knock the wind out of your attacker, man or woman. They may release you, allowing you to fend them off from the front.
Your attacker pushed you to the ground
Kick your attacker in the groin and then the face. They grabbed your foot? Use the other one. They grabbed both feet? Throw a tantrum like a two-year-old to get out of this hold or roll to one side like a steamroller.
If you want to learn more, you can watch the Human Weapon series on the History Channel or Just Yell Fire. Just Yell Fire is a self-defense film created for 11- to 19-year-old girls. The film’s creator, Dallas Jessup, wanted to teach girls how to escape bad situations and help prevent sexual assault and child abduction. Peruse these resources and (maybe) practice some moves with your friends and family. And with that, I’ll leave you to your badass self.
Are you ready to enjoy your holidays? Before leaving your home make sure you follow some basic safety tips so you can relax 100% while you are away.