All the Best Things at Stumble & Relish

The area around Dempster Street and Chicago Avenues in Evanston is quickly becoming a magnet for fabulous gifts, charming decor items and unusual jewelry.  Only a few months ago the store stumble & relish quietly opened and considerably cheered up the block. Owned and managed by the mother and daughter team of Jaime Leonardi and Paulette Leffler, this wonderful store is packed with merchandise artfully arranged and spanning a range of price points.

The owners love to feature local artisans, especially those that work with eco-friendly and recycled materials. They’ve scoured estate sales and flea markets for unusual and repurposed display items such as quirky distressed doors, liquor bottles and all types of tables. stumble & relish oozes charm right from the storefront window, and the unique graphic flourishes add the right amount of exuberance.

There is so much to see here. stumble & relish resides at 1310 A Chicago Avenue just north of Dempster Street and a block east of the Purple Line el stop.

Surviving Survival

Save the date. Mark Tuesday, February 25 at 7PM as the date to meet Evanston author Laurence Gonzales discuss his non-fiction work, Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience, at the Evanston Public Library, Main Branch.


Back in the day I did a bit of adventure travel and became acutely conscious of how fragile the boundary is between robust health and incapacitation. I did not experience anything similar to the horrific and horrifying stories in this book, but there were close calls. If you are a fan of Into Thin Air (Jon Krakauer), Wild (Cheryl Strayed) and Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition on The Endurance (Alfred Lansing), these stories will fascinate. I was keen to understand the science and neuroscience behind why and how some people survive and others do not. 

Gonzales is a clear writer and excels at making complex subjects understandable. The last chapter of the book, “The Rules of Life,” serve as a primer for getting through the trauma and crap that comes with being human.  Most of us, thank God, will never suffer the way the subjects of this book have. But everyone who is actively living their life will at some point experience disappointment, suffering and failure. Many of us will need to reinvent ourselves, either in our careers or personal lives or perhaps both. And as these compelling stories prove, loss does not need to lead to defeat. It becomes part of the story, but it need not become the story.

Look Better Naked

akemi fitness.jpgLast week I stumbled upon one of Evanston’s best kept fitness secrets: Akemi Fitness Method. Jocelyn Davis, Akemi’s owner and founder, leads an array of efficient, enthusiastic and effective exercise classes. If you’ve ever wanted tighter abs, sculpted arms and a firm behind, I urge you to take a class. I did and I am hooked.

Jocelyn has a hard-core group of devotees, but her bubbly nature makes every newbie comfortable. Jocelyn has taught and danced for nearly 20 years. Akemi is her first solo enterprise, which she opened almost five years ago. If the depth and breadth of her experience doesn’t convince you, a skeptic needs no better proof than observing Jocelyn’s toned physique.

Attendees must pre-register, which you can do right on the website. The studio offers one class at a time; it’s not a gym where people go to ‘hang out’ and not work. My classmates arrived a few minutes before class started and were already wearing their workout gear. They were all friendly and chatty, but once the class started all eyes were on Jocelyn. She started the class on time and did not let up for an hour. The music was hip and upbeat and Jocelyn offers suggestions and corrections if needed as she leads the class. Of course we took water breaks and stretched out in child’s pose often, but I felt the intensity immediately. I also felt it the next day, but it’s a good kind of muscle pain that proves my body was actually working…and more out of shape than I realized. With a variety of classes offered each morning and most evenings, there are several instructors. Each one has been personally trained by Jocelyn.

The studio resides on the South side of Davis Street between Hinman and Chicago, tucked into the alley to the left of the dry cleaner as you are facing the street. (The exact address is 518 1/2 Davis Street.)

Kicking Off 2014 With Inspiration: Meet Evelyn

Evelyn Winokur loves her life. Three days a week she drives from her home in Evanston to her job in Buffalo Grove, getting in around 10 and leaving around 3.  Her fellow employees and customers adore her. In her free time, when not visiting friends or attending a lecture at Oakton Community College, she reads news magazines or watches C-SPAN. A hard worker, she received her most recent raise in April.  This summer her colleagues surprised her on her birthday with a cake made of cupcakes.

Evelyn is 90.

A lifelong Chicagoan and an Evanston resident for 61 years, Evelyn graduated from Tuley High School (now Roberto Clemente Community Academy) in the West Town neighborhood on the Near North Side.  She attended Wright Junior College, where she met her husband, Perry, a fellow student.  They eloped in 1943 after a yearlong courtship.

After the United States entered World War II, Perry enlisted in the Army as a machinist.  With his knowledge of math and air transport command, he traveled to various Army bases to teach and train infantrymen.  Evelyn always found civil service jobs on the bases and together they made the best of being so far away from their families.  “I knew nothing when I got married.  I really grew up during our time in the Army,” recalls Evelyn.

In 1946 they returned home to Chicago and lived in the Humboldt Park neighborhood.  Perry taught at Chicago Technical College and Evelyn went to work at Billboard Magazine.  An entrepreneur and businessman, Perry started servicing and buying vending machines.  Together the young couple would travel by bus around the city to replenish the empty machines.  Evelyn admits, “It was hard work, but we were young.  You do what you have to do.”

Children soon followed: a daughter, Barbara, and Steven, the first of two sons. In 1952 the family moved to Evanston and three years later Evelyn gave birth to their youngest child, Mark.

Evelyn reveled in her time as a stay at home mom and threw her energies into the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement and gathering funds for UNICEF through her children’s schools. A few years later Evelyn joined Perry in a new business and worked with him until his death in 1986.  They had been happily married for 44 years.

A young widow, Evelyn was restless with energy.  She did not want to travel or pursue new hobbies; she wanted to work.  With her family’s encouragement, Evelyn joined her son Steven’s business, First Delta Group.  Her responsibilities include some clerical work and making sure customers are satisfied with their orders and service.

Five years ago her granddaughter Laurie joined the company.  Working with both her son and granddaughter brings new joy and pride to Evelyn.  Today she is the proud grandmother of four and the great-grandmother of two.

Evelyn Winokur

Evelyn attributes her personal longevity to her penchant for staying busy and intellectually engaged. She refuses to retire and swears she would “wither” if she were ‘forced’ to stay home. Her son Steven happily admits, “She runs the place.”

Carpe diem!