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Trending Now: A Brief History of Ping-Pong

If you’re unsure how to spend an open afternoon or a few hours of free time, look no further than an Optima® community! Ping-pong is just one of the many entertaining activities included in each of our multi-family developments. And while you might remember playing the lively game as a kid, what you might not know is its rich history. Today, we’re exploring the ever-evolving story of ping-pong.

The popular pastime of ping-pong that we know today arose in England in the late 19th century. At the time, it was more widely known as table tennis. The fast-paced game originated in Victorian England as an adaptation of the popular lawn tennis game to transfer the activity inside for the cold winter. And unlike the simple ball and paddle used today, participants in the game’s early years would get creative with their equipment, regularly using champagne corks as the ball, cigar boxes as the paddle and books as the net. 

However, it wasn’t until 1890 that the pastime enjoyed by the wealthy class of England attracted a greater appeal when David Foster patented the first table tennis-style game. It quickly became a favorite across Europe, and Hungary held the first national championship in 1897. During this time, the game became termed ‘ping-pong’, originating from the onomatopoeic sound of the bat striking the ball and the ball hitting the table. 

The Optima Lakeview® game room, featuring a ping-pong table

While the sport slowed down in the early 20th century due to a lack of governance, it experienced a revival in the 1920s following the founding of the International Federation of Table Tennis and its first-ever world championships. After the game equipment transitioned from a hard bat to a sponge bat in the mid-20th century, elite players from Japan and China helped to revive interest in the sport once again. Concurrently, ping-pong diplomacy advanced, contributing to enhanced relationships with Eastern and Western nations. 

While many don’t know the rich history behind the sport today, ping-pong’s dominant presence across the world remains. Seoul, South Korea, was the city to first introduce ping-pong to the Olympics in 1988, and following that, the activity gradually turned professional in the 1990s. Today, it remains the most practiced sport in China and an integral part of the country’s culture.  

A semi final ping-pong match between Chin and Korea at the 2012 London Olympics

Ping-pong’s attraction is rooted in more than its entertainment value, as it’s known to boost the health of both the body and the mind. Everything from the speed to the ball placement is crucial in the game, which is why routine players are highly skilled in creative and critical thinking. The fast back and forths and short distance nature of the sport also help with improved flexibility, hand-eye coordination and balance over time. 

Constantly bringing together people from different walks of life, the game of ping-pong embodies our commitment to connection and wellness within each of our communities.

Trending Now: Euchre Anyone?

Imagine a beautiful afternoon in the Optima Verdana® game room, with sunlight flooding the space and the scent of hot coffee and fresh cookies wafting. Sounds like a perfect setting for a rousing game of Euchre.

If you’re not a fan yet, euchre is the faster and wilder cousin of bridge. Both are four-person games with two players on each team that involve bidding, trumping and taking tricks.. As we’ve shared previously, bridge is methodical, complex and mathematically precise. It is often played in near silence, since players need to focus their energies on accounting for all 52 cards in the deck. In contrast, euchre only uses 24 cards, making the game simpler and easier to play, and leaves lots of opportunity for levity. Of the 24 cards — the nines, tens, jacks, queens, kings and aces — only 20 are played each hand, since four cards remain face-down in the “kitty,” increasing the role that chance plays in the game.

Euchre has been played in North America since the early 19th century, and was widely regarded as our national card game. Most researchers agree that it originated in Alsace as “Juckerspiel” and was brought to the New World by German-speaking immigrants. It’s also fascinating that game manufacturers in the U.S. added the first “Joker” to decks of playing cards as a glorified Jack. Once you dig into the game, all of this will make perfect sense!

Optima Verdana’s sky deck features various game rooms among the pool, sauna and spa.
Optima Verdana’s sky deck features various game rooms among the pool, sauna and spa.

As with many analog in-person pastimes, Euchre waned in popularity as mobility and technology offered myriad alternatives for recreation and entertainment. In recent years, however, the trend has started to reverse — in large measure as a response to Covid’s forced isolation. Today, people of all ages are forming weekly Euchre clubs and regular meetups, and once again the game is drawing people together for challenge, camaraderie and relaxation. At Optima Verdana, residents have the luxury of engaging with neighbors in private game rooms, book and cooking clubs, yoga classes and other neighborhood volunteer opportunities!

So while you wait for the card tables to be set up at Optima Verdana®, start learning the rules!

A Brief History of Outdoor Living Spaces

While interior spaces make an argument for being the heart of a home, outdoor areas – like private terraces and sky decks – contribute space just as important for residents, especially in cities. At Optima, we recognize and share this appreciation for access to nature, which is one of the reasons residents in all of our communities have access to vibrant private terraces and communal rooftop sky decks. Today, we’re diving more into the history behind the beloved outdoor extensions. 

A private terrace at Optima Lakeview

Balconies and terraces have been an integral aspect of architecture across the world for millennia. Thanks to their assistance in increasing air circulation and illuminating the interiors of buildings, Ancient Greece helped popularize the functionality of balconies more than 2,000 years ago. Balconies and terraces continued as popular architectural additions across Europe for centuries, but it wasn’t until the year 1500 that the rooftop terrace was created, transferring the lush area from the facade of buildings to the roof. 

While these outdoor spaces were popular across the world, utilizing outdoor space for leisure wasn’t a focus for many homes until the mid-20th century. Before this, outdoor spaces, backyards, were popularly used to support families with livestock and gardens. But, as time shifted, so did the purpose of outdoor living spaces, changing from areas made to sustain families to those made to support leisure activities and entertainment. 

The sky deck at Optima Lakeview

Today, balconies, terraces and sky decks remain integral to the architecture of urban landscapes, functioning as modern-day backyards and greenspaces for city residents. Since their inception, outdoor living spaces have continued to evolve with time, changing purpose and look, and we can’t wait to see what innovations in the coming years will bring for design, architecture and sustainability.

Wilmette’s 150th Anniversary

As construction continues at Optima Verdana, we continue to embrace the culture of Wilmette and its surroundings. Throughout the year, the village has celebrated its Sesquicentennial Anniversary through various projects and events, including the Sesquicentennial Photography Project. However, the village is gearing up to bring its celebration to its pinnacle on September 10 at the Wilmette 150 Celebration. 

The event is a commemoration of the countless celebrations and projects Wilmette has hosted throughout the year. Along with the Photography Project, community members plan on sharing the stories of local history in the Voices of Wilmette: An Oral History Project. In honor of the celebration, the Wilmette Public Library is hosting various events educating participants on the history of the village, including one that highlighted German immigration to the Chicago area and another featuring the history of early Illinois Settlement on September 29.  

The festivities kick off in Downtown Wilmette at 11 a.m. THE Wilmette Block Party will include music from the community band, remarks from the Village President and a parade led by the Loyola Academy Marching Band, and is free for all attendees. Along with the entertainment, the celebration will feature a Kid Zone and a variety of food options from local restaurants. 

Downtown Wilmette in the 1940s, Courtesy of Wilmette Historical Society
Downtown Wilmette in the 1940s, Courtesy of Wilmette Historical Society

However, the celebration doesn’t stop there. After submissions end for the Sesquicentennial Photography Project, the Wilmette Historical Museums will curate an exhibition using the chosen photos throughout their museum and in other venues throughout Wilmette. 

To learn more about THE Wilmette Block Party and Wilmette’s 150th Anniversary, visit their website here.

Furniture Spotlight: Table E-1027

One of the ways we honor the Forever Modern promise and keep it relevant at Optima is by curating both public and residential spaces in our communities with timeless furniture. Take a stroll through any of our Optima communities and you will find the Table E-1027 in beautiful settings of pristine Modernist furniture. Let’s take a closer look.

Table E-1027 is an adjustable steel and glass table designed by Irish designer Eileen Gray in 1927. Originally created for her home in the south of France by the same name, the table has since become one of Gray’s most famous designs.

The table’s design celebrates the simplicity of Modernist ideals of form and function. The table consists of two concentric forms of tubular stainless steel that are joined by two vertical tubes to adjust the height — with one of the forms serving as an adjustable arm and tempered glass functioning as the table’s surface. The story behind the design is that Gray originally conceived it for her sister, who routinely ate breakfast in bed. With a traylike surface that could be positioned comfortably over the bed, her sister could enjoy her morning routine while avoiding dropping crumbs on the linens.

Table E-1027

Without question, Table E-1027 is one of Gray’s most famous pieces, even though she was a prolific designer. In the decades since it became available commercially, Table E-1027 has come to represent the epitome of Modernist design. It is multipurpose, adjustable and portable. It works just as well in a bedroom as in a living room or sitting area. And finally, it brings refinement and tastefulness to any interior setting.

At Optima, we’re proud to include Table E-1027 in a host of spaces and arrangements for our residents and their visitors to enjoy.

Optima Communities: Exploring Wilmette’s Rich History

With groundbreaking underway for Optima Verdana in Wilmette, IL, we’re discovering this vibrant community and all it has to offer — including its rich history.

Bordering Lake Michigan and located 14 miles north of the Chicago Loop, Wilmette is recognized as one of the most prestigious communities in the nation. It started as a small settlement on Chicago’s North Side in 1872 and by the mid-twentieth century, it emerged as a distinctive, desirable suburb with unique vitality, extraordinary walkability along tree-lined, brick streets and a character all its own. 

Fast forward to today, when Wilmette, with a population of nearly 30,000, has fully matured into a vibrant community. Small businesses and lively restaurants flourish, each bringing a refreshing offering to this thriving, 21st century livable village. The lakefront, parks and gardens are all within easy reach. Culture abounds with music, theater, art and cinema. And the Wilmette schools are considered among the best in the country.  

As luck would have it, 2022 marks the 150th anniversary of Wilmette. As celebrations for this important milestone continue throughout the year, Wilmette is proud to showcase its reputation as future-facing while showing a deep appreciation for the past, including a host of events that shine a light on its delightfully eclectic history.

Bahá'í House of Worship
Bahá’í House of Worship

Mark your calendars…

To start the sesquicentennial year, all are welcome to the Wilmette Historical Museum’s  annual meeting and lecture via Zoom. John Jacoby, former Village President and Wilmette Beacon columnist, will discuss his recent book Wilmette at 150, a collection of essays on Wilmette. Mr. Jacoby’s talk will explore the lost landmarks of Wilmette. Learn about the stories of the significant buildings and other structures that are no longer in existence, including some of the oldest in Wilmette, such as the Big Tree and the Unity Church. Hear fascinating tales of Dr. Martin Luther King’s visit to the North Shore, the German POW camp in Harms Woods, the colorful history of No Man’s Land, the perseverance of world pushup champion Chick Lister and Public Enemy Number One Baby Face Nelson’s demise on Walnut Avenue.

You can stay connected to all the sesquicentennial happenings on the Wilmette at 150 website. And to attend the meeting and lecture, which will take place Sunday, January 30, 2022, from 2:00pm – 3:30pm,

Register HERE.

Staying Well at Home

In the face of adversity, nothing is more inspiring than seeing everyone come together and get creative pursuing at-home health and wellness initiatives. As we continue to explore new ways to stay active and entertained, here are a few of our favorite ways to staying well at home: 

Take a Digital Fitness Class

Keeping up your fitness routine — or establishing a new habit — is a great way to kickstart your morning and get those endorphins pumping. When it comes to digital fitness classes to help guide you, the options are endless. Good Housekeeping recently shared their all-encompassing list of 25+ free live stream workout classes to try while quarantined, including high-intensity boxing, toning dance parties, yoga, meditation and more. Our own Optima communities are hosting classes too — Optima Signature is putting on virtual fitness classes like pilates and core fitness through Chitown Trainer, while Optima Sonoran Village organized a patio workout series via the building’s Instagram

Organize an Online Meet-Up

Social distancing still allows for plenty of room to get creative with your social gatherings. Making the time to keep up with friends and family is a great way to boost your mood  — and theirs. The increasingly popular video conferencing platform Zoom allows up to 100 people in one meeting. Try gathering your coworkers for a digital happy hour, or getting your friends together for a creative themed night, such as a Chopped-inspired cooking challenge or a Bob Ross-style paint along.

Terrace at Optima Sonoran Village
Terrace at Optima Sonoran Village

Cultivate Your Green Thumb

Satisfy your spring fever and brighten up your home with your own personal garden. Gardening is a meditative task, and the result is lush greenery that is proven to boost your spirit. At Optima, many of our units feature private terraces, which are the perfect place for you and your new plant friends to soak up the sun. But even without an outdoor space, the rising container gardening trend allows anyone to have a green thumb at home. To help our residents get started, the property management team at Optima Sonoran Village even delivered a succulent plant to each unit.

As we continue to spend our days at home, finding ways to stay grounded and focusing on our wellness is as important as ever. Stayed tuned for more Optima features on at-home initiatives.

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Maintenance Supervisor

Glencoe, IL





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