Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hello SJ-R readers!

Welcome to new readers from the State Journal Register. Please look around a bit, leave comments and ask questions. I'm so glad you are here. Don't forget to subscribe to Central Illinois Life in your feed reader or add it to your favorites.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

HEY you blooooooooooooggers!

Want to explore the seat of history (Lincoln and Obama!) with me? The Illinois Bureau of Tourism has set up a day in Springfield IL for a family-friendly blogger meet-up. Here's the 411.

Mark your calendars (and leave me a comment so I can get you on the list) to join us in celebrating the great state of Illinois in Springfield on September 13th from 10:30 – 3:30 p.m.
With the presidential elections upon us this fall you can Blaze Your Own Trail by joining us to experience Illinois’ unique tie to presidential history and culture, as well as the popular fall events, scenic drives and agritourism opportunities provided to travelers this season.

Below you will find the itinerary details for you and your family to enjoy at the Blaze Your Own Trail event.
Saturday September 13th, 2008

10:00 am Welcoming remarks at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum from State Historian Tom Schwartz. Enjoy the museum at your own pace, with Mr. Schwartz on hand to answer questions.

11:45 am Brief Springfield Trolley tour of the downtown area

12:00 pm Hosted lunch at the Pizza Machine RestaurantAfter lunch we have setup three different options to choose so that you can pick what is most interesting to you!

*Option 1
1:45 pm Visit Lincoln Home National Historic Site
2:30 pm Visit Lincoln Herndon Law Office(Visit the Old State Capitol (where Obama announced his campaign and his VP) if time is permitted!)

*Option 2
1:45 pm Visit the State Museum (this is the option I'm picking)
2:30 pm Visit the Dana Thomas House (the governor is closing this historic site)

*Option 3
1:45 pm Lincoln History Walk
From here we will reconvene at Peases Candy at the end of the day, where you and your family can enjoy everything the city of Springfield has to offer on your own!

Come meet me and my twitter fabulous twin.
Chicago bloggers, this is the perfect opportunity to take Amtrak down. I'm looking at you, Byrneunit.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

State park closings

Dear Readers, The governor has decided to close indefinitely many central Illinois state parks and historic sites.

When I moved to Illinois I was astonished that entry to the state parks here is free. You can come and go as often as you like. When selecting to live in Le Roy, one factor was the proximity to Moraine View State Park. It's no Garden of the Gods or Turkey Run, but living 10 minutes away from a forest and a beach is better than having no access to green space. We also live 25 minutes from Weldon Springs State Park which also has a forest, a lake, and a restaurant.

State parks like Moraine View and Weldon Springs are a big part of what makes central Illinois livable. We may have to drive everywhere. We may have a hard time finding good restaurants. We may have to rely on the big box stores more than we like. But we have lots of access to green space, well maintained and well loved parks. During my times as a stay at home parent, I relied on the free state park system for entertainment, exercise, and introducing my child to nature. Closing our state parks, even in winter, hurts central Illinois where it counts.

I will be writing the governor about the closings. I'll copy my state legislators, but frankly I don't think the General Assembly is the problem here.
You can e-mail the governor here.
I'll send a real letter to his Chicago office:
100 W. Randolph St., Ste. 16-100
Chicago, IL 60601-3220

If you write, remember to address your letter to either the Honorable Rod Blagojevich or Governor Blagojevich. In the salutation use, Dear Mr. Governor or Dear Governor Blagojevich.

Keep it one page and one issue. Tell the governor that you are a constituent and identify the issue about which you are writing. Hit your three most important points and flesh them out. Tell the governor why state park closings matter in your community. Include a personal story that shows how this issue affects you and your family. If you have a relationship with the governor (voted for him, contributed money or time, know him personally) include that information.
Don't forget to spell check!

You are the expert. How often do you think the governor has enjoyed your local state park? Be courteous, but don't be afraid to take a firm position.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

South Side Cafe

This hole in the wall diner is easy to pass over when looking around the Charleston Square, but you should give it a try. Service is quick and friendly. The meals are basic diner food, but better than average and the portions are generous. The burger got a thumbs up from my co-worker and we both thought the biscuits and gravy looked good. Prices are cheap and they do not accept any credit or debit cards.

Monday, September 1, 2008

September Festivals!

Arcola Broom Corn Festival! Sept 5, 6, and 7. Carnival, parade, arts & crafts, live music, beer & wine. Arcola has one of the best little downtowns in central Illinois. Don't miss the great prices on antiques at the Emporium.

Bruegala! Sept 5 and 6. Eighth annual festival of international beer held at the Interstate Center in Bloomington. Over 200 beers, six bands, and a bean bags (aka corn hole) tournament. Sounds perfect to me.

Havana Oktoberfest! Sept 5 and 6. German foods, arts & crafts, and carnival. Sept. 5: Oktoberfest Parade kicks off at 6 p.m. Muddy River Brass Band, Phat Kitten. Sept. 6: Polka Pace Race and 5k Walk/Run (sign-up 6:30 a.m.) at 8 a.m., followed by pancake and sausage breakfast; 3-on-3 basketball tournament, 10 a.m.; Eddie Korosa Jr. and the Boys from Illinois, Bob Dozak Band, Still Kick'n with Angela Martin.

Mt Pulaski Fall Festival. Sept 4, 5 and 6. Civil War-era encampment. Cavalry rides in festival parade; Regiment Band performs on courthouse lawn; 1854 Cast Iron Tombstone Trial reenactment in the courthouse courtroom. You shouldn't miss the donut eating contest and central Illinois band Poprocks always puts on a killer show.

Scovill Zoo fall festival! Sept 6 and 7 in Decatur. Activities, entertainment, animals, and a teddy bear repair and picnic.

Taste of Country Fair Festival & Rt 66 Reunion, Sept 5, 6, and 7 in Lexington. Parades, juried fine art show, antiques & crafts. Local food vendors and entertainment.

Chrisman Days Celebration, Sept 5, 6, and 7 in downtown Chrisman. Fish fry, garage sales, flea market, horse show, and entertainment.

New Salem Traditional Music Festival. Sept 6 and 7. Jam sessions, bluegrass, old time music. Lincoln's New Salem historic site.

Atlanta Fall Festival. Sept 11, 12, and 13 throughout Atlanta. Features music, a carnival, free petting zoo, car show, art & craft vendors, great food and pie & cake baking contest/auction.

Abraham Lincoln National Railsplitting Festival. Sept 12, 13, and 14 at the Logan County fairgrounds in Lincoln. This is a can't miss festival with railsplitting, corn shucking, tomahawk throwing and a Civil War ball.

Tower Hill Community Fall Festival! Sept 19, 20, 21. Friday, Talent Show & Karaoke. Saturday, Car & Motorcycle Show, Tractor Show, Produce "500", Kids Competition & Games, Garden Tractor Pull, Parade, Auction, Scavenger Hunt, Live Music. Sunday, Demolition Derby!!!

The Touchstone Energy Hydrofest NBRA National Hydroplane Boat Races. Sept 19, 20, 21 at the Wilborn Creek Recreation Area. This is one of the best race sites in the country with the fastest competitors. Don't miss this exciting event.

Marshall Autumn Fest! Sept 19, 20, and 21 in downtown Marshall. Arts & crafts, car show, you get the picture.

2nd Annual Gourd Festival, Sept 20, 21 (9 am to 4:30 pm) at the Clinton Jr. High School. Gourd arts & crafts. Free.

Arts in Central Park, Sept 20, 21, and 22 in downtown Decatur. Annual juried art festival.

Railroad Days: Monticello Railway Museum, Sept 20, 21. Ride the vintage passenger and freight trains as many times as you want. $12 adults, $10 seniors, and $8 children between the ages of 2 and 12.

Apple and Pork Festival! Sept 27 and 28 in Clinton. A true fall festival prominently featuring the foods of the season. Wear sturdy shoes and don't miss the fine art booths.

World Wide Day of Play, Sept 27 in Bloomington-Normal. Tipton Park, Anderson Park, and at the Children’s Discovery Museum. HUNDREDS of exciting ways to play. Visit one or all of these three locations and enjoy free, fun activities! Everything is FREE! In addition to the activities, there will be great prizes and goodie bags.

This list is not exhaustive. Please leave a comment to add your local September festival information.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Central Illinois Labor Day weekend festivals and events

Arthur Cheese Festival! See my photos from last year here. Don't miss the cheese curling or the cheese eating contest.

Live music in Decatur! Floweezy, a Senor DeVivo reunion, and many more bands. A benefit for Angie Morris at the Elks Lodge on Parkway Drive. Sunday beginning at 3 pm. This is where I'll be!

Live music in Champaign! 56 Hope Rd plays the Canopy Club Sunday night with Tea Leaf Green beginning at 6 pm.

The Illinois Symphony plays in Springfield at Douglas Park on Saturday and in Bloomington at Miller Park on Sunday.

Get your Abraham Lincoln history fill at the tenth annual Prairieland Chautauqua in Jacksonville.

In west central Illinois, one of the oldest festivals is the Nauvoo Grape Festival. Lots of opportunities for wine tasting as well as more traditional fall festival activities like tractor pulls, an auto show, and midway rides. Don't delay, enter to play mud volleyball today!

Coal Creek Days Aug 29, 30, 31 at Coal Creek Pioneer Village in Pana features frontier life demonstrations.

National Sweetcorn Festival, Hoopeston, Aug 28 thru Sept 1. One of the last chances for a demolition derby this year!

Pittsfield Fall Festival, Aug 29, 30. Parade on Saturday.

Taste of Beardstown, Aug 30.

All weekend the 21st annual Popcorn festival, Casey, Fairview Park featuring a Rod Stewart tribute band.

Allerton Music Barn Festival at Allerton Park near Monticello, IL.

Millikin Decatur Symphony Orchestra plays Monday, Sept 1 at 6:00 pm in the Nelson Park Amphitheater in Decatur.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Giraffe Confectionery

Giraffe Confectionery on the square in Charleston has Kidorable rain coats marked down from $27.95 to $6 in sizes ranging from 2T to 6. Designs include frogs, dinosaurs, fireman, and bees. We chose the uber adorable frog style.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Kathy's Kitchen

While visiting Vahling Vineyard near Shelbyville this week I discovered the pickled delights of Kathy's Kitchen.

I picked out a blue ribbon winning jar of pickles and dill pickled asparagus. Both are delightful. The owner of the vineyard told me the pickles have some sort of process every day for 15 days and are ultimately hand packed. She said they are a very old fashioned pickle. They are very tangy and sweet and delicious. The asparagus are surprising crisp and are an excellent snack with a lager style beer.

I imagine you can find Kathy's Kitchen products (including jelly and relish) at the Springfield area farmer's markets. Here's the contact information.
Kathy's Kitchen
201 N. Pitt
Virginia, IL 62691
Ph: 217-452-3035

Monday, August 25, 2008

Central Illinois Life Round-up #18

CIRCA blog is a great compliment to the central Illinois blogosphere, the writers at CIRCA keep you up to date on art, music, and events with a Peoria nexus.

OMG folks, did you know Mocha Momma, THE fabulous, insightful Mocha Momma is a central Illinois blogger? I was shocked to find that out when my sister spent some time with her in Chicago. I had just read an article in Bitch magazine about her.

Find out what's up at the Urbana farmer's market at Urbana's Market at the Square blog.

Don't forget squirrel hunting! Um, yeah, I hear the squirrel ravioli is good.

You can find anything on the Internet, for example, a website to post water tower photos. Look kids, the Morton water tower. Although, when driving around the prairie I tend to use water towers as markers.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Spicery Tea Room

This week's trip to Tuscola included lunch at the Spicery Tea Room. It's located at the corner of Scott St and Main St near downtown. Downtown Tuscola is on the OPPOSITE side of Tuscola from the outlet mall. Drive west from the interstate to the last stoplight, then turn right. Go about 2 blocks to the Spicery and about 10 blocks to downtown.

The Spicery Tea Room serves heart healthy meals with flair. Nothing is deep fried, no burgers here either. What they do serve are several complex salads, quiche, casserole, soups, and desserts. A generous amount of fruit and veggies are included in all the meals. Lunches start around $7 and desserts (a MUST here) are around $3. The ice tea is fresh-brewed and high-quality and a wide variety of hot teas are available. The presentation is quaint. The soups are served in antique tea cups and the dishes are mismatched antiques china and glass.

I hear the owners also own Winterberries in downtown Tuscola, a large antique store, and the recipes used were Donna's (the owner) mother's recipes. The restaurant is completely furnished in antiques from the register to the specials chalkboard to the tables and chairs.

All the soups were tempting me, but I decided on the lemon asparagus and it was a delicious pureed soup. A cold strawberry soup was also available. Gah! Too many enticing choices.