Archive for  September 2009

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*Today’s post is part of a series of weekly posts focusing on the Seven Wonders of Illinois. As a reminder, be sure to take part in our Seven Wonders Photo Contest.

Baha'i Temple - Wilmette, IL

Baha'i Temple - Wilmette, IL

I’ll never forget the first time I saw the Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette. I had seen many photos of the beautiful Temple and was looking forward to seeing it in person. As the car wound its way along Sheridan Road I was surprised when the bright white structure suddenly appeared alongside lovely homes and an abundance of trees – wow – it’s just magnificent.

If you’re a photo buff you’ll love this place, where you can hardly take a bad photo–they all look great! (I took this photo with my little cell phone a few days ago.) But pictures don’t do it justice. The website has a link to a 360-degree virtual tour of the interior and exterior. But even the virtual tour doesn’t give you a true sense of the beauty and peacefulness you’ll find.

The auditorium (worship area) of the Baha’i House of Worship and gardens are open every day from 6:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. and the visitors center and bookstore (downstairs) are open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Brief prayer services,known as devotional programs, are held in the auditorium daily at 12:30 p.m. They only last about 15 minutes or up to 30 minutes on Sundays when the choir sings. There’s no clergy in the Baha’i Faith and the prayers and readings for the devotional programs are chosen from the Sacred Texts of the major world religions, including those from the Baha’i Faith, and read by volunteers. If you want to be a reader, call the staff at the Temple at: 847-853-2300 and ask to talk with Bridgette.

There’s a sign on the spacious lawn that says, “All are welcome” and this isn’t just a passing phrase – it’s true! There’s no congregation associated with the Temple. It was actually built by the Baha’is as a place of worship and private meditation for everyone in the community – not just members of the Baha’i Faith.

Once you visit, you’ll know why this sacred space was chosen as one of the Seven Wonders of Illinois. As described in the ABC-7 News report when the designation was announced in 2007, “The Baha’i House of Worship is an architectural gem glistening white against blue skies.”

Whether you come for the architectural beauty, the photo opportunities, or to find peace and tranquility, you won’t be disappointed.

Associate Director, Baha’i Temple


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Entrance to Chicago Gourmet

Many of those who immerse themselves in the local food and drink world, and even the everyday local food and wine fanatic heard rumblings from last year’s Chicago Gourmet inaugural debut. While I didn’t have the opportunity to attend the festival last year, the opening party, which I did attend, spoke volumes for what actually transpired throughout the weekend – not enough food, poor event flow…the list goes on. Based on this word of mouth reaction, my hopes for this year’s event were not necessarily at the Grand Cru level…. but boy was I happily surprised.

Since I cannot personally compare this years festival against last years event, I paired the experience from my own at the largest food and wine festival in the world – South Beach Wine and Food Festival. Here’s my run down for why the Chicago Gourmet nets quite well against the top dog of food festivals.

More Link

A fall color drive, that is.  Just jump in the car, turn on some tunes and get ready for a wonderful fun-filled day!  That’s what thousands of Illinoisans do every fall, year after year, mile after mile.  As the air turns cooler and the leaves begin to morph gently from soft greens to vibrant oranges, red and yellows, a seasonal phenomenon called the Color Drive kicks into full gear.

Photo Courtesy:

Photo Courtesy:

Cities, counties and even entire regions band together for weekend (or multiple weekend) jaunts where crafters and artisans gather to showcase their talents alongside local fruit and vegetable producers sharing their bountiful treats. Treasure hunters wait anxiously for a chance to dig through tables of antiques, while children tug impatiently on their parents’ hands, anticipating a ride on mini-coaster or maybe a piece of delicious candy floss or caramel apple.

But the attraction that sparks it all is the namesake of these season festivals…the color!  Illinois has some of the most beautiful scenery around, 365 days per year.  But in the fall?  When the leaves have turned?  Wow!  It can be simply amazing!

Imagine being able to get your holiday shopping started (or even completed), eating fabulous food and experiencing some of the prettiest hills, valleys and quaint little towns, all at once.  That’s what a color drive has to offer you!

Fall Leaves<p>Image: <a href=You can spend as little or as long as you wish at each stop before traveling on down the winding roadways, just a few scant miles, to the next adventure.  And your trip can be for a morning, a weekend, or even longer.  It’s all up to you as there are no rules to follow…just your own whim and whimsy.  It’s a perfect getaway.

But don’t take my word for it.  Experience it for yourself.  Two of my favorite Color Drives are happening soon. First, there is the Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive, which travels throughout Fulton County, following the Spoon River from London Mills to where it exits the county to the south and east.  This festival is two weekends long, running October 3rd and 4th, and 10th and 11th, so there’s plenty of time to immerse yourself in the wonders of the area. The second festival (and one that I participate in every year) is the Pike County Color Drive, which is scheduled for October 17th and 18th, this year.  It encompasses all of Pike County, with almost every single town participating in the fun and festivities.

Also check with your local Chambers of Commerce and Visitor’s Bureaus to see if there’s a Fall Color Drive right in your own backyard. Then just pack a picnic lunch, grab some music, and hit the road.  You won’t be disappointed!

– Gina Jones

Click here to read more posts from Gina.

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Those looking to take their tongue out for a treat need look no further than a relatively small town nestled in southwest Cook County.

In Lemont resides the heavyweight champion of hard-hitting, perfectly seasoned fries.  Lemon Tree’s butter garlic fries (known as BGs to the locals) will redefine the way you think about thin strips of deep fried potatoes.  Simply put, these are serious fries, folks.  That’s why I can’t just go around recommending BGs to everyone.   If the following statements apply to you, you’re probably not mentally, emotionally or physically prepared for the BGs experience.

  • You consider the idea of taking a shower in garlic sauce to be “gross”
  • Grease isn’t appealing to you
  • You  plan on opening your mouth around humans within 48 hours upon ingestion of BGs
  • You’re nursing, pregnant or may become pregnant
  • You’ve never wrestled to a draw or better against an adult grizzly bear

If you can get past these small obstacles, you’ll be pleasantly rewarded because Lemon Tree’s BGs will toss your tongue into a ring of flavor and tee off on your taste buds for all 12 rounds.

Savory butter garlic fries lie waiting for you in this cozy building

Savory butter garlic fries lie waiting for you in this cozy building

No joke; they’re fantastic.  Most times when you order fries, there are the five or six all-stars that taste worlds better than the rest – not the case with BGs.  Each BG is just as delicious as the next.  And if you do find a neglected fry that hasn’t been properly seasoned/soaked in BG glory, it’s okay.  At the bottom of each paper container you’ll find a pool of BG juice to appropriately dress your naked fry.  Dynamite.

Well, I hope I didn’t undersell Lemon Tree’s renowned BGs.  If I did, please don’t let it dissuade you from trying them.  If you’re ever traveling on I-55 to or from Chicago and the south exit for Lemont pops into view, take it.  Lemon Tree won’t be hard to find from there.  You’ll know you’re heading in the right direction if you begin hearing a faint melody coming from your mouth (likely to be a 65-piece orchestra your taste buds put together in anticipation for the defining moment of their existence).  Or you can just look it up on Google Maps (1035 State Street).

Have you had the BGs yet?  If not, where’s your favorite place for fries?

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Cheap Thrills

We are definitely in the throes of pre-autumn. The leaves are beginning to change, the indoor music venues are opening up, and, as always, there are tons of free things to do in our great city. This week, say goodbye to a few summer staples, such as outdoor concerts at Pritzker Pavillion, and say hello to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and a tiger or two!

Sunday, September 27

Take a long stroll through rolling hills, across scenic ponds, under a canopy of leaves… and a few feet away from lions, tigers and bears at the Lincoln Park Zoo. The Lincoln Park Zoo isn’t just a leisurely stroll, either: Trained docents enthusiastically answer your questions and share all there is to know about the animals in the Zoo’s care. The bipedal amongst us should head to the Main Mall at 10:30 for the WTTW Readers are Leaders program.

Monday, September 28

For a $1 service charge (but the ticket is free), the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will regale you with Beethoven’s expansive Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 (Pastoral), and Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber. Cliff Colnot will be conducting, and the performance begins at 8:30PM. Note: Tickets are required, so head over to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to nab yours soon!

Tuesday, September 29

Free concerts at noon are almost over, so pack a picnic and get all nostalgic at Millenium Park… But you won’t have time to commiserate the impending winter for too long, because DJs Nate Manic and Duke Shin will have you groovin’ and shakin’ to the latest in dance music.

Wednesday, September 30

Learn to cook like a pro at Chicago’s award-winning Green City Market. After picking out the perfect, freshest, most drippingly delicious apple you can find (locally grown, of course), enjoy a cooking lesson free of charge. At 10:30AM, Chef Danny Ovanin of Glen Prairie will be giving a cooking demonstration. Are you downright dangerous with a knife? No worries – the Chef will answer audience questions, including the easiest way to chop that apple.

Thursday, October 1

Remember Dodgeball? Do you miss it? If so, grab your friends and run – don’t walk – to Sheridan Park and join the Aberdeen Street Ninjas for a little youthful fun. Games are every Thursday evening, time TBD. Check their Web site for scheduling.

Friday, October 2

Do you know what was the first library in Chicago? Or when it was built? Get to know a beloved Chicago institution just a little better with a guided tour of the Chicago Cultural Center. Tours guided by expert docents begin at 1:15PM in the Randolph Street Lobby, and are sure to prepare you for that Double Jeopardy question!

Saturday, October 3

Don that ten gallon hat, pull on those cowboy boots that are tres urban chic, and line dance your way through Grant Park at the Country Music Festival. The music runs from 11AM to 9PM, and the Kids Corral has rip roarin’ fun for the whole family from 11AM to 6PM. Headliners include Miranda Lambert and the Flatlanders.

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