Archive for  October 2009

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Cheap Thrills

Halloween may last for just one day, but Chicagoween lasts at least a week! For the next seven days, free fun includes all sorts of fun with skulls, skeletons and altars. And, just to shake things up a bit, there’s some fish, butterflies and a golem thrown in for good measure.  Enjoy!

Sunday, November 1

Happy anniversary Notebaert Nature Museum! In celebration of the Museum’s 10th anniversary, admission is free. From critter cams that show you the world through the eyes of a great white shark, to a kitty cam that will open your eyes to your feline’s perspective, the Notebaert Nature Museum will have you seeing a whole new world. Make sure to adopt a butterfly while you are there. The museum is open from 10AM to 5PM.

Monday, November 2

Have you ever seen a mandarin fish? Well, have you? If you have, then you’ll be mighty pleased that you can see one for FREE today at the Shedd Aquarium. And if you have no clue what a mandarin fish is? Well then, clear your Monday schedule so you can stare in awe at it’s magnificence. The Shedd Aquarium is open from 9AM to 5PM.

Tuesday, November 3

Crystals, sugar and skulls, who would have ever thought to combine the three? Navy Pier, that’s who! Celebrate El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in the Crystal Garden, check out some traditional artists, and decorate sugar skulls at this sweetly ghoulish all-ages event. Hours are from 11AM to 5PM.

Wednesday, November 4

Still grieving the end of the World Music Fest? Well, turn that frown upside down at World Music Wednesday at The Old Town School of Folk Music. This Wednesday, Israeli Yasmin Levy will wow you with her critically acclaimed Ladino sounds. Her performance begins at 8:30PM, and while this is a free event, a $5 donation is suggested.

Thursday, November 5

Continue enjoying the Day of the Dead at the National Museum of Mexican Art, located in the lovely Pilsen neighborhood. The Museum’s 23rd annual Day of the Dead exhibition includes ofrenda (altars) created by Arturo Velasquez Sr. and Sandra Cisneros, as well as works from more than 20 artists. The Museum is open from 10AM to 5PM.

Friday, November 6

If the Day of the Dead festivities haven’t convinced you that Chicagoween is a season, not a day, here’s further proof: The Chicago Cultural Center will be screening The Golem, a silent film from the 1920s. A golem, by the way, is a legendary creature that can save you by destroying your enemies… if you can control it. The film begins at 7PM.

Saturday, November 7

Wind down the week with a book and a view – a view of some fantabulous art, that is. The Harold Washington Library Center showcases the city’s art collection of over 50 works. It is the largest public art display in Chicago, and, fittingly, it is housed in one of the most beautiful buildings downtown. And… the collection is protected by gargoyles. On Saturday, the Library Center is open from 9AM to 5PM.

– Shannon Sankstone

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Three Sisters

There’s one thing about being a photographer and living in Central Illinois – you had better like taking pictures of agriculture because you are surrounded by it.

Now fortunately for me, I love taking pictures of agriculture. When I was younger (and living in a big city hundreds of miles from Illinois) I never thought I’d utter the words “I’m an agricultural photographer”. But here I am and there they are.

If you’re into taking shots of agriculture, sooner or later you photograph your first grain co-op. The reflectiveness of the silos, the lines, the skies – it all works. I live a few miles from the little village of Tremont, IL. When I moved down here a few years ago, their Tremont Grain Co-Op #1 had just two silos (the two on the left up there). In 2006 all my pictures were made outdated in a flash when they added a third silo (natch! on the right). So I started over and made some new images.

Well guess what? Yep. Just this summer silo number four has gone up and once again I need to venture out and start from scratch. But secretly I’m okay with that because I really do love it.

So one day when you’re headed down I-155, from Morton to Lincoln, you’ll pass these guys on the edge of Tremont. Look on over. If there are five silos – yeah – I’ll be at it again.

– David Vernon

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Starved Rock State Park Lodge

Family Cabin at Starved Rock

There have been several posts lately about the beautiful scenery at Starved Rock State Park in Utica. So you likely already know all about its winding forest trails, crystalline waterfalls, and namesake bluff overlooking the Illinois River lock and dam. And you’ve probably heard of Starved Rock Lodge and Conference Center, a sprawling hotel nestled in the woods just footsteps from trail heads. Chances are, you’ve even caught wind that the lodge’s  family cabins (private log structures fitting parties of four) are the best places to bunk overnight.

But what you haven’t heard about? The end-all-be-all massages you can get there.

I recently checked into a cabin with my husband and twin toddlers. We were quick to hop on the trails, and wove our way to French Canyon, one of the more dramatic waterfalls, and up to the bluff. Three hours and two sore calves later, I was back in our cabin trying to unwind. My attempts to zone out were repeatedly thwarted by my boys who wanted to run around in their diapers making dinosaur noises. Chaos reigned.

So we expelled some energy outside, collecting sticks and brilliantly colored leaves. Still dreaming of quiet time, I put my hand in my jacket pocket and withdrew, as if by magic, a brochure for the lodge’s massage services. To me, it was the closest I would come to a Willy Wonka Golden Ticket. I booked a massage for that evening.

Massages — both for individuals and couples — were given in another log cabin, a few paces from our own. I walked there in the dark, the sound of crickets already lulling me to calm. Upon entering the one-room chamber decorated with Native American artifacts, I was put even more at ease. The massage therapist was a jovial and discreet gentleman that runs his own massage business and rides motorcyles through the Illinois River Valley for kicks. He used a combination of hot stones, deep tissue, and Swedish techniques to balm my weary muscles.

A little more than an hour later, I was able to face the beautiful nature — and my hyper boys — with a smile. The smile stayed there until we finally bid farewell to the splendid reds, ochres, and yellows of the season, sure to return to them next year.

– Kelly Aiglon

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Halloween at the Market at the Old Capitol Farmers’ Market  in Downtown Springfield

This year, the last day of the market falls on Halloween, which provides the perfect backdrop for the annual Halloween at the Market.

The event runs from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and includes plenty of family-friendly activities, including a kid’s costume contest, canine costume contest, live entertainment, chef’s demon and more.

The market is on Adams Street, between 3rd & 5th Streets in Downtown Springfield.

The Old Capitol Farmers’ Market is coordinated by Downtown Springfield, Inc.  For more information on the market or the event: or

– Scott Troehler

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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.

The confident swoosh of a driver sending a golf ball down a bunker lined, pristine fairway or the splash of your favorite lure hitting the surface of the calm and cool waters of Illinois’ second largest man-made lake are just some of the sounds you will enjoy at Rend Lake, one of the Seven Wonders of Illinois.

Outdoor enthusiasts will find a haven of recreational activities at Rend Lake. With 18,900 acres of water and more than 20,000 acres of land in Jefferson and Franklin counties, Rend Lake provides ample opportunities for outdoor activities. Overnight visitors can camp at the Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park, and for those who prefer a softer bed, the Rend Lake Resort offers beautiful waterside rooms and marina facilities. For both the sport and commercial fisherman, an abundance of fish can be found here, including striped bass, flathead catfish, crappie and channel catfish. And finally, a championship 18-hole golf course offers stunning views of the area.

But Rend Lake is more than a sportsman’s paradise. It is what you will find all over Southern Illinois – the arts, culture, bike trails, antiques, golf and more. From Rend Lake you are just a stone’s throw from the Southern Illinois Art and Artisans Center, downtown Benton’s antique district and a number of museums and wineries.

So whether you want to experience the trails on horseback or on a bike, love to find a hidden treasure in a quaint antique store or dine on our special Southern Illinois cuisine, this one of the Seven Wonders is for you.

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