Archive for  February 2011

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Chicago has been represented at the Oscars since 1982 when R.S. Owens Company started producing them.  It’s where dreams are made of 24-carat gold plated britannium on a black metal base, it is 13.5 inches (34cm) tall weighs 8.5 lbs. and value unknown (top secret).  It portrays a knight in Art Deco style holding a crusader’s sword standing on a reel of film with five spokes.  Each spoke represents the original branches of the Academy: Actors, Writers, Directors, Producers and Technicians.

The origin of the name Oscar has been challenged over many years.  Bette Davis claims she named it after her 1st husband in her biography.  Louis B. Meyer’s secretary claimed it looked like “King Oscar II” and asked “What should we do with Oscar, put him in the vault?”  However the name became official in 1939 by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

Chicago has another Oscar connection with 3 designers competing with 9 other designers to have their dress chosen to be worn by an awards escort during the Academy Awards airing on Sunday, February 27th 4 p.m. PT. 

Our three Chicago designers are: Miriam Cecilia Carlson from Chicago, James De Colon and Borris Powell competing to have their dress chosen.  Tune in and root for our Chicago designers. 

And the winners are…….

Ciao –


The Ballard Nature Center

With a glimpse of spring in the air check out the Ballard Nature Center, just east of Altamont, IL. It  is a privately funded, non-profit, 210 acre nature conservatory whose mission is to provide high quality environmental education to the public. The center has six miles of trails including wetland, woodland, prairie and savanna environments. There’s a spacious visitor center at near the parking lot with wonderful displays inside describing local flora and fauna and their habitats. There’s also a children’s center with puzzles, games and activities for the youngest of adventurers. There’s a large lower story where classes are held and the area can also be rented for various functions. Schools can arrange for field trips to the center and each summer nature day camps are held for children, as well as families.
Where the center really shines is in it’s trails. With the various types of trails available, whether it’s a stroll through the woods, or a walk through the prairie as it was when the first settlers crossed Illinois, a person could come back time and time again and experience something completely different. There are benches in strategic resting spots along the trails and the wetland/prairie loop trail is completely handicap accessible. There’s also a kids fishing pond available for children under 15.
The visitors center is open 8:00 – 4:00 Monday through Friday, Noon-4:00 on Saturday and 1:00-4:00 on Sunday and is staffed by educators during those hours. The trails are open daily from dawn to dusk.

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-Ed Baumgarten


Mound City National Cemetery

That quote was from Lt. General U.S. Grant, and the statement was prompted by the exultation of Union troops around the McLean house at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, following the surrender of that part of the Confederate Army known as the Army of Northern Virginia, by General Robert Edward Lee.

I was reminded of that quote when I visited the Mound City National Cemetery this past Veteran’s Day. I went there because I expected to see a ceremony, which they actually hold on the Saturday prior to the holiday. Instead I found a more private experience.

The most noticeable feature in the cemetery is probably the large monument erected to soldiers of the United States who could not be identified after their deaths. Now our military issues tags to our soldiers, including their identification. In the War of the 1860s, soldiers who were about to go into battle, would sometimes take a scrap of paper and write their names and addresses and pin this to their clothing, so they could be identified and their families notified in case they were killed. It was a practical, though it may seem fatalistic, response to the conditions in which they found themselves.

The monument includes names carved in stone, though now weathered by time and the elements, from all the states remaining loyal to the Union in the period between April 12, 1861 and April 9, 1865. The sacrifice of these brave men, as timeworn as the memory is, dwarfs the imposing size of their monument.

Along the path to that monument, there was a gray stone, just off to my left as I approached, placed there by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. This stone is there to honor the sacrifice of their soldiers, whose courage was no less than the courage of their Union counterparts. It reminded me that under this soil, they are all American soldiers, whether they were from Virginia, the first sustained English settlement in North America, or Kansas, the state which joined the Union just three months before Confederate batteries first fired on Ft. Sumter.

All of the people beneath this sod are American soldiers, Marines, sailors, or airmen. They served in our wars since 1861, the Union soldiers in combat, the Confederates went to Glory as prisoners of war. The more recent internments have been from those who served in subsequent conflicts.

The cemetery is found just outside of Mounds, a little town along the Ohio River Scenic Roadway. If you are traveling along Interstate 57, take Exit 8, Mounds Road, turn left on County Road 8, toward Mounds City. Turn right on Illinois 37, and drive through Mounds City, until you see the cemetery on your left. For more information, you can look at their website at

The flag over this place of honor is Old Glory, though soldiers who served under the Stars and Bars also rest here. There has been a great deal of controversy over those remembering the service of Confederate veterans over the years, particularly in the vicinity of Camp Douglas, the Confederate prison camp. The quote I used to begin this blog was in the spirit of unity, from a resident of Galena. I’d like to close with a plea for unity, from a resident of Springfield.

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, across this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

–A. Lincoln, March 4, 1861

 “The war is over. The Rebels are our countrymen again” or contact them at 618-748-9041. There is a caretaker’s cottage on site. In fact, when I drove past the cemetery, I stopped in at a convenience store for directions, and the lady directed me to the caretaker, who had the day off, since it was Veteran’s day, and just happened to be in there for coffee. He was very helpful.


Lincoln in His Stovetop Hat

Lincoln’s stovepipe hat is the artifact of the month for February at the Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield.   If you want to see this famous piece of iconic history it will be on display through February 28th.   The hat is seldom displayed for public viewing. Each month, different major artifact is featured from the Taper Collection. 


If you have not been to the Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield this would be a great opportunity to stop in.   Standing in the Plaza is the Lincoln family in 1861 to greet you.  Use your own camera and take picture of your family standing with them.  Send us a copy at to post on our flicker page.

“Before there was central heating, sealed carriages or soot-free train cars, a traveling attorney like Lincoln had to walk or ride a horse from town to town across the prairie of central Illinois.  He also had to carry his legal papers in a dry place.  Solving both problems, Lincoln kept his head warm and dry under this beaver-fur stovepipe hat, and he tucked his letters inside the hatband.  It was his ‘office in his hat,’ according to a fellow attorney, and everyone on the circuit knew this amusing characteristic of Lincoln,” said ALPLM Lincoln Curator James Cornelius.  “He gave the hat to an Illinois farmer whose fences were broken up by anti-Lincoln neighbors in a time when the political hostilities were fierce.  Yet this hat, unlike the two silk hats remaining from his presidential years, will last for centuries.  It will be our permanent reminder of his Illinois legacy.”

 The artifact of the month will be displayed in a special case in the Presidential Museum’s Treasures Gallery and will feature interpretive text explaining its significance.  These displays will also highlight the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation’s Permanent Home Campaign.  The $27 million fundraising drive, established to ensure that the 1,500-item Louise and Barry Taper Collection remain together as a collection and are preserved in perpetuity for the benefit of the public, began in 2008 and continues through 2013.  The story of each artifact as told by the ALPLM’s Lincoln Curator may be viewed at:

If you love chocolate then you will want to attend the French Pastry School’s annual benefit on Saturday, February 5th.  The event has been sold out in previous years as a result the event moved to Merchandise Mart to accommodate more guests.  I have had the pleasure of attending this event in the past and look forward to going on Saturday.   It is an event for all your senses.  Upon entering the venue your sense of smell is assaulted by the sweet smell of chocolate, your eyes are amazed by the displays, you taste the rich creaminess of chocolate and you hear exclamations for the Love of Chocolate.  For the Love of Chocolate will showcase cocoa-theamed dishes, many local celebrity chefs including Rick Bayless, Graham Elliott, and many more. Guests will also be able to enjoy entertainment, chocolate body painting and belly dancing! 

The For the Love of Chocolate Foundation proceeds benefit scholarships for the French Pastry School at City Colleges of Chicago for training in the pastry arts.  The French Pastry School, founded by chefs Jacquy Pfeiffer and Sebastien Canonne, is considered one of the most popular pastry institutions in the country, and is considered a gem in Chicago.  They offer individual classes too if you would like to enhance your baking skills.   

The event is $200 per person. This event is black-tie, men are welcome to attend in a suit and tie.      

For more details and to purchase tickets follow the link below: or