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I can remember quite vividly the days of my younger years listening attentively as my elementary school teacher discussed the Civil War, slavery, governmental policies and all the major key players of the time. My mind drifted off to a period of the past where I would imagine myself present in the numerous cabinet meetings, on the front lines of war, as a young slave girl seeking freedom, and on Lincoln’s side as he spoke to the public in one of his famous addresses. Well that was a long time ago and as the nostalgia begins to kick in I am exultant to share that I was brought back to my energized time of fact finding and captivating visions on a recent trip to Springfield Illinois.

My trip began at one of the well visited locations in Downtown Springfield where one can discover a wealth of information on one of America’s most memorable presidents and noble statesmen. While browsing through the halls of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum with the assistance of my awesome and well informed tour guide Roger, I couldn’t help but notice the attention to detail and the passion behind telling the entire story of Honest Abe, unfiltered.  From Lincolns childhood and struggle brought to life in a century specific replica log cabin to his journey to the White House, there seemed to be no detail left out or no story too unimportant to share.

I noticed how the guests at the museum ranged from all ages and backgrounds. Young energetic children kept themselves entertained while preparing mock meals and dressing up in period costumes in Mrs. Lincoln’s Attic. The teenagers I saw seemed to appreciate the special effects and dramatized production witnessed in both Lincoln’s Eyes and Ghosts of the Library presentations touching on the Civil War itself through Lincoln’s involvement and why history is so important to preserve. There were also a ton of adult patrons who seemed enamored by the War Gallery which displayed war uniforms, true to life figures, an interactive wall of photos where one could learn about the images displayed through text and audio.  There was even a very touching and moving 3 minute speedy reenactment of the lives lost and land gained during the civil war.

Before heading out to take on the rest of Springfield I had to visit the Museum Gift Center where I scored a neat pair of penny replica earrings adorned with Lincoln’s face and a large coffee mug with the Museum’s logo scripted across the front.  As I bid the friendly staff adieu I couldn’t help but reflect on the life and times of a man that through his determination and vision was able to make changes during a time where reform was not welcomed.  I truly enjoyed my time visiting the numerous exhibits and I must note there wasn’t a dull moment.  I was sure to soak up every bit of information offered and relished in being brought back to the story of Abe Lincoln taught to me many years ago but this time brought to life with such detail, personalization, and truth.

Stay tuned to see the many places my visit to Springfield took me…much to share!

MeechyMonroe, born and raised on Chicago’s Southside, is a lifestyle blogger at meechymonroe.com.

It’s that time of year again.  The local farmers market is sprouting near you.   Small farm operator’s benefit from these farmers markets (94 percent of all farms).  Luck for us, Illinois ranks amongst the top states in Agriculture.  Did you know Illinois accounts for nearly 7 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports?    How lucky we are – to enjoy this bounty in our own back yard.

I am excited the farmers are coming to Daley Plaza in Chicago on May 24th. I am setting my alarm clock to wake up a little earlier, so I can peruse the market before heading into the office.  It’s a pleasant way to start the day and eating a fresh fruits for breakfast, while thinking what’s for dinner.  

More markets are featuring cooking classes based on what’s in season.  You can also find markets that provide local crafts and delectable delights to eat and share.   Follow the link below to find a market in your area:


State locations:


This link provides a calendar of what’s in season, to help you with meal planning.


Share your favorite picks from the farmers market?



When one thinks about baking…we don’t normally concern ourselves with where to purchase flour.  Our local grocer has abundance as well as quite a few varieties.  But Illinois has Hodgson Mill still operating since the Civil War.   5th generation is still grinding grain as it was hundreds of years ago, using stones.  They are located in Effingham, IL about 200 miles from Chicago.  If you’re an advent baker like me, it was a site to see.

Having been raised by a mother from the “hippie” era, we were whole grain children.  Literally grinding our whole-wheat kernels into flour.  I longed for the “white” flour most of my friends had in their homes.

Of course this grinding of the grain might have prepared me to wonder what it was like for the early Illinois settlers?  Wheat flour was neither indigenous nor easy for them to initially grow.  When it was harvested the kernels were brought to the miller or one would travel to the closest grain mill. 

Today, Hodgson grinds many varieties of grains and sells varying ingredients related to baking.  The amazing feature is that they continue to sell a product that is free from Genetically Modified Organisms – they know their farm sources and use no chemicals in any food preparations.

Buckwheat, not even related to wheat, but rather a grass, is one wonderful product they prepare.  Early Illinois settlers relied on Buckwheat for baking because early wheat took so long to grow – buckwheat could be ready for harvest within about 60 days. We might know buckwheat for our pancakes…but here is a recipe that makes muffins:

Buckwheat- Corn Muffins
(Hodgson Mill Recipe Collection)

1 cup Hodgson Mill Buckwheat Flour
½ cup Hodgson Mill Yello Cornmeal
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 ¼ cups milk
¼ cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners or grease muffin cups.  Mix together buckwheat flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and sugar.  Combine eggs, milk and butter; beat.  Add to dry ingredients; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened (batter will be thin).  Fill muffin tins 2/3 full.  Bake 15-20 minutes or until done.  Yield:  12 muffins.

Hodgson Mill products are available at retail food outlets nationwide or you can order online at www.hodgsonmill.com

Bon Appetite!
Chef Jenny

Chef Jenny has worked front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house in the hospitality industry for at least 25 years. Currently she teaches culinary and hospitality management at Washburne Culinary Institute  in Chicago. Her love of history and passion for sweets has culminated in her own book, Midwest Sweet Baking History: Delectable Classics around Lake Michigan available on Amazon.   

Do you need help planning a summer vacation? The summer season will be here before you know it and the kids will soon be asking you “Are we there yet?” Forgo the car and go for a train ride; sit back and relax.   To help inspire a car free

Southwest Chief in Henderson County, IL

vacation, Amtrak and the Illinois Department of Transportation are teaming up with State, regional and local tourism offices to showcase the variety of tourist destinations in Illinois. The event is free and all happening under one roof at the historic Great Hall of Chicago Union Station, Thursday, May 17th (210 South Canal St.) for Illinois Tourism Day from 7:00 am until 4:00 pm.

While rising gas prices are still the top of traveler’s minds, Amtrak provides an alternative to help trim costs. Downstate and Chicago area city and county representatives along the three state-supported Illinois Amtrak routes will be on hand from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm to hand out tourism literature and answer any questions.  Let them help you plan an itinerary to suit your interests. 

Stop in for Amtrak ticket drawings and to enjoy live music from Rootabaga Jammers, Big Band Music 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. It’s a great way to plan a summer getaway.  Hope you can join us.

Ciao –

Mother’s Day is celebrated Sunday, May 13, 2012.  It marks the occasion for children to express their love and respect for their mother.   That expression can come in many ways from pampering to flowers, cards and handmade gifts.  The most important thing is to tell her you love her and she will always be important to you.

If you looking for ways to express your love and support to the special someone.  I have listed a few ideas and activities to share with them.  As Mother Day arrives sometimes it can be difficult to find something special and unique to do each year.  I created a short list of things going on around the state during Mother’s day weekend.   Find what interest you and your Mom.

Art Sprees: Mother’s Day Art Spree
Illinois Artisans
100 W Randolph
Chicago, IL 60601
Wednesday, May 09, 2012 – Friday, May 11, 2012, 10:00 AM – 3:30 PM

Morton Arboretum
4100 Rte 53 at I-88
Bike Rentals now available

NEW! Bike rentals for adults and children. Coast under a canopy of trees. Bike nine miles of paved roads that wind through our magnificent tree collections. Take advantage of this opportunity to explore our expansive grounds in a new and up close way.
Auto-free” Zone
Bring your own bicycle and ride through the Arboretum’s East Side
May 4-September 9
Fridays: 5:30 p.m.-sunset
Saturday & Sundays: 7-9 a.m.

Fundamentals of Tea Time Desserts
At the French Pastry School in Chicago
May 15 – May 17
226 W Jackson Blvd
Chicago, IL 60601
Enthusiast – $575.00
Scott Green, Pastry Chef Instructor, 2011 National Pastry Champion
National Pastry Champion, Chef Scott Green, will teach you how to make these elegant bites in this three-day, hands-on course at The French Pastry School. You’ll learn to make the elegant and popular macaron which you can adjust to fit any flavor or color scheme; hazelnut and chocolate financiers (nut flour cakes); coconut rochers; madeleines; éclairs and more. You will start from the basics and create a spread that would rival the Queen’s tea service! Wrap everything up after the final buffet and bring it home to share with your family and friends.

Mother’s Day Brunch at the Carleton Hotel
The Carleton of Oak Park
1110 Pleasant Street
Oak Park, IL 60302
Make your reservation now for our famous Mother’s Day Brunch on Sunday, May 13th from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm. Served in our beautiful Grand Ballroom. For reservations, call (708)848-4250.

Shop at Volo Antique Malls & Mercantile Mall
Dates: May 12, 2012 – May 13, 2012

Times: 10am – 5pm
Category: Family
Location: Volo Antique Malls, 27640 W. Volo Village Rd., Volo, IL., IL 60073
Phone: 815-344-6062 Visit Our Website

Join The Volo Antique Malls & Mercantile Mall For Our 5th Annual “Mothers Day Special Event Saturday and Sunday, May 12th & 13th  All Weekend Long! Mall Gift Card Drawings both days and Stemmed Carnations While They Last. For All the Details See Events at VOLOSHOPPING.COM

Wishing you lasting Mother’s Day memories for you and your Mother, enjoy!

Ciao –