More Chocolate to Love

Cathie Olson is shown helping me satisfy another chocolate craving at the new Morkes Chocolates shop  in Long Grove.

Cathie Olson is shown helping me satisfy another chocolate craving at the new Morkes Chocolates shop in Long Grove.

My relationship with chocolate is simple–resistance is futile. As a child, I always tried to give it up for Lent and almost never made it the 40 days. As an adult, I try to cut back from time to time when I need to lose a few pounds. But in my opinion, it’s not really a perfect day if it doesn’t include a little chocolate somewhere. Imagine my delight to discover that we have one more shop in town to satisfy my sweet tooth, Morkes Chocolates!

This week Long Grove welcomed our newest candy store with a celebratory ribbon cutting. Open since August 1st, Morkes is located in the red schoolhouse building on Fountain Square that formerly housed the Long Grove Confectionery. The Morkes family originated in France and started in the candy-making business back in 1920. Further generations continued the family tradition and opened the original Morkes Chocolates in Palatine, Illinois in 1967. Today, the Palatine location also serves as headquarters and production for the company, with additional stores in Huntley and now Long Grove. Current owner Rhonda Dehn is the 3rd generation of the Morkes family to craft delicious chocolate treats here in the northwest suburbs. I have personally sampled many of the mouth-watering choices available (I know, it was a tough job, but doing this blog requires painstaking research!) and my favorites so far are the lemon creams and signature white chocolate pecan “puppets”.  Later this fall Morkes plans to offer classes and private parties in the upper floor of their building. I am intrigued by the prospect of learning how to temper chocolate, dip & decorate, and I really need to know what ingredients are involved with “extreme” fondue!

Morkes joins our two other village candy shops, Ma & Pa’s Candy and the Long Grove Confectionery. The Confectionery has moved to another location in our historic downtown and after a summer of renovations is slated to reopen in October. Is this potentially too much of a good thing? I view having additional chocolate stores the same way as being blessed with another child– more to love!

“I Wanna Put On my, my, my, my, my Boogie Shoes”

Putting on our "Boogie Shoes" for a dance lesson at the new Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Long Grove.

Putting on our “Boogie Shoes” for a ballroom dancing lesson at the new Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Long Grove.

I have to admit that I’ve been having a lot of fun this summer. One of the main reasons that I stepped away from the demands of being Village President was that I wanted to have more time to spend with my loved ones, doing things that I enjoyed and that were important to me. The last few months have been filled with travel, hiking, camping, downtime in the pool, and some very satisfying community service. I have also recently discovered something new that allows me to spend time together with my husband, have some fun, and contributes to our goal of staying healthy–ballroom dancing!

Yes, we have started taking lessons at the new Fred Astaire Dance Studio in downtown Long Grove. Located at the former Red Oaks property, owner (and former “Dancing with the Stars” pro) Jesse DeSoto has transformed a barn into a grand ballroom. Both Aaron and I have gotten to know Jesse over the past year as he has been renovating and getting the new property up to speed. So when we recently received invitations to our niece’s Quinceanera and a neighbor’s wedding, I knew just who to call to get us ready for the dance floor. I usually have to drag Aaron out when the music starts at special events, but he agreed to give our new dance studio a whirl. We have found both the staff and our fellow students to be extremely friendly and very welcoming. Our instructor, Brianna, is patient and encouraging and we have learned the basics of the rumba, fox trot, waltz, and push-pull. So far, we are having a blast!

Not sure that we will ever strike as lovely a pose as our dance instructors Vlad and Brianna Nalyvaychuk, but we are having fun trying!

Not sure that we will ever strike as lovely a pose as our dance instructors Vlad and Brianna Nalyvaychuk, but we are having fun trying!

What to Keep

One of our wilder neighbors, caught hunting in our backyard conservancy area, in April of this year.

One of our wilder neighbors, caught hunting in our backyard conservancy area in April of this year.

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of simplifying. It all started this spring, when I retired from the Village Board and found myself cleaning out six years worth of job related clutter–physical, mental, and the electronic variety. I’ve moved on now to closets, and in a five-bedroom house we have more than a few. With three children now grown and living on their own, I’m pretty sure we can live without the Middle School fashion statements and treasures hauled home from numerous college apartments. Fat clothes? If I haven’t worn them in five years, why in God’s name am I hanging on to them? Yes, the charity pickup trucks have been welcome at my doorstep this summer.

All this purging has gotten me thinking about scaling back my life in other ways. I am volunteering a little bit less these days, while still focusing my leadership efforts on causes and groups that I’m most passionate about. As empty nesters, my husband and I regularly discuss the pros and cons of downsizing our properties now that it’s just the two of us at the dinner table. But as we talk about what to get rid of, it always leads us back to what we want to keep.

We do have an affection for our house where we have raised our family, but the happy memories from the last nineteen years are what we will cherish. Houses come and go. Yet, it is the intangible part of Long Grove that has gotten hold of our hearts and keeps us rooted to this land and this community. Our neighbors have been a blessing, and although I know they too are having similar downsizing thoughts, collectively we love and have been loved by too many individuals in this community to be able to give that up anytime soon. Even though it is part of a larger suburban area, Long Grove has the soul of a small town, and my husband and I feel a very part of that fiber.

Besides our human ties, the other tether holding us to this particular spot on the globe is the beautiful nature that we are fortunate to be a part of on a daily basis. We are the lucky recipients and stewards of the majestic open spaces strewn throughout our Village, set aside by prior neighbors so that native flora and fauna could co-exist with us for years to come. Sightings of coyotes, fawns, monarchs and prairie orchid bring peacefulness and serenity, when we really take the time to notice it. As our future days unfold, this is the richness that we want to remain.

The opportunity to be up close with nature, coupled with small town charm and neighborly kindness is what drew us to Long Grove in the first place. It’s what we choose to keep.

Open space in Long Grove this time of year features many wildflowers and native prairie plants.

Our backyard view in Long Grove this time of year features many wildflowers and native prairie plants.

 

A “Mayberry” Moment

Longtime resident Barbara Turner, pictured in December of 2014.

Longtime resident Barbara Turner, pictured in December of 2014.

When you are a genuinely good person and live to be 98 years old, that in itself is a blessing. An additional result of having endeared yourself to so many people over the years is that you acquire many, many friends. A whole community of them, actually. And in a time of need, those friends can come together in the best sort of way. Recently, Long Grove experienced one such moment, in which citizens randomly pitched in to help longtime resident Barbara Turner enjoy her beloved Woodland again.

Barbara and her family are best known in Long Grove for the donation of the Reed-Turner Woodland, a 36 acre nature preserve just north of our historic downtown on Old McHenry Road. In the last year Barbara’s health has not allowed her to get outside and enjoy the beautiful open spaces right outside her home; even the porch has not been accessible due to a large step down. All that has been recently remedied, when a crew of local businessmen and resident volunteers showed up to build Barbara a ramp out to her screened-in area. Today, she is once again enjoying the bird songs and wildflowers. And despite the current heat & humidity–who doesn’t just crave a little fresh air now and then?

All this came about when several of Barbara’s friends tried coming up with ideas to get her back outside. The porch presented a challenge regarding the ramp design, which was finally solved by a local builder and contractor. Past and current elected officials helped design and organize the project, and waived the building fees. The local Lions Club helped out with building materials and labor, with assistance from a few handy members of the Historical Downtown Merchants Association and Historical Society. All of this could not have been done without the cooperation of the Long Grove Park District, which owns and maintains Barbara’s home as well as the entire Woodland preserve.

In our fast -paced modern world, it is easy to get caught up in the negative headlines and news feeds. It can seem discouraging that we live in a time and place where civility and human kindness take a back seat to being right and being in control. Witnessing everyone collaborate to help a beloved neighbor is an important reminder that by working jointly with others, great things can happen. Small town spirit is still alive in Long Grove! When we labor together, it’s a “win” for all of us.

Ramp construction underway!

Ramp construction underway!

The Little Bridge That Could

R to L: Historic Downtown Long Grove President Ryan Messner, Andrew Heckenkamp from Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and Aaron Underwood, from the Long Grove Historical Society worked together today to advocate for placing the covered bridge on the National Register of Historic Places.

L to R: Historic Downtown Long Grove President Ryan Messner, Andrew Heckenkamp from Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and Aaron Underwood, from the Long Grove Historical Society worked together today to advocate for placing the covered bridge on the National Register of Historic Places.

It was a victory in Springfield today for Long Grove! The esteemed historians and archaeologists who make up the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council just dumped a big bucket of awesome sauce on our covered bridge by voting unanimously to recommend it to the National Register of Historic Places. Aaron Underwood, Past President of the Long Grove Historical Society, was instrumental in preparing the 35 page application, and spoke on the merits of this landmark before the board at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield. The bridge, which dates from 1906, qualified because of the steel “pony truss” construction unique to that time period, as well as the original and ornate pedestrian walkway, which is still intact. The nostalgic cover was added in 1972, and according to the experts at the meeting today, might be eligible in five years for historic status on this feature as well. The next step in the process is approval by the National Park Service, which administers the National Register.

It was a thrill and an honor to be in Springfield today to witness our beloved bridge advance one giant step further towards this respected status. The Village has tried several times over the years to achieve this recognition, most recently in 2014, while I was Village President. But just like the “little engine that could,” we kept on trying, and finally with enough persistence, diligence, research and hard work, it looks like we might just be able to achieve the goal this time. Our application now moves on to Washington and in about six to eight weeks we expect to hear back with the news of final placement on the national list. We think we can, we think we can do it! Continue to keep your fingers crossed.

Here’s the Daily Herald article that appeared online on June 30:

http://www.dailyherald.com/news/20170630/long-grove-covered-bridge-recommended-for-national-register-of-historic-places

One Yuuuge Check

Ryan Messner, President of the Historic Downtown Business Association presents a ginormous check to Diane Trickey, Treasurer of the Long Grove Historical Society.

Ryan Messner, President of the Historic Downtown Business Association presents a ginormous check to Diane Trickey, Treasurer of the Long Grove Historical Society.

Last weekend’s Strawberry Fest featured lovely weather and a healthy attendance. The Historic Downtown Long Grove Business Association generously pledged to donate a portion of the admission fees to help offset the costs of needed restoration for our Historic Covered Bridge. The happy result is pictured above, as Ryan Messner, President of the HDLGBA presents a giant check to Diane Trickey, Treasurer of the Long Grove Historical Society, during the June 27th Village Board meeting. It is exciting to see donations such as these–earmarked for covered bridge restoration–start to accumulate, and this is only the beginning. Stay tuned as efforts continue over the summer and into the fall as the residents, merchants, Historical Society, and other community groups work together in raising funds to “Save the Bridge.”

Many Beautiful Rainbows

 

UPDATE: This photo was taken during our hike in Peru on April 30, 2017, five days after this blog post was originally published. Mother Nature provided the perfect illustration!

UPDATE: This photo was taken during our hike in Peru on April 30, 2017, five days after this blog post was originally published. Mother Nature provided the perfect illustration!

The following article appeared in the April edition of our Village of Long Grove newsletter, The Bridge. Tonight marks my last Village Board meeting. I will be taking a few weeks off from the blog to rest and recharge, but will resume later in May bringing you more stories of Life in Long Grove.

From the Village President, Angie Underwood, 2013-2017

It is with a deep sense of gratitude that I write to you this last time as your Village President. Representing Long Grove and serving each of you has been an honor. When your work is truly your passion, as mine has been these last six years volunteering for the Village Board, it feels more like a privilege than a job. Thank you for the valuable learning experiences, unique opportunities, and abundant good memories that I have to carry forward.

A sentiment that I love from poet and author Maya Angelou reminds us to always try to “be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.” My term as Village President was mainly sunny but did feature the occasional clouds, a few of which were quite stormy. I have been blessed with many beautiful rainbows to support me through the rough weather. Our staff who never failed to welcome me with a smile at village hall, current and former elected officials who gave me advice and mentoring, friends and neighbors who listened and took me out for lunches and drinks to vent, downtown merchants who are now mutually respected colleagues, blog readers who reply with such positive feedback, and residents who have randomly emailed encouraging shout outs just when I needed it most–rainbows each and every one! The pot of gold at rainbow’s end is my family, who will now get more of my time and energy, and my husband Aaron, who is joining me soon on an adventure to take the high road in Peru.

I am proud of what our Village Board has accomplished these last four years as I have held the gavel, and I am confident that the new Trustees and President will continue to work hard in the years ahead for the best interests of our residents. Recently a friend asked me if I felt that holding elected office had been “worth it.” Helping the community that you live in, in big or little ways, is always worth it.

Mentors and Heroes

Current elected officials with future elected officials at the April 15th WINGS meeting:  (L to R) Cheri Neal, Zion Township Supervisor, Teagan (our scholarship winner), Brighton (Teagan's sister) and Angie Underwood, Long Grove Village President.

Current elected officials with future elected officials at the April 15th WINGS meeting: (L to R) Cheri Neal, Zion Township Supervisor, Teagan (our scholarship winner), Brighton (Teagan’s sister) and Angie Underwood, Long Grove Village President.

Last weekend I attended a meeting of WINGS–Women In Government Service. Our theme for the program was “Mentoring and Heroes” which was certainly appropriate as we presented our annual High School scholarship. Teagan, who is our winner this year out of an incredibly talented pool of candidates, is graduating next month from Lakes Community High School in Lake Villa. She is heading to Dartmouth this fall to study government, and aspires to one day be a Senator.

Another young lady, a 5th grade student from Prairie Trail Middle School in Wadsworth, was at the meeting to give a short presentation. She is a member of the Great Americans Club, which is a civic group for students (both boys and girls) at the school. Every year they pick an issue to spotlight, and as a result of our national election last November the students are focusing on Women’s Leadership. They are sponsoring a Women’s Day Celebration Event on May 18th, featuring guest speakers on how women have shaped our world.

One of the very best things about holding an elected office is being in a position to show the next generation of women that it is possible. We are getting there slowly, but surely towards breaking that final glass ceiling. I have been fortunate to have had several women serve as role models and mentors to me. Their advice, expertise, and support has made a real impact in my ability to grow as a leader, and persevere through difficult challenges. Being able to pass along that legacy of encouragement to others has been very rewarding.

These girls make me so proud. They are our future. They are my inspiration.

Say Hello to Pub 83!

Jimmy, the General Manager of Pub 83 welcomed me to the newly reopened restaurant last night.

Jimmy, the General Manager of Pub 83 welcomed me to the newly reopened restaurant last night.

For many years now the former Gridley Grill restaurant on the corner of Rt. 83 and Gilmer road has remained closed, despite the addition of a new entrance and expansion of the parking lot. That is, until this past Monday, when the doors opened once again to the new Pub 83. The current management has reinvigorated the space to cater to contemporary casual dining, featuring pizza, burgers, sandwiches, wraps and salads. The dining room is family friendly, and the bar has additional large screen T.V.’s for a sports-pub atmosphere. My husband and I enjoyed our recent dinner there, and with only five days in business so far, they were full on a Friday night. Based on all the inquiries I have received over the past few years, I know that we are one of many families who were eagerly awaiting the reopening of this Long Grove dining spot.

However, seeing Pub 83 finally back in business is bittersweet for me since it is the result of the most recent tie that I had to break on the Village Board. On August 23, 2016 owner George Calis came to our meeting to ask the trustees for a class V liquor and video gaming license, which our Board had established by ordinance earlier in the year. He stated that knowing he could have video gaming was the incentive he needed to reopen the long-shuttered establishment. Three of the trustees voted against allowing George his liquor and gaming license, and the remaining three trustees (who will all be leaving the board this month) voted to grant his request. While trying to be responsible for what is ultimately best for the village as a whole, I cast my tie-breaking vote to once again fill the vacant restaurant.

This week, it was great to enjoy a meal again at “Gridleys” surrounded by other residents socializing and having a good time in our village. I am glad to have played a small part to help empower this to happen, and I wish the all best for Pub 83. Stop by and give it a try!

On the Endangered List

Speaking at a press conference in Springfield on April 6th with Ryan Messner.

Speaking at a press conference in Springfield on April 6th with Ryan Messner.

Every year, the nonprofit organization Landmarks Illinois creates a list of the Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois. This is done to provide a focus for the organization’s statewide advocacy efforts. Over the last 22 years, a third of all properties and sites included on the annual Most Endangered list have been saved. This year the spotlight involved Long Grove, as our covered bridge was featured as one of the historic bridges on the list to be saved. Landmarks Illinois made the announcement of the list during a press conference in Springfield earlier this week, and a group of nine residents and merchants traveled to our state capital to participate. Ryan Messner, President of the Historic Downtown Long Grove Business Association, and I were both asked to speak at the press conference about our local efforts to save the bridge. We are grateful for the public awareness that being on this annual list generates, as well as the help provided by Landmarks Illinois going forward as we advocate together for national historic register status and restoration funds.

While in town, I met with our State Representative Nick Sauer in his Springfield office to discuss the covered bridge and other local issues. After the press conference our group of nine visited with State Senator Dan McConchie, who graciously gave us a personal tour of the senate floor and posed for pictures. I even had the opportunity to stand at the podium in the senate chamber, hold the gavel, and pretend to break a tie. Personally, I was dreaming of bringing down the gavel to accept an Illinois budget, but alas….not my jurisdiction.

With only two weeks to go in my term, this trip to Springfield will be remembered as one of my last and best experiences as Village President. We even caught a glimpse of Governor Rauner as he passed across the rotunda in front of us! At dinner the night before, I had the chance to talk with State Senator Melinda Bush about a bill that I am following, and she offered to introduce me, Village Clerk Amy Gayton, and Amy’s two daughters Alex and Nikki to the sponsor of the bill (who happened to be eating in the same restaurant) so that we could thank her. The female legislators took the opportunity to encourage the young girls to run for office themselves one day. Truly, it was inspiring.

Our Long Grove contingent surrounding State Senator Dan McConchie in the senate chamber (L to R): Jim Unzler, Aaron and Angie Underwood, Dana and Ryan Messner, Amy, Alex, Nikki and David Gayton.

Our Long Grove contingent surrounding State Senator Dan McConchie in the senate chamber (L to R): Jim Uszler, Aaron and Angie Underwood, Dana and Ryan Messner, Amy, Alex, Nikki and David Gayton.