Springing Forward

Lori and Mike Lyman took to the dance floor in support of the Long Grove Arts and Music Council at their March 10th Jazz & Dance Fundraiser.

Lori and Mike Lyman took to the dance floor in support of the Long Grove Arts and Music Council at the March 10th Jazz & Dance Fundraiser.

The transition from winter to spring is a long and drawn-out process in our part of the Midwest. Each day we are gifted with a few more minutes of sunshine to enjoy, but our gardens and open spaces remain brown, drab, and lackluster. One week we are seduced to leave the heavy coats behind as the promise of warmer weather beckons, only to have another round of sub-freezing temps and snow flurries slap us with a reminder that, in fact, winter is still in charge. Setting our clocks ahead one hour this morning is another positive indication that a new season is on the horizon. The Long Grove Arts and Music Council provided a great opportunity last night to enliven yet one more cold and dreary winter night in the best possible way–with a Jazzy array of food, music, dancing, friends and philanthropy.

To raise funds and excitement for the 2018 Summer Concert Series, a benefit was held at the newly opened Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Long Grove. It was heartwarming to see the many donations local merchants and residents provided for the silent auction. A live jazz band was on hand to provide upbeat entertainment, as supporters and council volunteers mixed and mingled and generally enjoyed the congenial atmosphere. To me, it was another encouraging example of the revitalization efforts in our historic downtown these past several years paying off. Long Grove residents now have many options to come together and socialize locally, and in the case of last night, to also support a group that provides free summer concerts benefiting the broader community at large. And despite the current reluctance of winter to give way, it’s enough to put a little spring in my step!

Ethel Berger, Arts and Music Council Artistic Director (on the left) and Mary Prekop of the Long Grove Confectionery check out the bidding competition on the silent auction items.

Ethel Robey-Berger, Arts and Music Council Artistic Director (on the left) and Mary Prekop of the Long Grove Confectionery check out the bidding competition on the silent auction items.

Cocoa Crawl

Long Grove residents (L to R): Miles Tyer, Kristen Wojicik, Pam Pasminski, and Katie Tyer are all smiles after completing the Cocoa Crawl held in downtown Long Grove on February 3rd.

Long Grove residents (L to R): Miles Tyer, Kristen Wojicik, Pam Pasminski, and Katie Tyer are all smiles after completing the Cocoa Crawl held in downtown Long Grove on February 3rd.

Like most of Long Grove, I’m taking a “snow day” today by staying inside and off the roads so that the snowplows can dig us out before the next predicted wave of snow hits later this evening. And while a herd of deer are obviously having fun cavorting through the snow drifts in my back yard, I’m choosing to stay indoors and enjoying a cup of hot chocolate while blogging and reading. It’s the perfect opportunity to tell you about the Cocoa Crawl.

Held last Saturday, February 3rd, the Cocoa Crawl was a new idea initiated by the Historic Long Grove Downtown Business Association. On a typically slow winter weekend, residents and visitors were encouraged to come to our village crossroads and explore all the unique shops, restaurants and businesses with the enticement of free chocolate flavored samples at each location. Who does not love free chocolate? Apparently no one, because the event was a hit and downtown Long Grove was literally crawling with hundreds of families out to enjoy the treats, snacks and hometown ambiance. My friend Pam and I had a great time catching up with friends and neighbors that we haven’t seen for months as we hibernate our way through the winter season.

Here are just a few of the goodies we enjoyed: Chocolate Macroons at Within Reach, Hot Chocolate Popcorn at Signature Popcorn, Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar at The Olive Tap, Chocolate Pudding cups topped with Baileys Irish Cream at Unwined, and Hot Chocolate Bark at the Long Grove Confectionery.  We would have had more but mercifully (for our diets) some of the locations had run out of samples by the time we got there due to the large number of attendees to this inaugural event. At the end of our afternoon we stopped back to register for the raffle prize drawing, with 20 of the local businesses donating gift baskets or gift certificates to the festivities. It was great to see so many people enjoying our downtown and becoming acquainted with the newly renovated and opened shops. A tip of my snowman shaped cocoa mug to you, downtown merchants, for an inspired idea!

Taking a break from our crawling, Pam and I enjoyed a short rest under the "chocolate hot tub" outside of the Long Grove Coffee Company.

Taking a break from our crawling, Pam and I enjoyed a short rest under the “chocolate hot tub” outside of the Long Grove Coffee Company.

Let it Snow!

The elves at the Long Grove Historical Society decorated this downtown holiday tree at the farmhouse.

The elves at the Long Grove Historical Society decorated this downtown holiday tree outside the farmhouse.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know a number of things that I love about Long Grove. Add to that list, the positive odds of experiencing a white Christmas. When I peered out the window this morning, my heart skipped a beat. To those of us enjoying the holiday in Long Grove this year, we are in luck!

With a snowfall, our open spaces and wooded preserves such as Reed-Turner suddenly transform into a winter wonderland. The beautiful holiday lights and decorations at the historical crossroads look so much more magical with a dusting of snow, as do the 80 outdoor fresh Christmas trees decorated in festive splendor by our merchants and business owners. I missed the tractor rides yesterday due to a family gathering, but I’ve spent the past week finishing up the gift list by shopping in some of my favorite stores. One Long Grove shop owner mentioned that sales are up 10 percent for the year and 25 percent for the holiday season. Two more indicated that things are going so well this year, they are close to running out of Christmas themed merchandise. Not to worry…orders have already been placed for additional new and exciting inventory in the year ahead! Being warmly greeted by smiling faces in our downtown shops and restaurants has truly helped make my holiday season extra merry and bright. There is just something so special about a small-town at Christmastime.

And even though the fluffy white flakes that lift my spirits can dampen the joy for those who have to travel, for all of us celebrating the holiday in Long Grove…let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Yuletide Sing

Historical Society Yuletide Sing Songmaster Mike Dvorak was seen recently recruiting Santa to the event.

Historical Society Yuletide Sing Songmaster Mike Dvorak was seen recently attempting to recruit Santa to the event.

One of my favorite holiday memories as a kid was going Christmas caroling door to door in my hometown. The Long Grove Historical Society is looking to revive this tradition with our Yuletide Sing event, being held this Saturday, December 9th. Instead of walking throughout town (which is challenging with most of us living on 2-3 acre lots!) we will congregate on the back porch patio of our historical 1860’s farmhouse and join together in songs of the season from 6:00 to 7:00 pm. We will be accompanied by a special Yuletide Band featuring guitar, keyboard and hand percussion performed by Zack and Josh Langhoff and Mike Dvorak. The sing-a-long set list will include such holiday favorites as: Deck the Hall, Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel. Don’t worry about remembering all the lyrics because song sheets will be available.

Everyone in the community is invited to this festive, free, family gathering, no RSVP necessary! Girl Scout Troop #40436 will be on hand to help lead the carols and provide some holiday warmth in the form of hot chocolate. There will also be a bonfire to help keep the chill off toes and fingers. Be sure to dress for the winter weather as this event is outdoors.

Come gather this weekend and enjoy an old-fashioned hometown sing with your friends and neighbors, and celebrate the simple pleasures of the season. The beautiful holiday lights in our historic downtown are guaranteed to put a smile on your face!

An Unforgettable Experience

Being interviewed live by anchor Jeff  on Fox Business News in February, 2014.

Being interviewed live by anchor Jeff Flock on Fox Business News in February, 2014.

Now that I am winding down to my last few weeks in office, friends have been inquiring about what experiences I will remember most from my time as Village President. One memory that is forever burned into my brain is the referendum in Spring of 2014, when the residents were asked if they wanted to authorize a tax to pay for repairs to our thoroughfare roads in Long Grove. As it turned out, they didn’t. But the weeks leading up to election day and the month or so following were truly unforgettable. And the resulting experience of being interviewed, live, on a national network news channel stands out as a highlight. Here’s how it happened:

The 2014 referendum question had received quite a large amount of media attention, with a featured article appearing on the front page of the Chicago Tribune, and additional coverage by the Daily Herald and Crain’s Chicago Business. I was interviewed live on the radio by several local stations, including NPR. All of this caught the eye of FOX Business News, who came to Long Grove on a very snowy President’s Day in February of 2014. Throughout the day, as the snowflakes drifted down into a white-out blizzard, I was interviewed live for four separate segments, at different locations in the Village. The first spot was filmed in front of the covered bridge, but the subsequent three interviews were filmed live while I was driving the news team’s truck over our Long Grove roads, simultaneously answering questions, during an escalating snowstorm. I will never forget the reality TV challenge of giving articulate answers to the reporter’s questions while driving an unfamiliar truck as I pumped the brakes to stop skidding onto Route 53 and knowing that this was being broadcast live. I think I surprised everyone–staff, news crew, and myself–that I was able to pull this whole thing off and get everyone and the truck back to Village Hall in one piece. When it was all said and done I was dubbed “a real trouper” and I will say that it was a true lesson in grace under pressure!

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Decorated Christmas trees are popping up all over our historic downtown!

Decorated Christmas trees are popping up all over our historic downtown.

If you need some inspiration to get in the holiday mood, look no further than downtown Long Grove! The elves have been busy decorating 80 fresh evergreen trees scattered throughout our historic crossroads. Jump-start your Christmas cheer at two special events tonight only–both of which are FREE! Santa himself will be making a visit to Beans & Leaves coffee shop from 3-5, and he will be taking gift requests from both the naughty and the nice. Enjoy the beautiful lights and decorations as you shop till 7:00 this evening as the stores have extended hours. As a special holiday treat, from 5:00 till 7:00 the merchants are sponsoring free lighted wagon rides of our downtown, pulled by a vintage tractor. Top the night off with dinner or drinks at one of our Long Grove restaurants or gathering spots. Even the Grinch could not resist this much seasonal spirit!

Long Grove is charming any day of the year, but at Christmastime it really shines. For the next three weekends strolling carolers and complimentary carriage rides are available from 1 to 6 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Happy Holidays!

 A festive holiday scene awaits in Long Grove!

A festive holiday scene awaits in Long Grove.

Track and Field of Dreams

At the ribbon cutting for the new running tract at Woodlawn School (L to R) Lake County Board Representative Sidney Mathias, Me, Buffalo Grove President Beverly Sussman.

At the ribbon cutting for the new running track at Woodlawn School (L to R) Lake County Board Representative Sidney Mathias, Me, Buffalo Grove Village President Beverly Sussman.

Right now we are smack dab in the middle of a Midwestern winter, and springtime is still a couple of months away despite whatever the groundhog recently predicted. So with this blog post I am going to remind you that warmer weather is coming, and with it will be the start of track season. And this year, our local teams at both Woodlawn and Twin Groves middle schools will have beautiful new running tracks on which to perfect their sport. Previously, students had to practice on grass fields with hand-painted lines, but about a year and a half ago School District #96 was able to finally work construction of proper tracks into the capital projects budget. What were once rough practice fields have now been transformed with a paved foundation topped by a rubber surface, sporting permanently painted lanes. The work was accomplished in the summer and early fall of 2015, and I was honored to participate with other local elected officials in the official ribbon-cutting ceremonies at both schools this past October 8th.

Gazing out my window on this dark winter morning, I am dreaming of the days soon to come when I can get back out on the walking path in the spring sunshine. I imagine there are also students at Woodlawn today gazing out the windows at their new athletic field, with the same cabin-fever thoughts as me. Hang on kids, because warmer days are sure to come and when they do, these beautiful improved tracks are ready and waiting!

Christmas in Long Grove

Greeting Santa during his visit to our Historic Downtown on December 12, 2015.

Greeting Santa during his visit to our Historic Downtown on December 12, 2015.

Hurry, Hurry, it’s your last weekend to experience Christmas in Long Grove! And the mood in town this year is extra festive. Thanks to merchants Ryan Messner and John Kopecky, our buildings in the historic downtown are outlined with thousands and thousands of twinkling white lights and the stores are beautiful all decked out in greenery with holiday bows. With our mild weather this year the shopkeepers are reporting strong sales and holiday shoppers happy to have chosen to spend a day in our quaint village.

So if you are in the mood for some seasonal cheer this weekend, here are a few suggestions:

  • Stop by to say “ho, ho, ho” to Santa from 1-4 on Saturday or Sunday
  • Take a FREE horse-drawn carriage ride on Saturday from 1-6
  • Listen to holiday carolers, the “Jingle Singers” Saturday or Sunday from 2-4
  • Knock off those last few wish list items and if you spend $150 you will receive a FREE gift!
  • Participate in our “Smitten with Mittens” collection to help those in need

Details on all of the above activities can be obtained at our Visitor’s Center on the crossroads.

Christmas season can be hectic and hurried. So take a moment to slow down this weekend, come to Long Grove and soak in the atmosphere. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Comfy & Cozy on a Cold Winter’s Night

Chatterbox owner Steve Besbeas welcomes me at the door.

Chatterbox owner Steve Besbeas welcomes me at the door.

Faced with another night of sub-zero temps, my husband and I set out to find some comfort food and companionship this evening in Long Grove. Our first stop was the Chatterbox, where we discovered that not only was the parking lot packed, but the restaurant was doing a capacity business. Not a problem, as we continued on down the street to the Village Tavern to snag one of their last remaining tables. We had the added benefit of being entertained with music while we warmed ourselves with good food and atmosphere. On the way back to the car, we stopped by the Chatterbox for the ultimate comfort food on a cold night–the warm and gooey skillet cookie! An extra bonus was running into two couples from Neighbors and Newcomers club who were also out for a night in our hometown to escape the cold. I can’t tell you how great it was to see our restaurants in town doing a healthy business in the dead of winter. Chatterbox owner Steve Besbeas and I talked tonight about the possibility of another Long Grove location opening soon where locals can come together and socialize in our historic downtown. I know that it is hard to be patient, but the tide is turning in our Village. I share the vision of many other residents that we will see a real revitalization in the next few years in our hometown. In the midst of this cold, bitter weather, I see the sparks of hope growing steadily. The next time you are in the mood to socialize, look no further than our own Long Grove establishments. Help us keep the fires burning!

Infinite Beauty

Long Grove Coyote

This magnificent image of a coyote was taken two winters ago in my backyard.  It illustrates one of my favorite quotes:

“Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty”–John Ruskin.

I wonder if she is still hunting mice in my conservancy; if she was part of the howling and yipping pack that we heard Sunday night in the blizzard.  Earlier this winter, I had a resident phone me to complain that a deer had died in the open space near his neighborhood, and it needed to be removed because it was attracting coyotes.  My response involved some version of the “circle of life” explaining that the coyotes are residents of Long Grove too, and don’t we live here because we value the abundance of nature?  I’m not sure he agreed with me, and as it turned out, the deer was on private property so the Village couldn’t remove it had we wanted to.  Even though I wish the ground hog had predicted a quicker end to our current season, I am choosing to appreciate the beauty of this winter.  The trees in my backyard vista look so much more graceful with snow outlining the delicate branches.  One of the joys of living in our Village is the opportunity to observe the wild things up close and personal.  The challenge is allowing ourselves the chance to really see it.