Neighbors & Newcomers

Members of the Long Grove-Kildeer Neighbors and Newcomers Club (L to R): Sandi

Some of the Long Grove-Kildeer Neighbors and Newcomers Club members (L to R) at the September 12th Brunch: Sandy Yogendran, Renee Clark, Katie Hodge, Susan Fasano, Lana Pollard, and Angie Underwood.

Today I’d like to highlight one community group that is near and dear to my heart and continues to be a force for good in our village. Founded in 1957, shortly after the Village of Long Grove was incorporated, the Neighbors and Newcomers Club of Long Grove and Kildeer has been welcoming new residents and sustaining friendships for 50 years. This vibrant group has helped countless residents get acclimated into their new communities and fostered social connections that have lasted in some cases, decades. I was introduced to this group 20 years ago when we first moved to the area, and quickly met other newcomers like myself who shared similar interests and had children the same ages as my own. Some of the ladies pictured above I have known since I joined, others are more recent friends. I have had the pleasure of serving as President of this wonderful group three separate times over the ensuing years.

Earlier this month was the fall “kick-off” event, a brunch at our current President’s home in which we welcomed three new members and had fun catching up on summer happenings with long-time friends. Everyone who attended brought donations of toiletry bags filled with essentials (shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, lotion, etc…) to be donated to WINGS, a local Safe House for women and children fleeing desperate situations. Each year the club sponsors one specific collection for a local charity. In past years the donations have ranged from food for the local food pantry, children’s pajamas for a shelter, toys for a holiday gift drive, and the adopt-a-family program through Vernon Township.

One way to really get to know your neighbors is through a shared interest. Here is where this group really excels, by offering eight different interest groups in which you can participate in, as little or much as you choose. My personal favorite is the Grove Trotters walking group, which meets at Heron Creek Forest Preserve or other neighborhood walking trails for fellowship and fitness in our beautiful Long Grove & Kildeer open spaces. You can participate in an evening book club, Bunco/Game Night, couples Wine Tasting or Gourmet dining, Out to Lunch with the ladies or take in a Chick Flicks show at a local theater. If social opportunities are what you are interested in, look no further than this friendly club. For more information please visit the Facebook page here.

As I mentioned earlier, I have a great amount of affection for this group. I liken it to the song I learned back in Girl Scouts, “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.” The friends I have made over the last twenty years in Neighbors & Newcomers are truly golden.

Apple Fest 2017

Cast Members of the Long Grove Historical Society's "A Celebration of the Apple" show include (L to R): Zack Langhoff, Veronica Lada, Nikki Gayton, Karen and Katie Kroll, Mike Dvorak, and puppeteer Krist Neumann, portraying Ma and Pa Gridley.

Cast Members of the Long Grove Historical Society’s “A Celebration of the Apple” show include (L to R): Zack Langhoff, Veronica Lada, Nikki Gayton, Karen and Katie Kroll, Mike Dvorak, and puppets “Ma and Pa Gridley.”

Our Apple Fest weekend was kicked off in style with a first-ever performance of “A Celebration of the Apple,”at the Historical Society’s farmhouse back porch. Audience members relaxed on benches under the apple tree, and were entertained with songs, poems, jokes, history and lots of lore regarding apples. A highlight of the show was the debut of “Ma and Pa Gridley,” a couple of real Long Grove pioneers brought back to life through the farmhouse back porch window. Professional puppeteer Krist Neumann showcased his amazing talent to the delight of both kids and adults!

We are enjoying a bit of a heat wave this weekend in Long Grove, perfect for carnival rides, outdoor music, pie-eating contests, and festival treats such as apple cider donuts. The fun starts on Sunday at 10:00 am and continues till 6:00 pm in our historic downtown. The band American English is featured on the main stage at the covered bridge from 4-6 pm. Come enjoy the day in Long Grove!

Puppeteer Krist Neumann's family owns the Long Grove shop "Viking Treasures."

Puppeteer Krist Neumann’s family owns the Long Grove shop “Viking Treasures.”


Monarch Mommas

Long Grove-Kildeer Garden Club Members Paula Van Singel (L) and Kathy Michas serve as foster mothers to Monarch caterpillars in an effort to boost their dwindling numbers.

Long Grove-Kildeer Garden Club Members Paula Van Singel (L) and Kathy Michas are two of many local ladies who serve as foster mothers to Monarch caterpillars in an effort to boost their dwindling numbers.

My first summer job as a youngster was “walking beans,” which involved getting up at the crack of dawn and going up and down the rows of soybean fields near my central Illinois hometown, pulling out noxious weeds by hand. One of those undesirables was milkweed, and it wasn’t until I moved to Long Grove many years later that I learned of this native plant’s importance in our ecosystem. Yes, times have certainly changed, because this year I found myself actually planting milkweed in my garden on purpose–to attract the Monarchs.

At the Long Grove-Kildeer Garden Club’s September meeting this past week, members Paula Van Singel and Kathy Michas gave a fascinating program on the plight of the Monarchs, and their efforts to help more of the species to survive here in Long Grove. Milkweed serves as the primary food source for Monarch butterflies, and they lay their eggs on the undersides of the plant’s leaves. Only 1 to 5% of the eggs laid in nature will survive, so Paula, Kathy, and fellow “Monarch Mommas” bring the eggs and milkweed plants indoors once they are discovered, to foster the development of the eggs into caterpillars. They are cared for in a special habitat and fed milkweed until a chrysalis is formed, and in about two weeks the butterfly will emerge and be released.

Why do they do this? Recent studies have indicated that we have lost 90-93% of our Monarch population in North America in the last 20 years. According to Paula, her passion was sparked when she retired and started volunteering in the “Butterflies and Blooms” exhibit at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Besides helping the species boost their declining numbers, Paula says she is further inspired because, “every time a chrysalis opens, my faith is renewed.” Every year at this time the Monarchs from Illinois migrate south to winter in Michoac√°n, Mexico, where they are losing their natural habitat. The forest in which they hibernate has dwindled from 45 acres in 1995 to 1.7 acres today. Their food source of milkweed has become more scarce due to the use of pesticides, and changing weather may also be playing a role.

Did you know that the Monarch is our Illinois state insect? We can help the species to survive in Long Grove by planting more milkweed in our gardens and open spaces, and by being careful (or eliminating) the use of pesticides and insecticides on our property. Or if you really have a passion, you can follow the lead of ladies like Paula and Kathy and make an even bigger difference by fostering some “cats” next summer. You will have a front row seat to one of nature’s miracles!

The Benefits of Tourism

Attending the Visit Lake County annual meeting on September 6th: Village Clerk Amy Gayton (L), State Representative Nick Sauer (Center), and Historical Society President Angie Underwood (R).

Attending the Visit Lake County annual meeting on September 6th: Village Clerk Amy Gayton (L), State Representative Nick Sauer (Center), and Historical Society President Angie Underwood (R).

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”

Those of us who are lucky enough to get away from time to time on vacation realize how much it does to improve our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. It helps our productivity when back on the job if we can carve out even a few days of relaxation from the daily grind of work responsibilities. It’s amazing what a simple change of scenery can do!

An additional benefit of taking some time off is the financial boost that tourism can provide for our local economies. In 2016, the economic impact of tourism here in Lake County was a staggering $1.29 billion in visitor spending, which ranks third in the state of Illinois behind Cook and DuPage counties. Our county does have the good fortune of being the home of Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, which is a huge draw. Additionally, Lake County offers a variety of other smaller attractions such as charming downtown Long Grove to tempt visitors to come experience our shops, restaurants and beautiful open spaces. County-wide, over 10,750 jobs are due to tourism and $29.6 million in local tax receipts are generated annually. Clearly, tourism plays an important role locally in job creation, business growth and economic development.

This week three board members of the Historical Society represented Long Grove at the Visit Lake County annual meeting held at the Lake County Fairgrounds. Going with a county fair “blue ribbon” year for tourism theme, we gathered with other chamber of commerce representatives, business leaders, restaurant owners, hotel and entertainment industry leaders, community partners and elected officials to celebrate our local success. Visit Lake County is our official marketing organization and champion of tourism in Lake County. Using promotions, advertising, video and social media, they keep the public informed of all the great reasons to come for a visit. Some of the events sponsored include Lake County Restaurant Week in March featuring 50 participating establishments, and the Lake County Libation Trail highlighting locally-made spirits, wines and brews. Our keynote speaker for the annual meeting was Cory Jobe, Director of the Illinois Office of Tourism. One of the topics that Cory touched on is the Project: Time Off initiative. Studies have shown that in the fast paced world we now live in, workers are not taking all of their allowed vacation days, resulting in days of rest and leisure and local economic impact being “left on the table.” We should all make use of the time we are given, to improve our lives, our health, and our communities.

Twenty five years ago tourism was a big business in Long Grove, with tour buses arriving weekly full of visitors ready to enjoy a day of small town ambiance and boutique shopping. We still welcome shoppers from all over the country and overseas at our downtown Visitors’ Center, but the tour buses have certainly slowed as the number of “Mom & Pop” stores have dwindled over the years. Long Grove continues to offer plenty of charm with our vintage buildings and iconic covered bridge, but today it is the history that also creates the draw. Our Long Grove Historical Society has a great working relationship with Visit Lake County staff, and we have been pleased to partner with them as a destination in group tours they are featuring of the area. As a historical society our mission is to preserve, celebrate, and share our local history, and if we can help the community with tourism benefits in doing so, all the better.

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!