Merry Christmas, dear blog readers! I have to admit that I was feeling a little bit of a Grinch-like attitude earlier this morning–my holiday overload reaching the peak. But then the magic of the season returned with delight, at non-other than Sunset Foods here in Long Grove. As my husband and I shopped for last-minute items to complete our Christmas Eve dinner, we smiled at the crazy holiday sweaters being worn by the employees. I would like to publicly thank Max, for not only bagging our groceries proficiently, but for showcasing the most colorful, creative, cute and clever sweater I’ve seen in my rounds of holiday festivities this year. Pictured above, the chic knitted pullover in a purple and teal snowflake pattern featured not only a Christmas unicorn clutching a candy cane in it’s mouth, but was festooned with blinking lights! (Unfortunately this didn’t come through in the picture, but believe me, it was brilliant!) As if that wasn’t enough, when we stopped by the Starbucks drive-thru on the way home, our drinks were free because a generous elf had gifted everyone in line behind him. Goodwill towards others abounded this afternoon in Long Grove, and reinforced to me what I like best about this time of year. Happy Holidays!
Feeling virtuous after surviving my morning strength training session, I stopped by downtown Long Grove to reward myself with an eggnog latte (I know…not as nutritious as a smoothie…but ’tis the season!) and what to my wondering eyes did appear–Santa! Seizing the opportunity for an interview, I spent a few minutes basking in his holiday glow and finding out what was up for the day.
Santa gave his reindeer this sunny Saturday off as he claimed to have driven himself to Long Grove, cruising down our newly resurfaced Old McHenry Road in his convertible, with the top down! I guess our 30 degree temps might feel tropical to someone acclimated to the North Pole. I asked him what kind of cookies he would like us to leave out this year on Christmas Eve, and get this–he is cutting back on the calories this holiday season and working out five times a week! Kudos to Santa for being a role model for healthy living, even though I still could not resist the temptation of the eggnog.
Visitors to Long Grove will get numerous chances to see Santa as he is spending the entire day in town, greeting families and listening to children’s wish lists at various shops and restaurants. The top of my wish list? Seeing our covered bridge restored. Tonight Santa is paying a special visit to the Historical Society farmhouse, to lead the start of holiday carols at 6:00 pm for our annual Yuletide Sing. This family friendly event is free and will feature complimentary hot chocolate and fire pits for warmth. I invited Santa to be our guest later tonight at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio’s Holiday Ball, “Dance your way to Fred’s Chalet.” Alas, even though Santa loves to dance he has plans to thank the local volunteers who make up the CERT team of first-responders, at their Christmas party. No doubt about it, Santa is a busy man these days spreading hope, happiness and holiday cheer throughout the village.
Small Business Saturday
Yesterday was Small Business Saturday. My family participated by patronizing a few of the shops in our favorite small business shopping district–downtown Long Grove. Roving carolers helped set a festive mood and fellow shoppers were enjoying the annual carriage rides around the crossroads, showcasing two great reasons to celebrate the season in the unique ambiance of our historic village. Check out below some of the many smiling faces that I encountered:
During this holiday season it’s easy to find reasons to support our local merchants. I’ll be back in the weeks ahead to dine and dance and shop with my Christmas list in hand. I encourage you to do the same!
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!
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!
Let it Snow!
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!
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
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
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.
Track and Field of Dreams
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!