Thursday, July 20, 2017

Fresh Food - Farm to Table - Home Grown Goodness

Fresh peaches, fresh corn, fresh squash, fresh blueberries, fresh beets and potatoes... fresh food!
I love this time of year because it's a great time to find all my favorite fresh produce. They say that food may travel 1500 miles to make it to our tables. Summer farm markets offer the opportunity to buy from our own community and serve Farm to Table. We work hard to serve fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables as much as we can. Our local grocery store chain even advertises the names of local growers and producers that reduce the travel time and keep our food fresh.

I grew up in a farming community. I knew hog farmers and beef farmers and families that raised chickens and turkeys and and I went to school with their children. I grew up "in town" in the small town of Newton, Illinois. My dad was a gardener. He grew a lot of flowers, but also had an extensive vegetable garden each year. I grew up eating the freshest vegetables around. (I learned to love most of them, but I still don't favor eggplant or okra.) I have an appreciation for home-grown, but I'm not much of a grower. Our property is so shaded that it's very hard to grow anything other than perennials. I do have an herb garden on the back deck, but that's about it. Since I can't grow 'em, I rely on others to do all the work. I buy from the local Farmer's Markets, at roadside stands and sometimes friends and neighbors have such an abundance they give food away!

Growing up, we were always in search of "Indiana melons," i.e.
cantaloupe and watermelon grown in Indiana. I've gone from spitting seeds to buying seedless, but I have very fond memories of the seasonal search for that pick-up truck bed filled to the brim with Indiana melons.  In our area we often look for "Calhoun County peaches." There are well-known local orchards, but I still get a thrill buying at the Farm Market or from a pickup truck alongside the road. I guess I'm still a small-town girl at heart.

Saturdays are my favorite breakfast preparation days. Lately, I've been flying by the seat of my pants as I design my menu after I hit the Farmer's Market at 7:00 a.m. Seeing what's available inspires what's for breakfast at the B&B. Oh, I plan the breakfast breads, but the vegetables that go in the egg dish and the side vegetable are up for grabs until I see what they have each week. This weekend I served sauteed squash as a side and our guests loved it. I also buy my breakfast meat at the market, so I can always choose bacon or sausage or ham. This weekend I've used tomatoes, blackberries, Italian sausage, an onion, and squash from the Farmer's Market. I often use potatoes, but haven't come up with any great breakfast recipes for beets and other root vegetables. If you have some ideas, please send them along!

One of the benefits of staying in a Bed & Breakfast is that food is prepared in smaller quantities, and using fresh from the garden or farm is always a viable option. We have a small family and I try to use fresh foods for our family meals, too. We've been enjoying a blackberry cobbler this weekend, made from berries from the Farmer's Market and the Pioneer Woman's cobbler recipe. I highly recommend both, and I know that Glenn will concur. I'm ready to try it again this week using fresh peaches instead of berries. Sweet corn is in season and we have found some of the best! (I'm still trying to figure out a good way to serve it for guest breakfasts.)

Several of our local growers are organic, or focus in other ways on growing foods with high nutritional content. I enjoy cooking indulgent breakfasts and I love to use healthy ingredients. As an innkeeper, I'm very thankful to have easy access to such a terrific bounty of fresh food here in my own community.

Prairie Land Heritage Annual Fall Festival and Steam Show Days

The 48th Annual Fall Festival and Steam Show will be held at the Prairie Land Heritage Museum September 22 - 24, 2017. Join us for a weekend of family fun!

We enjoy touring the historic village with the working blacksmith, school, church and museum. It's a great way to experience days gone by.

 The Prairie Land Steam Show

  • Antique tractors
  • Train rides
  • Corn Maze
  • Petting Zoo
  • Children's Museum and story time
  • Music performances in the vintage bandstand
  • Food vendors
  • Historic Village including working blacksmith
  • Learn how steam engine impacted agricultural progress
  • Flea Market adjacent to the Historic Village
Prairie Land Heritage Museum web site

Friday, May 19, 2017

Our Charters of Freedom

Charters of Freedom Exhibit
Central Park, Jacksonville, Illinois
Come to Jacksonville and view our Charters of Freedom exhibit! Jacksonville is blessed to have one of six exhibits placed by FOUNDATION FORWARD, Inc.

Taken directly from:


Foundation Forward, Inc. is an educational project. ​It's an organization that builds Your Charters of Freedom Monuments in local communities across the country. Join us in the installation of these extraordinary ​documents in easily accessible locations, giving others the chance to visit and experience our nations's history!


Foundation Forward, Inc. is an educational project. It's an organization that builds Your Charters of Freedom Monuments in communities across the country.

Our Passion is to provide easy Access for all to visit these founding documents.

Our Vision is to provide this Access and Education in all communities across the United States of America. 

Our Goal is to educate and preserve American history.

The Charters of Freedom are our country’s founding documents. These three original documents, The Declaration of Independence, The United States Constitution and The Bill of Rights, are on display in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.They are open to the public and free to view.

​These three documents declare:

​•We are an independent people.
•We are governed by a democratic republic.
•We are secure in our freedom and rights as citizens of the United States of America.


Come view the Charters of Freedom in Jacksonville's Central Park.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Ferris Wheels and Fireflies

Our Bed & Breakfast is located in Jacksonville, Illinois, just outside Springfield, the State Capitol. I often say that we live in a "small town," although with approximately 20,000 residents, it hardly qualifies. Yet, even through we have a lot of friends and neighbors, many businesses, the arts, colleges, and activities, Jacksonville still remains that "city with a small town feel." Jacksonville is the kind of town where you can have breakfast on the front porch, waving as your neighbors pass by, work all day, go out to dinner and a movie, and finish your day on the back porch viewing the stars and watching the fireflies light up the night. You can be as busy or as relaxed as you'd like to be.

There's always something to do here in this small town! Head down to the corner of Main and Morton for a Rotary Club Ferris Wheel ride on a summer Sunday afternoon. Thanks to our local Eli Bridge Company, these big wheels have been manufactured here for more than 100 years. Take a day to go fishing at Lake Jacksonville, one of the highest ranked bass fishing lakes in the state. Need a little more action? Head out to Jacksonville Speedway! Like baseball? The CABA World Series has been played at our Lenz Field. And, our "small" town offers the opportunity to watch two college football teams play on Saturdays each fall.

This small town offers a big history. We have several homes that have been identified as stops on the Underground Railroad. Woodlawn Farm, open for summer tours, was also an early agricultural center. The only remaining Governor's Mansion outside the state capitol is located just down the block from our Bed & Breakfast. We have many "Old House Neighborhoods" in this small town, with examples of fine architecture, from Victorian to Prairie Craftsman. The JACVB offers three distinct Historic Home Walking Tours. One goes right through our neighborhood! Take a leisurely drive through town, listening to the Abraham Lincoln Voices of Jacksonville narrative as you discover more about Lincoln's early relationship with our small town. Our Lincoln heritage goes back a long way!

Want to take in a concert? This small town has annual grandstand concerts with well known country artists and a weekly summer concert series downtown. Our Jacksonville Symphony offers an annual concert season including patriotic and Christmas performances. Prefer the theater? We've really got you covered there, too! Whether you're seeing a play, a comedian or a musical performance, our intimate venues are designed to encourage the connection between the audience an the performers on stage. No "obstructed views" here!

Prefer dressing up and going out on the town? Seasonal events offer that opportunity, from Masquerade Balls to Blue Jeans Balls to hat contests on Derby Day. Here in Jacksonville, you can put on your swimsuit and go to the lake or put on a different suit and go to a Gala. We have something for everyone, from fishing to football, from country to symphony, from Ferris Wheels to fireflies.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Crazy Horse Campground 10th Annual Bluegrass Music Festival June 23-25

Crazy Horse Campground will host their 10th Annual Bluegrass Music Festival June 23-25. Bluegrass fans gather year after year for a terrific lineup of performances. Crazy Horse is a local campground that offers fun family-friendly camping all season long. Campers may fish from their stocked ponds, listen to live music, swim, participate in scheduled activities, or relax by the fire. They offer planned activities throughout the season, including music on Saturday nights. This year they plan to offer Cold Water Mining Company mining sluice fun for all.

My idea of camping is shutting down the A/C and opening the windows, but we'll go for the music and I'm sure Valerie the rock collector will love the mining attraction!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Who Stays in a Bed & Breakfast, Anyway?

There are some standard questions I'm asked from time to time. I thought I'd start with one very common question. "Who stays with you, anyway?"
Jacksonville is considered a small town and it's located about 30 minutes from Springfield, the State Capitol. So, who stays here, anyway?  Our guests come from as far away as Australia and as close as across town. They range from newlyweds and young professionals to business travelers and retirees. Some stay in B&B's as a matter of choice and some have come for the first time, because our local hotels were full. I've learned that first-timers, even when "forced" to stay here the first time, often become return guests.

The Authors and the Artists...
Val with authors Mark Parsons
and Wendelin van Draanen
We hosted authors and author's reps a few times. Our guests one
week drove a minivan wrapped in book covers from all of their published books. They were doing a book signing at Our Town Books and we enjoyed the opportunity to host them while they were in town. Valerie is such a reader that it was a real treat for her! One week in March, in our early years, a local artist stayed four nights for an Artist's Retreat. She spent time pondering and planning and primarily getting away from the distractions she would have faced in her home a short distance away. She not only stayed here, she spent time painting the lovely watercolor of our home and wrote and illustrated a book for Valerie, our Assistant Innkeeper. Later, Sharon illustrated Valerie's book and she now comes back every year for her annual retreat.

The Couples...
Our guests one week included a young married couple who came for a Dinner and Movie Date Night. They had a nice dinner at Lonzerotti's Italian Restaurant, ate Dell's popcorn, and  watched movies to their heart's content. For them it was a Babymoon - their last getaway as a couple, before baby makes three.

The Quilters...
One fall, a group of quilters made this their base as they visited fabric shops here in Jacksonville and in nearby communities. They had massages, explored the area, shopped and spent a good bit of their time working at our dining room table.

The Seniors
We've had several guests that would fit the imagined profile for the "typical" B&B guests. Some couples travel together, socializing on the front porch or in the front parlor, dining out together, and playing cards in the dining room. They're B&B veterans who have high expectations. And they often return a couple of times a year!

Doctors and Lawyers and College Trustees...
Over the years we have hosted many business travelers. They seem to like the peace and quiet here. There are lap desks in each suite, along with power strips to help them stay connected. We offer Internet access and a business center to send faxes and print boarding documents. Some of our business guests have been here several times a year, others several times a month. We've developed some great friendships over the years.

What is My "Target Market"?
I typically spend the first part of the year reviewing my marketing plan, revising my web site and determining which listing services I want to pay to belong to. One of the key questions I ask myself is, "What is my target market?" I know that I should have a target market, but what is it? WHO is it? I can't seem to nail it down. Business travelers? Honeymooners and romantic getaways? Senior travelers? Millennials? Boomers? We love them all and I can't name just one target market. So... we'll keep on working on special packages that appeal to each of these groups, and you all just keep on coming.

A new market I'm considering targets "Foodies." How would you like to have your own private chef for a night? Perhaps you'd like to host a dinner party for some of your friends, planning it with your own personal chef. Maybe you and another couple would like to come for a weekend and enjoy a private "Chef's Table." Stay tuned to see what we come up with, and if you have a suggestion for us, please leave a comment!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

These are "My People"

Growing up, I often heard the phrase, "My People," especially when I was around people from the South. It was a term of endearment often used to describe relatives, as in, "These are my people." Something I heard the other day caused me to ponder the phrase.

Who are my people?

Certainly my people are my relatives. We have five children, some with spouses and children of their own. I have one sister and many cousins. Many of them have spouses. I have a living uncle (and aunt) on my mom's side and on my dad's side. They are my people. Generations gone by are my people. Many of my relatives love(d) the Lord and share(d) that love with others. I have a godly heritage. II Timothy 3:14, 15 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you have learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus

Growing up, I often celebrated weddings and birthdays and holidays with my people. Easter involved getting up early and dressing up for the Sunrise Service, the early service before Sunday School and church. Church was often followed by a family gathering that included a carry-in dinner, lots of pictures, and an Easter egg hunt. On holidays, I was typically surrounded by my people.

Glenn came from a very large family. Though we may see each other only a couple of times a year, his siblings, their spouses, their children and grandchildren are my people. He is a widower and when he married Sheila, her family became his family. Sheila's mother, Helen, was a precious "other mother" for me and a wonderful grandmother for all of our children. They are all my people, too.

Friends are Good People
I have a small circle of close friends embedded within a larger circle of friends. They are my people. My "best friend" from elementary school is next to my good buddy I became acquainted with many years ago through my work at DCFS and they're next to other friends that provide solid friendship and support.  We are surrounded by others that I've gotten to know through my
church, my work, and my involvement in the community. They are sisters of the heart. (OK. I'll admit it. There are some brothers in there, too!) Some people I speak to regularly; others not as often. These are friends that share faith and fun times and laughter as well as sadness and heartaches. During my journey with Cancer they've supported me with notes and calls and meals and gifts and, most of all, with their love and prayers. I love to spend time with them. Some of us nearly fall to the floor laughing when sharing "Remember Whens." They've laughed with me, cried with me and they've held me up when I thought I couldn't take another step. They are my people.

Our B&B Guests are Good People
We have welcomed thousands of people into our home during the past nine years. Some have been welcome guests, passing through Jacksonville only once. Others have become our people. We have many return guests. Chuck has stayed with us several times a year for the past five years. He's "visited" a dozen times. We've shared major life events like his marriage, role changes, and my adventure with cancer. He's become like a brother. Some guests have reported, "It's like we've always known you." We form strong bonds that stand the test of time. These are my people.

God's People
When I think about my people, I can't help but think about God's people. Just as I spend time with my friends enjoying their company, I should enjoy spending time in fellowship with the Lord. Just as I lean on my friends I should rely on the Lord for my strength and my joy.
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

I am thankful that I have my people,

I am even more thankful that I am one of His people.