Monday, September 29, 2008

Realtor, blogger....Master Gardener???

There is a flippin cantaloupe growing on the side of my house. It must be remnants from last years composting. All summer I watched that crazy vine and thought they were funny looking strawberries. Lo and behold, this morning I see this alien thing poking its head out. Cool. This must be how the pioneers felt!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Blogging is ruining my life plus lovely fall photos!

Well, maybe that's a little overly dramatic, but I have decided to lay off blogging for a little while I get some things in order. The house is a mess, it seems our daughter is going to need some extra help with the 3R's, we have to totally update our business websites, and worst of all, I think my a$$ is spreading. A little Internet detox is in order.

In the meantime I am going to leave you with some beautiful images of Tanners Orchard in Speers, Illinois. We have gone there every year since the kids were born and they never seem to get sick of it. PeoriaIllinoisan seems to prefer Christ Orchard so I gave him my reassurance that we would definitely check that out in October and report back.

I hope during my brief respite my friends will consider "guest blogging" and share their stories, opinions (and I know you all got 'em!), pictures, jokes, and juicy gossip. Some are already authorized users, and if you aren't, just shoot me an e-mail to dianevespa@yahoo.com and I'll make ya one. So enough of that.

Last Wednesday while the Peoria District 150 faculty "collaborated" (something about that sounds sinister), I decided to take advantage of the early dismissal and took the kids to Tanners Orchard in Speer, IL. To get to the orchard, just hop on Knoxville (Hwy. 40) and head North about 20 miles.



As you arrive, the Marketplace greets you with samples of fresh apples, cider, corn relishes, chips and dips, fresh baked goods and so much more. The Kids will try stuff here that they wouldn't even consider at home.




There are lots of activities to keep the kids busy, but if your kids are older, they will most likely insist you pony up the admission cost to the giant playground and corn maze.



There is a real school bus parked on the property where the kids can pretend drive as the other kids shout obscenities and throw stuff from the back seat.




The corn maze is an all-time favorite. The kids are supposed to run through it but mostly they run on top of it.



New this year is the gem mining.



There are so many options its just dang hard to decide where to go next!



Don't forget to bring mosquito repellent, and if you go on a weekday afternoon the play area is a little cheaper, and its not as crowded.



Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Is Sandberg applying a double standard?

Councilman Gary Sandberg has been all over the City of Peoria demanding they account for every single nickle of expenses incurred for the Presidential visit by George W. Bush last July. The visit by the President was a fundraiser for the candidacy of Aaron Schock, who is running for the Congressional seat of the 92nd District. Mr. Sandberg feels the city of Peoria should present the Schock campaign a bill for over $32,000, representing expenses incurred by the city to protect the President.

Interestingly enough, in October of 2006, when Barack Obama endorsed Senator Koehler right here in Peoria, not a peep from Mr. Sandberg. Certainly that event required extra police protection and city services, was strictly for the benefit of the campaigns of Democratic candidates and from the looks of things, Sandbergs campaign could have been one them. In fact, I'm wondering if there is anything that would prevent the city from making any new policy retro-active.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Restaurant of the Year is....



Popeye's Fried Chicken! Yup, that's right. I love the stuff. Especially the extra spicy! Above is a photo of the owner, Sal. He is always there working the register. He makes his customers feel like a million bucks. See the smile on his face? It never changes - no matter who you are! Today, a gal came up a little short on the meal she ordered. Sal says "How much ya got?" It was good enough. She got her chicken. This guy has more than satisfied customers. He has raving fans! All high school kids should have to watch this guy in action as a requirement for graduation. Popeye's is located at 1800 N. Knoxville Avenue, Peoria.

Friday, September 19, 2008

When they named this Water Street, they weren't a kiddin!



This prolly sounds a little like ambulance chasing, but we couldn't resist checking out the flood water downtown at the riverfront. It was a good lesson for the children to learn first hand what can happen when Mother Nature gets ticked off. Here you can see the sandbagging that was done down closer to the Riverplex, so they could carry out the planned Octoberfest activities.



Ordinarily, the water level at this location is about 10 feet below the railing. In this picture, the water is just a few inches below the railing



While downtown we participated in the revelry of Octoberfest, which kicked off this evening and runs all weekend. I'll post pics of that tomorrow. In the meantime, here's a tip... for a buck, these dudes will fix you up with a small 7 oz. chaser cup of dark German beer. Wa-hooo!

Exclusive update on the Chronicles Exclusive Update on the PJStar Exclusive Update of PI's Exclusive Update!

Oh, Never mind.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bloggers go Looking for Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois


The Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield, Illinois was the designated meet-up site for last Saturday's Springfield Blogger Extravaganza! The weekend event was co-sponsored by the Illinois Bureau of Tourism and the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau and welcomed many central Illinois Bloggers.

Hey anytime I have an opportunity to do something fun and educational with the kids, count me in! Just a short one hour and twenty five minute drive from Peoria, we arrived before the kids even had a chance to say "Are we there yet?"

Upon our arrival we were met by the youthful, friendly faces of our hosts, representatives from the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Department of Tourism. They couldn't have been any nicer and were a lot of fun. They gave us Press Passes (including the Kids) which allowed us access to all the Historic Sites. I couldn't help but giggle thinking back on how District 150 threw me out of a press conference for not having a "press pass" so I think I'll save this one for posterity.



The Museum has an open inviting plan that flows with the natural sequence of events so you never find yourself wondering "where should I go next?" We began our journey at "Lincoln: the early years", a log cabin exterior that enticed the visitor in with a vignette of a young Lincoln learning to read by the fireside. As we moved through the sets we observed a young slave family being sold off individually at a slave auction. A little boy younger than the age of our son hangs on to the skirt of his anguished mother as the slave auctioneer physically pulls them apart. The helpless father is shackled nearby and witnesses the departure of his wife and young son. Ugh, such a disturbing mental image that I won't soon forget. This vignette left the visitor with the clear impression that it was scenes such as this that shaped the young Lincoln's unshakeable views on slavery.



The image below is a scene from the Lincoln-Douglas debates where a young Lincoln, running for the Illinois state Legislature, debates his opponent on the morality of slavery. The life-like quality of the characters is downright eerie.



After we completed our tour of "The early years", we moved on to "The White House Years". A frowning Lincoln family greeted us from outside the facade of the White House.


In this portion of the museum, the visitor moves through scenes from Lincoln's life as President. One particularly moving scene depicted their son, William dying of typhoid fever in a bedroom adjoining the East Wing of the White House as the sounds of revelry could be heard from a ball in progress beyond the doors. The Lincoln's lost 3 out of 4 of their sons before they saw adulthood. Many suspect that this is one of the reasons why sadness is so prevalent in Lincoln's eyes.

The visitor then moved through the Civil War scenes and memorabilia, the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln's Assassination at Ford Theatre, and most dramatic of all, a recreation of the funeral scene where the body of Lincoln lied in state in the rotunda of the old Capitol Building. Upon leaving that room, the children were absolutely silent. They definitely grasped the significance of this great man.

At the museum, we saw two shows. The first one was "Ghosts in the Library" that merged a human actor with laser technology to simulate a museum collections specialist interacting with ghosts as he opened new boxes of Lincoln artifacts. The second movie, "Lincolns Eyes", was a very insightful and emotional piece that attempted to impart Lincoln's emotions upon the visitor. The kids liked this one in particular because it had some special effects including vibrating chairs that made it feel like you were right in the middle of the war scenes.

We only had 2 hours to spend at the museum, but we could have easily been there all day. From the museum, we hopped a trolley and took a brief tour of the downtown and historical sites.



Lunch was included in the days events and our trolley took us to a really bizarr-o Pizzeria where the pizzas were so huge they were delivered on cranes. This Pizza fed our entire group with plenty to spare.



The afternoon activities included a tour through Lincoln's family home, where Abe and Mary Todd raised their family in the years immediately preceding his Presidency. The house sits at the exact same location and has been staged to appear exactly the way Lincoln left it. Some of the furniture is original to the home, and as you hold the stair bannister going up, the visitor is touching and using the exact same handrail that Lincoln used 170 years ago.



Our final stop was at the Old Capital. When Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in Washington DC, his body made the long journey to Springfield for burial by train,and made many stops along the way. When he arrived in Springfield, his body lied in state for public viewing here in the rotunda of the old capital prior to his burial at the Lincoln Tomb.



Here is an exterior view of the Old State Capitol. The front steps you see in the photo below are where Barack Obama announced his bid for the Presidency and returned once again to announce his choice of running mate. It is hard to imagine that 30,000 people filled the space around the capital.



Our final stop was a visit to Pease's candy on the Capitol Square. All the bloggers received gift bags that contained books, mugs, pens and miscellaneous Springfield mementos that excited the kids as well as their Mom.



It was sad to say goodbye to our friends, but the Kids were tired and eager to check in to our downtown Springfield Hotel. We had such a wonderful time, and the experience was not only fun and educational, but emotional as well. To think that we had spent the day walking where Lincoln walked, touching where Lincoln touched.. it was all so humbling. I can't help but compare the issues of his time to the issues we as a nation face today. In the 1830's, it was our nation divided n the fight against slavery. In the new millennium, thanks to the strength and convictions of Abraham Lincoln our 16th President, we stand united as one country in our fight against International Terrorism.

Tucker the elephant would rather please trainer than make contact with club and spike.

Faux News (used affectionately) just reported on Tucker, a 3 year old baby elephant that is helping with zoo clean-up in hurricane ravaged Houston, Texas. Everyone was all smiles as the little dude lumbered along picking up large sticks and branches. One of the zookeepers commented that Tucker really enjoyed it and was eager to please. I wonder if his eagerness had anything to do with the unrelenting presence of the trainer standing within feet of him yielding a club with a spike on the end of it. Just wondering.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Free downloadable Illinois Residential Landlord book!

From the Illinois Association of Realtors Newsletter:

The IAR Advocacy Program has produced a free four-color brochure "Practical Guide for Landlords in Illinois" (pdf) designed to give REALTORS® an overview and explanation of the major laws and regulations existing for residential rental property management and ownership including:
Eviction law
Screening tenants
Security Deposit Return Act
Lead-based paint
Carbon Monoxide Detector Law
Safe Homes Act

The booklet can be downloaded as a .pdf file here

Peoria neighborhoods celebrate "Night out against crime"


A big thank you to the City of Peoria, the Peoria Fire Department, and Steve Fairbanks, City of Peoria Neighborhood Development Specialist for all the great neighborhood events that were sponsored throughout the city last night during the "National night out against crime". The children in our association enjoyed a Fire truck demonstration and tour, balloons, coloring books and lots of ice cream. It is always great to re-connect with the neighbors, even the ones that hate your dogs and the ones you suspect have telescopes.

The National Night out against crime event is a component of the "Neighborhood Watch" program. Small grants are available to any neighborhood organizations that would like to be recognized as participating "Neighborhood Watch" members.

For more information on the Neighborhood Watch program, contact:

Steve Fairbanks
Neighborhood Development Specialist
Planning & Growth Management
456 Fulton St., Suite 402
Peoria, Illinois 61602-1220
Phone: 494-8603

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Republican candidate Joan Krupa accepts "Women in Leadership" Award

The ballroom at the the Hotel Pere Marquette was the setting for this years "25 women in Leadership" Awards ceremony. I felt so honored to be in the presence of these 25 outstanding women. This was my first year, and I must say I was humbled and inspired as the crowd of several hundred heard the history and accomplishments of these remarkable women that we brush shoulders with every day in our community.



I had the pleasure of joining State Representative Republican Candidate Joan Krupa and her family at the luncheon. Joan is running for the seat being vacated by Aaron Schock, and she has his resounding endorsement. Joan is running against Democratic opponent, Jehan Gordon.

Joan has 3 grown sons. 2 currently live overseas and one son, Steve, resides in Morton. Her husband, Ted, is very devoted not only to Joan but to her campaign as well, and I can personally attest that he is extremely patient as he hands out balloons to children at parades and community events.



Joan is the CEO of Heartland Community Health Clinic. Under her six year tenure, the clinic grew from serving just under 900 patients a year to serving more than 17,000! She felt a passion and desire to help the uninsured and under–insured in central Illinois receive quality health care. Now she is entering politics with the hopes of expanding her outreach to even more people across the state.

Prior to her affiliation with the Heartlnd Clinic, Joan was a teacher in District 150, a guidance counselor, a teacher at ICC, Assistant Dean of Women at Bradley University, and Director of Adult Education at the Peoria County Jail.

When I asked Joan to share some of her personal thoughts about the award, she responded quite bashfully. "Diane", she said, "My success at the Heartland clinic was such a collaborative effort of so many people, I just happened to be lucky enough to be leader of the band".

Sitting next to Joan's mother, Elizabeth, I took the opportunity to ask her to share her parenting secrets, given the fact that she had such obviously successful children and grand children. "Get them in church. Keep them busy. Sign them up for youth events in the church. Help them develop morality early in life". Advice that never goes out of style! Thank you, Elizabeth. Maybe in another post I'll share some of the stories she told about Joan as a little girl. heh heh.



Gina Morss of WEEK offered this parting advice: "Never underestimate your ability to lead, for it is often the little things we do on a daily basis that change the world around us".

As I was leaving the venue and walking back to the car, I struck up a conversation with another gal who was leaving as well. "What did you think?" I asked. She replied that like me, she had been very inspired by the accomplishments of the award recipients. But, she said, it left her feeling a little inadequate. "WHEW"! I responded, "Thank goodness, I thought it was just me!"

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Move over, Beethoven


Jen had a little bit of a cold today so I kept her home from school. She kept herself busy, however, sat down at the piano and wrote her first piece of sheet music. I believe her inspiration was Kelsey of High School Musical.

Above is a photo of the beautiful song she wrote. You think it looks good on paper, you should hear her sing it! Lol!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Still time to see Eastlight Theatres High School Musical II






Lillers and I took the Kids last Sunday to see the Eastlight Theatres production of High School Musical and we all loved it! It is so inspiring to see the showcase of talent that exists right here in Central Illinois. The singing and dancing is so entertaining and our kids enjoyed singing along to the lyrics which they all know by heart.

Below I have listed the remaining show dates and ticket prices. Your purchase will do more than provide an evening of entertainment, it will help support the fine arts programs at Eastlight Theatre.

Here is kind of a sad note. In the past, the PJStar sent out a reporter to review and report on the show. At the beginning of the show, the emcee announced they don't do that anymore, so they pleaded with the community to spread the word. Hence this blogpost.

Lillers and I wondered if the PJStar position could be a result of their budget cuts. So, I had my 3rd great idea of the year. If that is in fact the case, why not let a High School student write the reviews? They would report more accurately anyway, as they would know precisely where to insert the word "dude".

HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 2
Eastlight Theatre
Sept. 10, 11, 12, 13 at 7:30pm
$16 adults/$8 youth thru high school
Call 699-7469 or online at www.EastlightTheatre.com

Photos provided by Eastlight Theatre and used with permission

Deadline to appeal city of Peoria Real Estate Taxes is Sept. 22!

If you didn't know already, there is only a 30 day window of opportunity every year in which to appeal your real estate tax assessment, and that time is upon us. Residents residing in Peoria, Kickapoo, Medina and West Peoria have only until September 22 in which to make a case to the Peoria Board of Review that they suspect they are being unfairly gauged by their real estate tax assessment.

The beauty of blogging is that after you have been doing it awhile, sometimes you can just link back to an earlier post instead of creating fresh content, so I will enjoy the liberty of doing that now. This post will explain the procedures step by step to offer you the highest chance of success in your tax appeal.

The key points to remember are that 1. you must have a basis for your complaint. Everyone thinks their taxes are too high but you must be able to serve up proof through comparable sales that your gripe is a legitimate one. The tax rate is non-negotiable, but your fair market value is. 2. The easiest way to get comparable sales is through a Realtor or appraiser that has access to the Multiple Listing Service. If you try to get your own comps on-line through the assessors office you will have a formidable task ahead of you. An MLS user can spit them out within minutes. So if you are already in a committed and loving relationship with a Realtor, give them a call. They should be happy to assist you. If you are not, this might be a great time to establish one.

It's been a hard days night...(updated with photos)








Updated on Sept. 9 with new photos courtesy of DeWayne Bartels, Peoria Times Observer

Last night was the final concert in the Cilco Summer Serenade Series... a series of four free concerts in the park that take place on the lawn behind Lakeview Museum. The concerts are sponsored by CILCO and are FREE, a fact I try to focus on as I write out those three hundred dollar checks every month.

Last night featured a performance by the American English a Beatles Tribute band that is so "on", that after a few beers, you can close your eyes and imagine pretty convincingly that it is 1961 and you are 25 feet away from a young Paul McCartney. I aplogize for the poor quality of the photos. I had to rely on the MotoQ. I did see DeWayne Bartels out there snapping up a storm but didn't think he would share any of his images with me given our little tiff of last year.

If you have never attended one of these concerts, you have forfeited the right to ever complain again that there is not enough to do in Peoria. The atmosphere is every bit as romantic and exciting as Chicago's Ravinia Park without the traffic.

Be sure to check out the full series next summer. The Bands are always top notch and you can't beat the price!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Guilty until proven innocent?

There is a very interesting debate going on right now on CJ's site about the Peoria Police Departments decision to now portray individuals charged with drug crimes on the city of Peoria website. Initially, I made this comment:

Key word *arrested*, not convicted. Settingsgard will think its a great idea until the first time one of his own kids or loved ones is falsely accused or in the wrong place at the wrong time. What a difficult predicament THAT could be. Suddenly, it might not be such a great idea. Think about it.. we are all just a mis-step away. You or yours might be next. Very dangerous precedent. Very bad idea.


Mr. Helmut O'hooligan responded shortly thereafter citing examples of families that were harmed in drug arrests gone wrong. He correctly pointed out that mistaken identities and false accusations do occur.

So what will the city of Peoria's position be if someone is harassed, evicted, or assaulted because neighbors or landlords saw the "accused" name on the website? Or worse, the same fate befalls their children- all because of an arrest, for which one is presumed innocent.

Of course, the Chief of Police will argue that this is "public information", but in reality, how likely is it that your landlord or neighbor is searching the public records on a regular basis? A past divorce decree might be public info. too, but does that mean we want them plastered on public websites?

In my opinion, Settingsgard is exposing the city of Peoria to unnecessary risk and liability by going down this road. Did he solicit a "legal opinion"? So what? Even if a court of law would side on behalf of the city it could still be expensive and messy litigation - litigation that a wealthy person could afford, but an indigent person could not. Could this create an even further divide between the "haves" and the "have-nots"?

I would advise all citizens to closely monitor this program, and make sure that it's impact applies fairly and equally to ALL citizens. If this is the city policy - no one should be exempt. Be on the lookout for fine upstanding well connected citizens to get a "pass". This is not to suggest that anyone in particular has a propensity towards corruption, but this policy in and of itself just lends itself to abuse. It is not "if" but "when" someone with a notable public personna is going to get nailed.

Perhaps Settingsgard will argue that it is a worthwhile and proven deterrent. But humor me for just a moment. Would it not also be a deterrent to automatically put to death anyone accused of a drug crime? Stupid argument? Well, yes, because there are other factors to consider. Such as: Should we not also factor in basic human rights and dignity? the premise that all men are innocent until proven guilty? the impact this could have on children and families? Are we willing to sacrifice for the greater good the reputation of even one person that has been falsely accused? Isn't the protection of individual human rights and dignity what separates us from a heathen society?

I have a hard time swallowing that the risk is worth the reward. Cutesy, novel idea.. but fundamentally wrong.

*Disclaimer* I am not an attorney, but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night

Friday, September 5, 2008

Blogger meet up in Springfield... compliments of Illinois Bureau of Tourism


I recieved this info from the Illinois Bureau of Tourism in a comment to one of my posts...

Mark your calendars (and leave me a comment so I can get you on the list) to join us in celebrating the great state of Illinois in Springfield on September 13th from 10:30 – 3:30 p.m.
With the presidential elections upon us this fall you can Blaze Your Own Trail by joining us to experience Illinois’ unique tie to presidential history and culture, as well as the popular fall events, scenic drives and agritourism opportunities provided to travelers this season.

Below you will find the itinerary details for you and your family to enjoy at the Blaze Your Own Trail event.
Saturday September 13th, 2008

10:00 am Welcoming remarks at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum from State Historian Tom Schwartz. Enjoy the museum at your own pace, with Mr. Schwartz on hand to answer questions.

11:45 am Brief Springfield Trolley tour of the downtown area

12:00 pm Hosted lunch at the Pizza Machine RestaurantAfter lunch we have setup three different options to choose so that you can pick what is most interesting to you!

*Option 1
1:45 pm Visit Lincoln Home National Historic Site
2:30 pm Visit Lincoln Herndon Law Office(Visit the Old State Capitol (where Obama announced his campaign and his VP) if time is permitted!)

*Option 2
1:45 pm Visit the State Museum (this is the option I'm picking)
2:30 pm Visit the Dana Thomas House (the governor is closing this historic site)

*Option 3
1:45 pm Lincoln History Walk
From here we will reconvene at Peases Candy at the end of the day, where you and your family can enjoy everything the city of Springfield has to offer on your own!


The full blog post can be read here

Turns out, this seems like a pretty sweet deal. They are providing a complimentary hotel stay for our family here. I guess I can't vouch that that is being offered to all bloggers or I just caught her on a good day, but suffice it to say we are very much looking forward to an educational and fun visit to Springfield next weekend. If anyone else from the Peoria area registers please let me know and we can caravan.

All bloggers are welcome...shoot an e-mail to Carla.Dabis@edelman.com