The RistRoller a helpful tool for travels and travelwriters

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Part of the joy of travel is sharing the wonderful places I have been with others.  However, one of the downsides is when writing blog posts my wrist will often get tired and sore.  While traveling I like to post as I go and then write up something when I get home.  The RistRoller is like a mini massage that after using for several days eases sore muscle ache.  My daughter Allie works on a computer for long periods of time as well and enjoyed trying out the RistRoller.

The website http://ristroller.com/ shares, “Massage and rejuvenate your wrists, palms, and forearms with the physician-endorsed, PATENT PENDING RistRoller.TM  Mini foam rolling is an offshoot of traditional foam rolling, which is widely practiced in athletic, rehabilitative, and home settings to improve range of motion, decrease soreness, and relieve pain. The varying diameters and densities of our mini foam rollers allow for more self-myofascial release options than ever before.”

It works for me and as a big plus the RistRoller company is kind enough to let me share their products. The first two commenters to respond will receive a RistRoller to keep.  I will then request your email to get your address and you too can enjoy the benefits of a RistRoller!

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Horses of Honor brings tribute to Chicago Police plus fun sculpture to town

What is more fun that seeing a horse in the middle of the Windy City?  Perhaps a colorful statue of a horse on display for a good cause  There is a serious side to these fun statues that I saw all over town from outside the Harry Cary restaurant to Michigan Avenue.  The price to buy a horse and install it all goes for the families of injured and fallen heroes.

The website tells the reason for the Horses of Honor.  “Since 1853, over 500 Chicago Police officers have sacrificed their lives to protect our city. In honor of those who we have lost, Wintrust has partnered with the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation for a public art installation to benefit our fallen heroes. Designed to resemble Chicago’s Mounted Patrol Unit horses, the Horses of Honor will stand for providing support and assistance to the families of those men and women who have been killed or catastrophically injured in the line of duty.”

The statues offer a great place for photo ops and brings a moment of reflection for us to about the protection that the police offer so selflessly.

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Dolce Italian, offering up the Right Stuff!

This past week, I took a trip to the Windy City and debuted a wonderful new restaurant with my Mom and cousin Carrie Steinweg who has a food blog Chicago Foodie Sisters.  We tried out the Dolce Italian at the Godfrey Hotel.  Our sever shared that this wonderful venue has only been open for the past three months.  Originally located in Miami, the restaurant opened a Chicago version with a fresh take on fresh Italian fare.  We adored the Tuna Tartar and Watermelon salad and I especially liked the Pesto Chicken Alfredo I tried.

The Tiramisu was delectable and a great end to a wonderful lunch.

The hotel website shared, “Dolce is all about socializing and indulging in the hospitable charm of the Italian dining culture — guests are encouraged to get caught up in the effortless elegance of Fellini’s Rome of the 1960s, lingering over an Aperol spritz or a barrel-aged Negroni at the bar or on the outdoor patio overlooking the luxury shopping district, or enjoying a sublimely Italian meal in the dining room or private space.”

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We did just that.  We lingered over our lunch and enjoyed the great food and friendly staff. Good food, great company – that is all you could ask for.  Log onto http://www.ldvhospitality.com/brands/dolce-italian-at-godfrey-hotel-chicago/ for more information!

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The Abraham Lincoln Hearse is at the Illinois State Fair Museum

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I know Norm Claussen because of our shared love of old iron. Norm and Mike Hall head up the antique tractor display at the Illinois State Fair and this year, Norm also took on another job, he is the President/C.E.O. of the Illinois State Fair Museum foundation. This year they brought a very special treat to the fair.

“Fair officials approached us in March about exhibiting Abraham Lincoln’s hearse at the state fair museum,” Claussen said.

The board was quite excited about this, P.J. Staab of Staab’s Funeral Home made a replica of the hearse that carried Lincoln to his final resting place at Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois. The replicated hearse was created for the 2015 Lincoln Funeral Re-enactment that took place in Springfield this past May. On the Staab website they state, “President Lincoln had the largest funeral to date with an estimated eight million people participating in or witnessing the procession as it traveled across the country to its final stop in Springfield, Illinois.”

“This is such a magnificent piece of history we were honored to have it here at the museum,” Claussen added.

The hearse is quite amazing and for anyone that has not had a chance to see it, take the time to stop by the museum during the fair!
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The Abraham Lincoln Museum and Library is Giving Back

Today I took the grandkids to a fun event, the Back 2 School Party where the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library teemed up with the community to collect back packs for low income students. The collection began on July 7th and has been a resounding success.

This back to school party was the day the collection ended and the backpacks were turned over to Springfield School District 186. It is wonderful to say the least to see this museum and library giving back to the community in such a great way.

As of the last count the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) had 706 back packs that had been donated for students that might not otherwise be able to afford them.
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Clare Thorpe Guest Service Manager at the museum said that the bulk of the donations had come from both staff members and the community. “Last Wednesday, July 29, 2015 we teamed up with WICS Channel 20 and had a drive through back pack drop off. We had 143 back packs donated then. This has been a great partnership.”

Bree Hankin of Springfield’s District 186 said, “We are excited, we are so thrilled with the community support. We want to thank the Abraham Lincoln Museum the collection far exceeded expectations.”

Those that donated a back pack received free admission to the museum.

Besides the pile of back packs which were almost as tall as Thorpe, the library had a series of fun events for the kiddos to enjoy before heading back to the classroom. Activities included; cheer, tumbling, self-defense, ballet, crafts, book exchange, three different games, face painting, and of course dancing with glowstick necklaces!

Both of the grandkids danced their hearts out until they discovered the cookies then dance time was over. My grandson was fascinated with Jay Curran’s self defense presentation. He learned a couple of cool moves that hopefully he won’t try out on his big sister!

My grand daughter was busy with the crafts both of the kids created a craft and my grand daughter painstakingly picked out the perfect face paint design while patiently waiting in line.

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Marilyn Monroe and Bement, Illinois

When my editor from Senior News & Times asked me to do a story about the 60th Anniversary of Marilyn Monroe coming to the small town of Bement, Illinois all I could thing of was “What was she doing there?”

The year was 1955 and on August 6th of that year, Marilyn Monroe, her photographer Eve Arnold and hair hairstylist Peter Leonardi accompanied her to town. Monroe had just wrapped her film Seven Year Itch then she came to Bement to help them celebrate their centennial.

While in town she went to Carlton Smith’s home where she stayed the day of her visit and soaked a swollen ankle. Smith has lured Monroe to town when he had met her at the Ritz in New York and paid her hotel room when she was short on cash with the stipulation that she come to Bement for their big celebration. Smith wass the head of the National Arts Foundation and kept his residence in Bement. He was on a mission to bring culture to town and brought an array of exciting art pieces to this event.

While in Bement Monroe visited the Bryant Cottage where she gave a speech about Abraham Lincoln and looked furniture and artifacts that still sit in their same places. Marilyn Monroe stopped by a nursing home and judged a beard contest. The winner later ended up on the show “I’ve Got a Secret” and won.

The celebration lasted August 6-8 and was great fun. We only made it through the Bryant Cottage where Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas planned their series of debates, and the wonderful home behind Bryant Cottage that is a private residence but open for this event. Read all about Marilyn’s big adventure in Bement in the next issue of Senior News & Times. I think you will be fascinated, I was!Marilyn statue

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The Ag Tour at the Illinois State Fair and old iron

This week the Illinois State Fair opens and I must say that I am impressed that the new focus in on agriculture. As a farmer’s wife and writer for farm equipment and farming it is nice to see farming in the forefront. Phillip Nelson, Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture stated, “We have a re-emphasis on agriculture.”

What is also very cool about this year’s Illinois State Fair is that there is a new feature, an Ag tour. Sponsored by BRANDT, the tour is offered twice a day and departs from the Illinois Department of Agriculture tent and ends at the Commodities Pavilion. The tour covered all aspects and visitors learned about beef, dairy, horse racing, goats, rabbits, corn, and soybeans and composting.

At this year’s Media Day, a trial run of the Ag Tour was offered and I was lucky enough to get a seat next to the Illinois State Fair Queen Sadie Gassmann who said this summer she has been learning as she goes along. Queen Gassmann didn’t grow up on a farm so the whole world of agriculture has been opened up to her this past year and the former Richland County Fair Queen stated, “I just loved the experience.”

Two fun young interns Rachel Hawk and Elly Andel narrated the tour and it was a joy to listen to them go back and forth with their comments. One of the two had been a former officer in FFA. The entire tour, except for the composting section was offered by summer interns with farm backgrounds that plan to work in agriculture in the future. It was quite insightful for the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) to bring these young people to do this tour. They were knowledgeable and interesting.

The IDOA also has a map that shows all the area in the fair where agriculture is involved and I want to visit their tent and hear the new “Ask a Farmer” addition. Hopefully this will offer urbanites and anyone that doesn’t live on a farm a chance to learn what farming is really all about. Since we are grain farmers, I too learned a lot of facts about livestock on the tour like horses can run 27 miles per hour and more!

As an antique tractor enthusiast, I must admit that part of the fun was also that the trailer we rode on was pulled by Mike Hall and his Farmall Super C. Bringing old equipment to the forefront, antique tractors are heading up the Ag tour and outside of the new IDOA tent they had new equipment sitting next to antique equipment emphasizing how things have changed over the years.

Those looking for old iron will love this year’s show. Besides outside the IDOA tent, antique tractors have been moved. The former antique tractor building is now home to the rabbit and poultry at the fair. The building has been painted and several upgrades have taken place over the past year. Antique tractors have been moved to the Orr Building for the 2015 fair. See you there!
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Eating my way through the Shoals!

It is dangerous to the figure to head south. When mom and I hit the road for the Muscle Shoals area to cover the music there, I knew I needed to take my walking shoes with me, but it should have been running shoes, in fact, I should have jogged all the way back to Illinois after eating at all the wonderful restaurants that Georgia Carter Turner of the Florence/Lauderdale Tourism office hooked us up with.
While in the Shoals area we stayed at the beautiful Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa and our first night ate at their restaurant Swampers. The restaurant is named after the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (Roger Hawkins, Jimmy Johnson, Barry Beckett, and David Hood) the famous group that was the studio band for the recording studios FAME and 3614 Jackson Studios just to name a few. Besides good food, the bar and grill is a tribute to the Shoals music heritage, and offered up breakfast in the mornings and the sounds of local musicians at night.

The Marriott also is home to 360 Grille where Georgia and I dined after our first day of touring. Seated next the window, I stared out at the panoramic view. The restaurant is located on the top of the Renaissance tower that is 20 stories high, 300 feet tall, and offers a view of over 30 miles. Below I saw the winding Tennessee River and the Shoals area all from different angles since the platform rotates slowly, turning 360 degrees in roughly one hour. The food is upscale and was lovely. We split appetizers along with my first taste of Fried Green Tomato salad which was awesome! And of course had to have dessert.

Lunch the first day was at the fun City Hardware where we went after checking out the lion habitat outside the University. The restaurant is located in the heart of downtown Florence and had a great décor. I loved the sign inside with the woman with a tool belt. I tried one of the famous burgers and could not quite finish it, thus the appetizers at 360 Grille that evening!

Touring music studios and pretending to sing with the best that Muscle Shoals had to offer brings on an appetite. Since the only singing I had better do when in the presence of others is lip sync, I kept my mouth closed until we headed for lunch the next day at the iconic Trowbidges. This was a great stop with a ton of atmosphere. The café/ice cream shop has been open since 1918 and is still a family run diner.
The old fashioned soda fountain made me feel like I was back at Nelson’s Drugstore, a haunt back home in Pawnee when I was a kid. I tried the wonderful chicken salad which our waitress said is a tradition there and wrestled a bite of Georgia’s Pimento Cheese sandwich which also was amazing. Of course we had to have ice cream. Georgia said, “It is tradition.”

Our last evening in town we had reservations at the very uptown Odettes. While this is a newer restaurant it is in an older building giving it like the other places we stopped a sense of time and charm. The features locally and sustainably sourced ingredients and the owner brought back some of the owner Celeste Pillow brought back some of her Manhattan restaurants experience to her hometown. She named the restaurant Odette, for her paternal great grandmother.

For dinner we shared some fried okra and I didn’t share one bite of my steak frites. We did divvy up the dessert Chocolate Pavola which there are no words for. This was chocolate custard with whipped cream and a cherry gastrique. All I can say is yum.

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The next morning we somehow still fit behind the wheel and headed back to the Midwest with visions of Southern cuisine dancing in our head.

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Green –Meldrim House where Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign came to an end.

I don’t know if there is a prettier town than Savannah. The history and beauty of the City are compelling reasons enough to stop here along with the fact that the Green –Meldrim House in Savannah is where William T. Sherman ended his Atlanta Campaign.

We heard this while on a hop on hop off trolley tour through the city. We had to go back and tour the beautiful Gothic Revival Green-Meldrim Mansion to hear the rest of the story. The home was built in 185 by Charles Green, wealthy English cotton merchant and ship owner who came to Savannah in 1850. He made his fortune in cotton and built his home at the cost of $93,000. The house is lovely with a sweeping staircase, back porch area, iron fence and much more.

When 62,000 Union soldiers were approaching Savannah after the burning of Atlanta the 10,000 Confederate troops would not be able to hold the town, so for the sake of the city they abandoned it. When Sherman’s troops arrived, Charles Green was part of the group that met Sherman. He offered his mansion on Madison Square for Sherman’s military headquarters. Our guide said that at first Sherman declined saying that the contents of the house may not be safe with his men in and out. Green asked only that he have a room for himself and his servant and said Sherman could have the rest of the house. After riding through the city on his horse that evening, he took him up on his offer and later penned his famous message to President Lincoln. The history of Savannah website states, “Sherman occupied Green’s home until February 1, 1865. Sherman ordered all the cotton seized, but Savannah was spared from the devastation that Sherman’s troops had visited on Atlanta and from the fate that awaited Columbia, South Carolina a short time later.”

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Sherman was only there for a short while, but it was a very important stay, that kept the city safe from the pillage that many other southern cities faced. After the death of Mr. Green in 1881, the house was passed on to his son, Edward Moon Green. Then on July 14, 1892, the house was purchased by Judge Peter W. Meldrim. The Meldrim family owned the church until December 30, 1943. The website, http://www.stjohnssav.org/green-meldrim-house states, “…the Meldrim family sold this historic treasure to St. John’s, thus ensuring its preservation.”

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The Clisby – Austin House, Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign start

Georgia is a hotbed of Civil War history. On our way south we stumbled on the farm where General William T. Sherman started his historic Atlanta Campaign. The farm is located just north of Dalton, GA in Tunnel Hill which is also the site of the Great Locomotive chase, when Union soldiers attempted to cut the important rail line.

The 1500 foot tunnel is the oldest in the southeast and just a stone’s throw from the Clisby Austn House where he kicked off his Atlanta Campaign which is part of his notorious March to the sea. When I read the reason behind the march, it was eye opening and bone chilling. The purpose was to frighten Confederate citizens so that they would give up the Confederate cause. I guess the thought that war is just among the soldiers is totally naïve both then and now.

The farm house has a lot of history, before the war it was the home of the prosperous Reverend Clisby Austin Sr. Rev. Austin was a farmer and businessman from east Tennessee that came to Tunnel Hill and bought 320 acres, built a hotel, church and store and constructed the brick home and named it “Meadowlawn.” Fear of the war made Rev. Austin sell his home and farm on July 16, 1862. By 1863 the house was in use as a Confederate hospital. It was used after the Battle of Chickamauga and general John Bell Hood’s amputated leg is thought to be buried somewhere on the farm! Bloodstains on the wooden floors can still be seen today.

May 7-14, 1864 William T. Sherman stayed at the house for a week. Sherman directed strikes against
Confederate Gen. Joseph Johnston’s Army of Tennessee. The house has pictures of several of the generals and the guide is quite knowledgeable about the home and war and Sherman’s stay.
Sherman thought he had General Johnston surrounded when he tried to catch his troops by surrounding them in a battle at Rocky Face. Thinking he had defeated the Gen. Sherman left town only later to learn that Johnston’s army escaped.

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Our guide told us that the farm has only been open for a short while. There were several different owners that lived in the house then it was eventually purchased by the Kenneth Holcomb family of Tunnel Hill who used it as a private residence. In 2011 they donated the home and surrounding property to Whitfield County. Besides the house, there is a general store example onsite and the historic tunnel that can also be part of the tour. The area is managed today by the Tunnel Hill Historical Foundation. Log onto http://www.civilwar.org/civil-war-discovery-trail/sites/tunnel-hill-heritage-center-and-clisby-austin-house.html for more information.

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