July 2012

Garden at the Illinois Executive Mansion

Garden at the Illinois Executive Mansion

Have you toured the Governor’s Mansion in your state? Today I stopped by the Illinois Executive Mansion and toured both the house and the grounds. Harry Lewis, who has served as the Mansion’s horticulturist since 2009. Lewis has filled the grounds with more than 100 planters full of perennials and annuals. The Governor’s lawn is dotted with color and beauty. The lawn and gardens serve as a perfect backdrop for the home of the highest office in the State.

The Illinois Executive Mansion is open to the public Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 to 11:30 and 2:00 to 3:30 and Saturdays from 9:30 to 11:00. Serving as the Governor’s mansion since 1855, this is the third oldest continuously occupied Governor’s Mansion in the United States as well as the largest. This is a place that is used for political gatherings as well as non-profit groups. Call 217-782-6450 fir details.

Take time to see this Illinois treasure, you will be glad you did.

The Statue of Liberty and Freedom

The Statue of Liberty and Freedom

Recently my daughter and I visited New York City. While known for its hustle and bustle, culture, fashion and architecture, our visit to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island was all about freedom. One glimpse at the beautiful Lady and it is easy to see how the words to Emma Lazarus poem are so fitting, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Ellis Island is where our ancestors, those “huddled masses” crowded through the lines waiting for their turn to see if they met emotional, medical and compentence tests that would allow them access to the “golden door.” My daughter Carrie commented, “They traveled such a long journey to get here, then once they arrived, they still had a huge ordeal to go through.”

While most made it in, there were many that were detained waiting for family or for a decision to be made. About ten percent of the arrivals had to go back home. On the audio tape, one woman reflected on a huanting memory of her great-grandmother being sent back while all those that could take care of her remained. She commented that it was the last time they saw her.

I took time to think about how hard won my freedom is on the 4th of July. I am thankful when I see the young men and women and veterans that fought so hard for us. But, from now on, I will also include my ancestors, our ancestors that traveled the treacherous seas to come to the New World and forge a new life. America was and still is the land of hope and the land of dreams.

Wines offered by the Walnut Street Winery

Wines offered by the Walnut Street Winery

On the fourth of July besides watching fireworks we took off and tried a cool restaurant, Abe’s Hide Out and Saloon in Mechanicsburg, Illinois and decided to also stop at the Walnut Stree Winery in Rochester, Illinois. They offer wine daily and out in the wine garden there is often entertainment . You can even try your hand at a round of bocce ball on the bocce ball court.

Owner Loren Shanle makes the wine onsite with grapes imported mainly from California. He produces, bottles and labels at the shop. A former insurance agent, he turned the house that used to be his office into a winery adding a tasting room and wine garden. The winery is a pleasant place to stop and while away an afternoon or evening. We particularlly liked the Tropical Breeze and brought home a bottle to try while sitting out on our own deck!

The Walnut Street Winery is not surprisingly located at 309 South Walnut Street in Rochester, Illinois 62563.Log onto their website http://www.walnutstreetwinery.com for more information.